Giving Back

Just before Christmas, a group of about 40 Graceland staff members, faculty, administrators and athletic coaches gathered together for an admissions summit aimed at addressing several enrollment challenges the university is facing.

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Horizons - Fall 2019

September 25, 2019

Just before Christmas, a group of about 40 Graceland staff members, faculty, administrators and athletic coaches gathered together for an admissions summit aimed at addressing several enrollment challenges the university is facing.

Helming the sessions were two Graceland alumni — Ivan Joseph, PhD, ’96  and Mike Seagraves, PhD, ’94  — who have been partnering together on workshops like this for 10 years. Both of these men have served Graceland in different capacities over the past several years.

Seagraves came to Graceland in 1990, but its influence on him began much earlier. He remembers when he was about 10 years old, a large group of Graceland alumni moved into the area and started attending his church in Silicon Valley. “There was something about them — folks like Scott ’84 and Laurie Parker ’84 White, Randy Arms ’84 and Brian Vreeland ’84 — that I just wanted to be a part of,” he recalls.

At Graceland, Seagraves never met an activity he didn’t love. He played football and soccer, served as Closson’s chaplain, then as their house president. He was homecoming king alongside his future sister-in-law, Deb Knotts ’93 Skinner (Seagraves is married to Deb’s twin, Ruth ’93) and was the president of the Council of House Presidents. In his spare time, he participated in theatre and choir.

But Seagraves almost didn’t make it to Graceland. As a talented football prospect, he actually was committed to another university, having only visited Graceland for “maybe half a day when I was about 15,” he recounts. Then, as a senior, he attended Spectacular, Community of Christ’s annual high school camp on Graceland’s Lamoni campus, and he just didn’t leave. “I remember sitting in the Gunsolley parking lot, watching the Calizonia (a Spectacular delegation) bus drive away. I stayed in Lamoni by myself until football started two weeks later,” he remembers.

Joseph admits his own path to Graceland wasn’t exactly straight. He had been exposed to Graceland thanks to Brian Shantz ’69, whose Canadian delegation at Spectacular has always been impressive. However, Joseph started his college career at Laurentian in Sudbury, Ontario, but found the large school and class sizes difficult.

After taking a year off, he joined a group of Canadian students for a Graceland visit and thought he might have found home. After an interview with then Vice President for Enrollment Management Bonita Booth, Joseph joined Graceland in 1993 to play soccer. He went on to serve as the Orion house president and the Graceland Student Government (GSG) president in the 1995-96 school year. Joseph also met his wife, Polly Tripp ’95 Joseph, while a student at Graceland.

After graduation, Joseph joined the residence life team as the Gunsolley hall director and was a volunteer assistant coach for the men’s soccer team.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” said Joseph when asked how he came to be the head coach. “I was actually about to move on from Graceland and join an NCAA Division I school as an assistant, and Jerry Hampton ’52 told me that I would be better to learn by fire as the head coach at Graceland than to be an assistant at a larger school. And he was so right. There are several coaches like Jerry who have seen immense success during their time at Graceland — from Stew McDole ’65 to Rod Schall ’50. These were coaches who received national acclaim.”

“What Graceland needs most right now are the very things it is uniquely gifted at — all the things it taught us about the value of relationships, the strength of community, and how to live and lead with purpose.” MIKE SEAGRAVES

It was during Joseph’s time as a coach at Graceland that he invited Seagraves to return to Lamoni as a residence hall director. “I was just out of occupational therapy school and in a really difficult internship, but Graceland called to me, despite having a job lined up for myself in Bend, Oregon,” Seagraves said. “I had to put the personal ahead of the professional, and it was the best decision of my life.” But with the best of both worlds, Seagraves was still able to work as a part-time occupational therapist (OT) at the Lamoni nursing home.

Both men eventually left Graceland for new opportunities. Seagraves returned to California in 2001 to pursue his career in health care in earnest. Beginning as an OT, he soon made his way into progressive and transformational leadership roles — first clinically, then in health care information technology and, ultimately, into corporate executive leadership.

