IEEE Senior Life Member Says Now Is the Right Time to Support the Next Generation!

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James Graham was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1950. He grew up in several small towns throughout central Indiana, where he graduated as class valedictorian in 1968 and enrolled at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, supported by a General Motors Scholarship and an Indiana State Hoosier Scholarship. And this – his undergraduate scholarships – inspired and planted the seeds that would later bloom into the IEEE Cybersecurity Scholarship.

“I have always believed in the ‘pay it forward’ philosophy and supporting the finest young people through funded scholarships is a perfect opportunity for me to do that,” shares Jim on why he donated to fund this scholarship. “I have been fortunate enough to end my career with sufficient financial resources to support the organizations that have been important and supportive to me – IEEE being high on that list.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1972, he accepted a position as a product and process design engineer at the Delco-Remy Division of General Motors Corp. in Anderson, Indiana. It was during his time at General Motors that he met and married the love of his life, Cheryl Lovell. In 1977, he and Cheryl moved to West Lafayette, Indiana, where Jim began graduate study in electrical engineering at Purdue University. He completed his master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1978 and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 1980.  

Jim’s career has been full of highlights, including joining the faculty of engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, where he was a co-founder of the Robotics and Automation Laboratory, as well as the Henry Vogt Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Louisville, in 1991. He was a co-founder and the director of the Intelligent Systems Research Laboratory from 1987 through 2006.  

Jim’s research mainly focused on intelligent control systems, including robotics, computer-integrated manufacturing, and diagnostics of industrial control systems. In the late 1990s, he became interested in cybersecurity control systems and conducted research in that area, funded by the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and DARPA.  

“During a consulting job on an industrial control application in the late 1990s, I noticed the exposure of the control system computers to cyber-attacks through the Internet via the plant information highway,” explains Jim. “I was able to secure some funding to look at ways to improve that situation and this ended up being the primary focus of the last twelve years of my research.”

Before his retirement from the university in 2014, he founded the technology startup company, True Secure SCADA with two of his engineering colleagues in 2013 and served as CEO of the company from 2013 until 2020. Jim continues to serve as a reviewer for several leading cybersecurity journals and to be actively involved with the Louisville Section of IEEE and IEEE Region 3.

“I was delighted when I learned that James Graham wanted to award a cybersecurity scholarship to students in IEEE Region 3,” describes David Green, IEEE Foundation Director Emeritus and Region 3 Strategic Operations and Support Committee Chair. “The high number of data breaches, ransomware attacks, and other cyber threats occurring daily show the critical need for experts in this field, and this scholarship will help deserving students. James’ generosity is exemplified by both this endowment and his long-term volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and Boy Scouts. Region 3 is lucky to have members like him.”

The scholarship was established as an endowment at Jim’s request because he believes this type of giving structure will provide support for deserving students far into the future.

“Higher education is increasingly expensive and state support has declined,” said Jim. “Now is our opportunity to step up to this challenge and help the next generation of engineers and technologists follow in our footsteps.”

Jim now resides in Indiana again with his wife of more than 40 years, Cheryl. Their son, David, became a next-generation engineer when he became a civil engineer in Louisville, Kentucky. Donate today to honor Prof. James Graham and his passion for mentoring students, and his ‘pay it forward’ philosophy and inspiration to support deserving students who seek a career in cybersecurity.

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