Jason Kelly '95 | July 18, 2019
John Affleck-Graves is not a horse guy.
But he has a granddaughter in Ohio who’s a serious show rider, and he and his wife, Rita, visited last year for a big event. First time they’d seen the girl compete.
At the beginning, Affleck-Graves was full of questions about technique and tactics. By the next day, he was offering observations of his own: “She needs to put her knee down there” or “I think that jump’s going to be short.”
By the time the show ended, he had seen enough to advise his daughter, Susan McCusker ’99, a farm owner who’s no stranger to the saddle, “You need to get her a better horse.”
McCusker laughs at how fast her father banked around that learning curve. That’s him. When something captures his heart and mind, he’s all in, collecting and interpreting the information, considering the implications for the people involved, formulating and advancing a plan.
Colleagues describe the same characteristics: an uncanny ability to gather and process data, to ask incisive questions that sift signal from noise, to identify when a rider needs a new mount. Managing a sprawling portfolio for the past 15 years as Notre Dame’s executive vice president, the tools of his trade were that enthusiastic curiosity and nimble intellect.
When former Notre Dame president Rev. Edward A. Malloy, CSC, ’63, ’67M.A., ’69M.A. asked Affleck-Graves in 2004 to become the University’s first lay EVP, he accepted because he’s a finance expert and he reckoned it to be a finance job. Manage the University’s money.
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