Dr. Graham Arthur Sweeney

Graham Sweeney My name is Dr. Graham Arthur Sweeney, and I’m the Boles ISD Superintendent.

   I would like to tell my story about who I was before Jesus; my Jesus experience, and my changed life because of Jesus.

   My life consists of two very different cultures merging together. My father, Thomas Sweeney was born in Northern Ontario Cobalt, an early 20th century silver mining town. The family was very Catholic; my father’s childhood best friend was Father Scully.

   My Dad’s father died at age forty-three while serving as a blacksmith for the mines. My Dad would have been only a teenager. Two of the three sons of my grandfather joined the Royal Canadian Army and Air Force during World War II. My father’s brother Vincent was a tail gunner and was shot down over Europe and then buried at Dusseldorf, Germany. While on leave at Camp Ipperwash, my Dad met my mother.

   My mother Pauline was born in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania. Her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, for a work opportunity in the automobile industry. She had both an younger and older brother. Her oldest brother, Uncle Gilbert enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served at Pearl Harbor. Her younger brother, Uncle Ven, made his way to Europe as an educator through the Department of Defense Schools, and he lived there for several years having many leadership roles in U.S. Education.

   My mother and father were married in 1949 and went on to establish their own family. They were blessed with six children, all boys. My father went to work for the Michigan Consolidation Gas Company. We grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church with Calvinist values. This particular faith is a strong hold in the Grand Rapids area. I remember having many talks with Reverend Hogenboon about religious issues and topics of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I was being exposed to concepts such as: Charismatic movement, faith healing, Oral Roberts, Kathryn Kuhlman, Prison to Praise, and always thanking God for everything both negative and positive. I was very confused, trying to understand it all. Yet, the whole time I kept believing in the promises of God. I struggled with my faith, in the concept of not being able to reconcile miracles. I remained curious and did much research.

   January 18, 1975, was a cold Sunday morning. At just the age of twenty years old, little did I know that this day would be a game changer for the rest of my life. I had been attending a small, rural church for about a year. That morning I made the big decision to be baptized by immersion. It seemed after this, my life took a new direction. I read my Bible and continued to get close to God. I continued to better my education and attended college at Central Michigan University. In the summer of 1978, a neighboring preacher was moving to Texas. He asked if I would be willing to help drive the U-Haul for him. I agreed and made the trip to Texas, a total of 1,012 miles. While unloading the U-Haul, an elder in the church that the preacher was coming to, asked if I would be interested in being a teacher in Texas. Before you knew it, I was interviewing with the Superintendent of Edna and was hired for the job. I flew home and packed up the 1977 Ford LTD with all of my earthly possessions. One week later I was in the classroom teaching and also coaching football and track. Of all subjects, I was assigned to teach Texas History. Being new to Texas I found this so ironic and a bit humorous. I always stayed a chapter ahead of my students in the textbook so I could prepare myself for the next class. I also learned to adjust to the Texas heat while coaching. It was hot! Air conditioning was not available.    

   In 1980, I received a scholarship toward earning a master’s degree and went to attend Abilene Christian University. It is here that I met my wife, Laura. Laura and I have been married for thirty-five years. Unable to have children of our own, we still stood in faith. We were blessed with the opportunity two adopt our two beautiful children, our son Loren, and our daughter Kara. Kara and her husband Allen have blessed us with our first grandson, Ashton. Loren and his wife, Dena has blessed us with two beautiful granddaughters Emerson and Scout. We are very fortunate to have built the life we have now.

   When I told Laura my urge to work towards receiving my doctorate, she said we were moving to East Texas State University (ETSU) so I could attend school and that she would support my decision to pursue this dream. When we first met with a college advisor to go over details, one of the first things he asked me after looking over my credentials was “Would you be interested in a job as a principal?” As I processed this question, Laura quietly kicked me letting me know she was on board. I quickly responded with “Yes Sir.” Before I knew it, I was attending a board meeting at Cumby ISD where I was hired as a principal. With no luck in finding a job, Laura decided to enroll at ETSU to gain a master’s degree.

   In 1986, I was asked to apply for a Superintendent’s position at Boles Independent School District (ISD). Though I was not very interested, I went to interview. The interview went very well, and they didn’t want me to leave until a signed a contract. At the age of 29, I became the Superintendent of Boles Independent School District. I told myself that Boles ISD would just be a stepping stone in my career path. However, here I am 35 years later and I have loved every step I’ve taken here. Being at Boles has been similar to working in the missionary field, with Boles ISD being the poorest school district in Texas. I have had so many blessings throughout my career. I received Superintendent of the Year; I have had the privilege of attending meetings with great people including President Rodrigo Duturte of the Philippines, the King and Queen of Spain, Senator Ted Cruz, and Dr. Mark Rudin, the President of Texas A&M Commerce University. I have been given so many opportunities that I will always be grateful for and carry with me. God has abundantly blessed my life.

 

Dr. Graham Sweeney's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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