Currently, Seagraves is a national vice president for Kaiser Permanente, an $80 billion national integrated health care system with over 200,000 employees, where he leads the teams responsible for Kaiser’s $600 million consumer digital transformation. Along the way, he earned a PhD in global leadership and organizational change from Pepperdine University.

Joseph stayed at Graceland a few more years, leading the men’s and women’s soccer teams to unprecedented success, including #1 national rankings and a national championship in 2006 for the men’s team — Graceland’s first national men’s soccer title in history. He was named national coach of the year by the NAIA in 2006 as well.

Beginning in 2008, Joseph spent a decade as director of athletics at Ryerson University in Toronto, leading the transformation that saw the program rise to national prominence. He created a culture of belonging and pride across Ryerson’s diverse urban campus and helped student-athletes break records with their athletic, academic and outreach activities. His efforts also helped the university win the first-ever provincial and national championships in the institution’s history.

Joseph earned his PhD in sports psychology and is regularly called upon to support national team programs. Two recent examples include his 2018 selection as head coach of the women’s national soccer team in his native Guyana and his role as high-performance coach for the Canadian men’s basketball team that won the country’s first-ever FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup in 2017.

Along with being an in-demand consultant and speaker, Joseph maintains an influential presence in the public realm. He contributes regularly to publications like The Huffington Post  and Globe and Mail . He also wrote the 2017 book “You Got This: Mastering the Skill of Self-Confidence” and delivered a TEDx talk called “The Skill of Self-Confidence,” which has been viewed, at last count, over 18 million times. Joseph is now the vice-provost at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Seagraves and Joseph have stayed in touch since leaving Graceland. In 2009, when Joseph was the athletic director at Ryerson, he asked Seagraves to be a part of an all-day session to help the university reach its peak performance. A decade later, they’ve done over a dozen workshops together in businesses and institutions across North America, helping to create high-performance culture.

“We have complimentary skillsets, and because we are so different, we play off of each other in that space really well,” Joseph said.

For both of them, their time as part of the residence life program at Graceland was formative. The influence of legends like former dean of students Tom Powell ’73 and former director of residence life Marian Garrett ’70 Killpack looms largely in their language and in their conversation.

Both talked at length about Powell’s message of the ministry of presence and its importance to their lives. Joseph shared a particular story about Killpack’s impact: “Marian wrote my parents a letter. I’m not sure if she did that for all the students in the residence life program, but her letter to my parents helped mend a rocky relationship because she described the positive impact I was having on others at Graceland.”

In returning to Graceland this winter to offer the complimentary two-day admissions workshop, they both felt it was so important for them to give back.

“We saw this as an opportunity to reflect back to the Graceland community how unique and special it truly is,” said Seagraves. “Through the lens of our leadership experience, we recognized that what Graceland needs most right now are the very things it is uniquely gifted at — all the things it taught us about the value of relationships, the strength of community, and how to live and lead with purpose.”

“This place changed my life and set me on a trajectory that put me in a different place than I was headed. As a board of trustees member, I understand the urgency in ensuring Graceland’s admissions challenges are addressed.” IVAN JOSEPH

It’s clear that Joseph and Seagraves have an immense amount of respect for each other. When asked to describe Seagraves, Joseph said, “He’s the smartest guy I know. He’s analytical and impeccable in his conscientiousness. He is a strong man of faith and principle, and his family is the most important thing to him.”

Seagraves said about Joseph, “He is brilliant in his way of understanding what really matters in both people and organizations. His ability to focus on the nonintuitive thing that makes people and teams better is a gift. And the way in which he is able to build a community, a movement, a culture around those things is really intentional and yet authentic and organic. Beneath the surface, there is a passion for people and unleashing their potential.”

Seagraves and Joseph are two shining examples of the types of people Graceland has the potential to develop. Their willingness to give back to the university that gave them so much is evident in their passion and persistence in helping ensure that Graceland reaches its  potential.

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