Meeting the Masters

Islamic Studies Prof. To Lead Quad House

Powell Graham has led a pretty varied life, for a toddler. At age three, he has already been hiking and rock climbing. And next fall, Powell will begin another experience few three-year-olds can claim. He'll be sharing his home with the 400 residents of Currier House.

"We asked him if he would like to live in a house with 'tall young people' in it, because that's how he thinks of undergraduates," says his mother, Barbara S. Graham, who will become co-master of Currier in July.

"He said, 'Yes, want to do this," says Barbara Graham, an assistant director of the University Library and native New Yorker, who earned a doctorate in library science from Harvard.

Powell Graham is not unaccustomed to contact with students, his parents say. He has met a number of the undergraduates and graduate students taught by his father, Professor of the History of Religion and Islamic Studies William A. Graham Jr. the incoming master of Currier.

"He's had a great deal of contact with students," Barbara Graham says. "He's our little goodwill ambassador."

A Southerner

William Graham, 47, still speaks with a slight Southern twang, a remnant of his years in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he grew up and attended college. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1965 with a degree in history and literature.

At Harvard, where he studied from 1966 to 1973, Graham earned graduate degrees in History of Religion and Islamic Studies, as well as in Sanskrit and Indian. He also spent a year in Germany, where he studied German literature, and a year in the Middle East studying language.

The religion scholar teaches Foreign Cultures 28, "The Civilization of Islam," and served as director of the Foreign Cultures area of the Core in the early 1980s.

In addition, Graham teaches the introductory course in comparative religion every other year. He says he usually teaches a mix of graduate seminars in religion or Islamic studies, as well as an Arabic text course and an Arabic reading course.

Warren Professor of History of Religion in America William R. Hutchinson says his colleague's teaching style is "forceful, but unusually responsive to the needs and views of students he's teaching." Graham is "somewhat Socratic--he draws out responses from students with different types of questions," Hutchinson says.

William Graham, called "Bill" by his friends and associates, says he always wanted to pursue a career in academia. "I knew I wanted to work in higher education," he says. "I knew I wanted to continue living in an intellectual environment and working on projects involving problems of the mind."

Bill Graham is currently writing a book about Islam. "It's an interpretive essay on the Islamic tradition, focusing on issues of scripture, ritual, and tradition," Graham says.

'Protestant Work Ethic'

Bill Graham, who currently serves on the Faculty Council, is director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He says he plans maintain these other commitments and juggle his schedule to accomodate his new position as master of Currier.