New York Times bestselling author, educator, business advisor, and Ball State University graduate Stedman Graham ’89 returned to campus to take part in the David Letterman Distinguished Professional Lecture and Workshop Series.


Chairman and CEO of S. Graham and Associates, Mr. Graham’s “Identity Leadership” concept is based on the philosophy that people cannot lead others until they first lead themselves. His book about this concept, also titled Identity Leadership, was published in 2019.

As an educator, Mr. Graham has been a distinguished visiting professor at numerous colleges and universities around the nation. Mr. Graham, who earned his master’s degree in Education from Ball State in 1989, is a former adjunct professor at the Northwestern Kellogg School of Business, where he taught the course, “The Dynamics of Leadership.” As an American educator, Mr. Graham has a vast array of unique knowledge, experience, and insights that can be beneficial to us all.

Life before Fame

Stedman Graham was born in the Whitesboro section of Middle Township, New Jersey, he is the son of Mary Jacobs Graham and Stedman Graham Sr. He is one of six children. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in social work from Hardin-Simmons University in 1974 where he also played basketball at the collegiate level. Then, Mr. Graham continued his graduate studies, earning a master’s degree in education from our very own Ball State University in 1979.

Graham has been the subject of much publicity since 1986, most notably through tabloid articles claiming to chronicle his ongoing relationship with Oprah Winfrey. Graham has been with Winfrey since 1986.

Career Highlights

Graham is the author of several self-help and business-related books, including:

  • The Ultimate Guide to Sport Event Management and Marketing (1995).
  • You Can Make It Happen: A Nine-Step Plan for Success (1997)
  • You Can Make It Happen Every Day (1998)
  • Teens Can Make It Happen: Nine Steps for Success (2000)
  • Teens Can Make It Happen Workbook (2001)
  • The Ultimate Guide to Sports Marketing (2001)
  • Build Your Own Life Brand!: A Powerful Strategy to Maximize Your Potential and Enhance Your Value for Ultimate Achievement (2002)
  • Move Without the Ball: Put Your Skills and Your Magic to Work for You (2004)
  • Who Are You? (2005)
  • Diversity: Leaders Not Labels: A New Plan for the 21st Century (2006)
  • Identity: Your Passport to Success (2012)
  • Identity Leadership: To Lead Others You Must First Lead Yourself (2019)

Two of these are New York Times bestsellers! Through the novels, he has become a revered public speaker which ultimately led to his visit to Ball State.

Visiting Ball State

During his visit, Mr. Graham hosted both a workshop for students as well as a larger lecture to the wider community on the concept of “Identity leadership”. Mr. Graham confidently shared his 9 steps to success with the student leaders on campus. He reiterates to the audience, how leadership starts from within, sharing exactly how to create a vision for your life and how to execute it. 

Mr.Graham starts with what he calls the most important question “Do you know who you are?” Knowing yourself allows you to maximize your potential, and make your dreams come true. He tells us to first create a vision of what you want. What goals do you envision for your life, if you want to accomplish something you have to first know what that thing is. Then you have to create a plan, how do you want to execute your goals without a plan you won’t finish anything.

Finally, he tells us something he says is so important, “Face your fears, if you’re too scared how will you accomplish your goals? Even when it’s hard you have to face those fears head-on with a plan intact. That’s how you will overcome even the hardest battle.”

Then Mr. Graham leaves us with this important message ” You don’t have to be the smartest or the strongest, you have to have the drive to achieve your goals.” His message rang true for many of our students in the College of Communication, Information, and Media. We talk about drive and innovation and the dedication our students put into their craft. Our graduates carry the same commitment to being industry leaders. All in all, our alumni, students, and CCIM community walked away with a reinvigorated sense of determination. 

Watch the Lecture

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