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Washingtonian Business Hall of Fame
Comments () | Published November 1, 2008

Listen to Milt Peterson talk about the beauty of National Harbor or Don Graham explain the challenges of a newspaper in the 21st century or Linda Rabbitt preach the gospel of economic independence for women, and one thing is clear—they are true believers. Their fervor isn’t tempered by financial setbacks or skeptics. Their confidence in their companies and their visions has been critical to their success—and to the area’s economic growth.

Twenty years ago, The Washingtonian, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and Junior Achievement of the National Capital Area expressed confidence in the area’s economy by founding the Washington Business Hall of Fame. The five business leaders who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Hilton Washington on Tuesday, December 2, are evidence that Washington continues to be a great place to do business.

The Hall of Fame dinner benefits Junior Achievement and its efforts to teach area kids about business, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. Last year JA sent 1,871 volunteers into 1,321 classrooms and engaged more than 38,000 students from kindergarten through high school.

For more information about the Hall of Fame dinner, contact Junior Achievement at 202-296-1200.

Donald Graham

Media powerhouse for the 21st century

Don Graham had two tough acts to follow when he took over as CEO of the Washington Post Company—his grandfather Eugene Meyer, who bought the Post at a bankruptcy sale in 1933, and his mother, Katharine Graham, who made the paper into a world-renowned institution and the cornerstone of a media empire.

As a young man, Graham seemed more heir reluctant than heir apparent. He was president of the Harvard Crimson newspaper but, after graduation in 1966, volunteered for the military and served in Vietnam. When he returned to Washington, he joined the DC police department.

Both experiences gave Graham insights into the city and the world that he couldn’t get from the vantage point of Harvard or the Post.

He joined the family business as a reporter in 1971, then worked in both news and business at the Post and the Post Company–owned Newsweek. He took his apprenticeship seriously—from circulation trainee to general manager. “The one good thing about being the publisher’s son,” he once said, “is that you can’t possibly be as dumb as people think you are.”

Graham became publisher of the Post in 1979, CEO of the Washington Post Company in 1991, and chair in 1993.

His broad experience and forward thinking have served the company well. Although he grew up in a print environment, he saw the importance of the Internet and invested in it long before other publishers.

His mother bought Kaplan when it was a modest operation preparing high-school students for college-entrance exams. Don Graham has nurtured the company as it has grown into a lifelong-education giant with 80,000 students enrolled in the online Kaplan University alone. “Kaplan is more than one half of our income and growing fast,” Graham says.

But at heart, the Washington Post Company remains a media company. “We’ve got room in front of us,” Graham believes. He still thinks news is a great business for this area because Washington has the best-educated population of any big city.

The Post Company has an ongoing commitment to improving local education. “The thing I’m proudest of is that we went to Congress to get funds to enable DC kids in every public and charter school to pay in-state tuition rates at any public college nationwide,” Graham says. And if they need help getting there? Kaplan offers free SAT prep for disadvantaged students.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 11/01/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles