Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Bryan McGraw of Imperial, Missouri, senior manager of the National Archives and a former officer in the U.S. Air Force, says he lives each day to the fullest.
Bryan has worked in the management and administration of federal archives as part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for more than 11 years.
“I have always had a deep passion for the military and military history,” Bryan says. “I’m also knowledgeable in project management, and when the opportunity presented itself to have someone with a background in project management and construction, with a strong foundation in military history and records management, I jumped at the opportunity.”
In his position, he supervises operations for the National Archives in St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Missouri, and Fort Worth, Texas. These archives hold a large collection of federal records for use by the public, researchers, academics and genealogists. He oversees operations charged with storage and servicing of millions of cubic feet of public records and works closely with subordinate managers and supervisors to run the operations.
After a colleague retired, Bryan was offered the position, and he accepted.
“I volunteered to take on the additional responsibilities outside of the St. Louis operations, to ensure the personnel and operations at these locations had no break in leadership and had someone they could turn to when they needed help,” Bryan says.
Other duties include personnel administration, budgeting, education and training, development of policies and procedures and customer service in the archival profession. He also is responsible for access/reference, preservation, processing and education about the records in their holdings. Bryan says he spends a typical day in conference calls, webinars and related activities as part of a management team, while also serving on a variety of other teams and committees.
“A very positive memory about these new responsibilities is the feedback I received from my subordinate directors, who warmly welcomed me to the team,” he says.
He previously was responsible for several major tasks in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis. They included starting up a new archival operation, developing requirements for and overseeing the construction of new facilities, and transporting more than four million cubic feet of records and 800 people to these two new buildings. Once he completed those tasks, he worked as an assistant director for archival programs at the NPRC before being selected as an access coordinator for the St. Louis branch, which led to his current position overseeing multiple locations.
In the future, he plans to pursue a position in the senior executive service (SES) with the National Archives and Records Administration or another federal agency.
“To me there is nothing like public service and service to a greater or higher calling. I love public service,” he says.
Bryan built a foundation for his interest in public service while attending Southeast, where he says he received an excellent education that helped him to be a better public servant and leader.
He earned a Bachelor of Science in geography with an emphasis in cartographic sciences and minored in aerospace studies from Southeast. He later earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Oklahoma while serving fulltime at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. He also completed All But His Dissertation (ABD) for a doctoral degree in public policy from Saint Louis University.
He selected Southeast because it offered his academic area of interest and he wanted to get his commission in the Air Force. He was a member of the University’s ROTC program as well, serving as the Cadet Commander his senior year. Additionally, Southeast was affordable while offering an excellent education, he says. He also selected the University because it was away from home but close enough that he could return home to visit for an extended weekend or to work part-time.
He learned much at Southeast to prepare him for future successes and took advantage of opportunities available to him.
“I feel my time at Southeast was very instrumental to my success both in my jobs and in my personal and professional life. Obviously the academic and military preparation training was essential to my success in the military, government and the private sector. On an educational level, Southeast opened doors and opportunities that would not have been possible without my degree. On a personal level, I grew up a lot in college and also developed many long-term relationships with other alumni and faculty, some of whom I still engage with to this day. Professionally, the activities, associations and clubs I participated in helped me broaden my horizons and experience new things to make me more of a complete person,” Bryan says.
He has experienced several events in his life that have helped shape his drive for success.
“I have always lived by the mantra of living life to the fullest. I learned the importance of that through a couple of very profound and challenging experiences I faced in my life,” Bryan says.
One such experience included tending to the dead. While in the Air Force, he was assigned to be a mortuary officer. He says he embraced the challenge with 100 percent of his energy and dedication. He performed mortuary duties 62 times over the course of almost eight years of active service.
“I approached these challenges head on and did them with the utmost tact, sympathy, professionalism and thoroughness,” Bryan said. “I remember each of the fallen and that number, 62, is special to me. It is not only the year of my birth, but also the number I’ve worn on team jerseys, in my email address and in and on other occurrences. I do this to remember them and to never forget.”
His second transformation occurred following a near-death experience. On Aug. 16, 1999, he nearly died from a ruptured appendix.
“Trust me when I say you should live each day as if it is your last and ask yourself, ‘Am I doing – and have I done – everything to the best of my abilities?’ Live it admirably, honorably and with love and conviction,” Bryan says.
To Southeast students, he offers this advice.
“Live your dreams. Never give up. The road you take may not – and likely will not – be as you planned it, but make the most of each and every opportunity. Build your networks and most importantly, work hard—harder and smarter than anyone else and you will succeed. When you get knocked down, get back up and keep going. Oh yeah, don’t take yourself too seriously and get a sense of humor,” Bryan says.