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Northwestern names Stephanie M. Graham VP and General Counsel

Currently interim general counsel, Graham has served the University since 1993

Stephanie Mills Graham, currently interim general counsel for Northwestern University, has been appointed the new vice president and general counsel for the University, effective June 17, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro announced today (June 18). 

Stephanie Graham
Stephanie M. Graham

Graham was selected after a national search. A longtime advisor with a proven track record at Northwestern, she has served the University in various roles in the Office of General Counsel since 1993, rising through the ranks to lead the office.

As Northwestern’s chief legal officer, Graham will provide counsel to the president and the Northwestern University Board of Trustees, executive officers, faculty and staff. The general counsel serves as a trusted adviser to the University’s leadership and is responsible for compliance with federal and local laws governing non-profit institutions of higher learning, as well asoversight of legal affairs internationally. The general counsel leads the Office of General Counsel and directs outside counsel on all cases and issues. 

“Stephanie Graham has everything that a major research university would want in a general counsel,” President Schapiro said. “She has a deep and broad understanding of the higher education landscape, a firm grasp of the complex legal and ethical issues that universities face in this era, and the highest level of personal and professional integrity.

“Beyond that, she has a profound knowledge of, and love for, the Northwestern academic community that comes from 26 years of dedicated service here,” he said.

Graham has served as interim general counsel since Nov. 15, taking that position after serving as associate vice president and deputy general counsel starting in 2016, and as deputy general counsel beginning in 2001. She joined Northwestern as assistant general counsel in 1993 and worked as associate general counsel from 1996 to 2001. 

“I am very honored to be named vice president and general counsel,” Graham said. “I look forward to working with the president, the provost, senior staff and the board, along with the staff of the Office of General Counsel, to support the mission of the University. 

“Being a part of the Northwestern community is not just a job for me. It is a true calling and makes the work I do deeply meaningful,” she observed. “I view our University as a complex client who needs superb support to advance and protect the work it does. I look forward, especially, to stepping into this new role and leading the team of attorneys that I helped build and mentor during my time here.”

Graham has extensive experience on a broad range of legal issues affecting higher education. She has managed complex litigation in the University’s Office of General Counsel, such as several high-profile cases with multiple defendants and multimillion-dollar contractual issues. 

In addition, she has endeavored to prevent litigation and worked with the entire Office of General Counsel team to do the same through excellent counseling and the practice of preventative law. She has worked in close collaboration on a broad array of issues with students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Graham is well known nationally in the field of higher education law and has held leadership positions in the National Association of College and University Attorneys.  Sheoften is asked to speak at national meetings on a wide variety of legal topics involving higher education.

During her time at Northwestern, Graham also has been an adjunct instructor in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) since 2013. Before that, she taught in SESP from 1998 to 2007. She has co-taught a course for master's degree students in the Higher Education Administration and Policy program, entitled Law and Ethics in Higher Education.  

Earlier in her career, Graham worked as a labor and employment litigation associate at Sonnenschein in Chicago, with a litigation practice in state and federal court as well as at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

Graham earned her J.D. with honors from the University of Chicago Law School. She earned her B.A. in history, magna cum laude with high distinction, from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. 

Graham lives in Wilmette with her husband, Jim. They have three children: Maggie, Patrick and Paul.