Charles Graham was born in 1929 in Peru, Illinois. In the 1800s, Graham's ancestors emigrated from Ireland to the United States. His family farmed in Illinois, where Graham grew up. After graduating from LaSalle-Peru Township High School and attending one year at a local junior college, Graham attended the University of Illinois to pursue political science. He received his bachelor's degree in 1950, master's degree in 1951, and Ph.D. in 1955. Graham received invaluable experience before heading to Wisconsin State College in 1954, where he taught until 1963. During this time he also took a year off to work as a legislative assistant to US Senator William Proxmire, who was elected in 1957 to replace Joseph McCarthy. Upon leaving River Falls in 1963, he accepted a position as Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Wisconsin State College in Whitewater. Graham stayed at Whitewater until 1971 when he was named St. Cloud State president. Graham then served as St. Cloud State president until 1981 to become the president of Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He passed away December 23, 2016 and survived by wife Bonnie and three sons.
In an interview conducted November 5, 1992, Charles Graham talked about his career in academic administration. After graduating in 1955 with a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois, Graham worked for the Navy Department in Washington, D.C. He subsequently moved to higher education, first as the Social Sciences Department chair at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and then dean of Arts and Sciences at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He was appointed president at St. Cloud State University in 1971. He described his ten years at St. Cloud State as a time of consolidation rather than rapid enrollment growth. St. Cloud State was still transforming from a teachers’ college to a comprehensive university. Graham recalled the faculty forming a union and how that changed administration/faculty relations. His tenure came toward the end of years of student unrest over civil rights and the Vietnam War but he found student behavior to be responsible and respectful. Graham described St. Cloud State’s reputation as a party school and the competition for resources with sister system school Mankato State University. Graham praised St. Cloud Mayor Al Loehr for supporting the university and for generally good relations with the community.
St. Cloud State University, "Charles Graham Oral History" (1992). General. 1.