John D. Graham was born in 1956 and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in politics and economics at Wake Forest University in 1978, where he also won national awards as an intercollegiate debater. He earned his Master of Arts in public policy at Duke University in 1980 before serving as staff associate to Chairman Howard Raiffa's Committee on Risk and Decision Making of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences. His Carnegie-Mellon University doctoral dissertation on automobile safety, written at the Brookings Institution, was cited in pro-airbag decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983 and by Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole in 1985.
Dr. Graham joined the Harvard School of Public Health as a post-doctoral fellow in 1983 and as an assistant professor in 1985. He taught methods of decision analysis and cost-benefit analysis to physicians and graduate students in public health. His prolific writings addressed both the analytic and institutional aspects of lifesaving policies. In 1991, at age 34, Graham earned tenure at Harvard.
From 1990 to 2001, Graham founded and led the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA). By raising over $10 million in project grants and philanthropic contributions, Graham helped support eight new faculty positions and dozens of post-doctoral and doctoral students. By 2001, HCRA became internationally recognized for analytic contributions to environmental protection, injury prevention, and medical technology innovation.
In 1995, Graham was elected president of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA), an international membership organization of 2,400 scientists and engineers. Graham reached out to risk analysts in Europe, China, Japan, and Australia as he helped organize the first World Congress on Risk Analysis in Brussels in 2000. In 2009, Graham received the SRA's Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award, the society’s highest award for excellence.
Dr. Graham is widely known to the public and opinion leaders through his entertaining speeches about why Americans are both paranoid and neglectful of risks in their daily lives. He has made several prime-time television appearances, including a significant contribution to John Stossel's ABC special, “Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?” and he has spoken frequently to groups of reporters, business leaders, and government officials.
In March 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Graham to serve as Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget. He was confirmed by the Senate in July 2001. Located in the Executive Office of the President, this small office of 50 career policy analysts oversees the regulatory, information, and statistical activities of the federal government. In this capacity, Graham worked to slash the growth of regulatory costs by 70 percent while encouraging regulations that save lives, prevent disease, and protect the environment.
From March 2006 to July 2008, Graham was dean of the Frederick Pardee RAND Graduate School (PRGS) at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California. PRGS is the largest doctoral program in policy analysis in the world. Graham streamlined the core curriculum, established new analytic concentrations, revised program requirements to enable students to launch their dissertations more promptly, and raised funds from individuals and corporations to support scholarships, dissertation support, and policy papers co-authored by students and RAND researchers.
On July 28, 2008, Graham became the dean of the unique two-campus, $56 million professional school, the Indiana University O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He served as dean until August 1, 2019, and continues on as a faculty member.
During Graham’s tenure as dean, the School’s enrollment grew to more than 2,100 undergraduate students, nearly 600 master’s students, and nearly 80 doctoral students. The full-time faculty members, which include laboratory scientists, social scientists, lawyers, and policy specialists, have almost doubled the number of research articles they produce annually since 2008.
Additionally, under Graham’s deanship, O’Neill’s Master’s in Public Affairs Program on the Bloomington campus rose to No. 1 out of 272 programs in the 2016 U.S. News and World Report national survey. He raised more than $37 million in philanthropic support for the school and, with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors, implemented a strategic planning process to guide the School, resulting in the publication of SPEA 2015. A new process called SPEA 2020 is underway. During his tenure, student enrollment in overseas study programs has tripled and the first fully online MPA program offered by a top graduate school in public affairs, O'Neill Online, was launched.
Throughout his tenure in academia, he has authored or coauthored 10 books and more than 200 articles for academic journals and national publications. Graham has also continued to be involved in policy at a global scale. In 2013, he returned to Brussels, Belgium, to testify before the European Parliament's Trade Committee about barriers to free trade. He has delivered invited testimony to numerous House and Senate Committees, state and federal agencies, and the European Commission and Parliament. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) praised Graham as a pioneer in bringing insights from risk analysis to federal clean-air legislation.
Dr. Graham is married to Susan Woerner Graham, a certified financial planner. They have two daughters, Jennifer and Katie. The Grahams share interests in duplicate bridge, golf, and ballroom dancing.