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  Alumni / Advancement    

David Grain ’84 Answers the Call

By Joyce O’Connor Davidson

David Grain ’84 has long been fascinated by financial markets, by stories of hostile takeovers, powerful businessmen, and mergers and acquisitions. After graduating from Holy Cross, and the Tuck MBA program at Dartmouth, Grain spent 16 years on Wall Street, advising and guiding corporate chieftains, knowing some day he wanted to be on the other side of the table. Now he’s taken his seat.

In June Grain became senior vice president of AT&T Broadband’s largest cable market, the Northeast. He is responsible for over $1 billion in revenue and over 2 million customers in nearly 270 communities, just as AT&T prepares to spin off AT&T Broadband and do combat against Verizon, Direct TV, and other cable companies in the broadband telecommunications war.

Grain explains why he answered the call to take charge of this region at AT&T Broadband: “AT&T’s move was the biggest bet in the history of American business,” he says. AT&T spent over $100 billion to change entirely its strategy from a telephone long distance carrier to a provider of broadband communications services. Grain says telecommunications and broadband technology are changing the world: “It is revolutionizing the way people work, play, learn and live.” When the offer came to join AT&T he accepted it, moving back to Massachusetts with his wife, Lisa, and children, Chelsea, 7, and David Jr., 5.

Returning to Massachusetts meant Grain would be closer to his hometown on Martha’s Vineyard, to friends, family and Holy Cross. Grain moved to Martha’s Vineyard at 13 years old, when his father, Walter, 93, retired from the trucking business. Though Walter had little formal education of his own, he accomplished the Herculean task of putting seven children through college and most through graduate school. As the youngest child in the family, Grain felt “the weight of coming at the end of a long line of achievers.”

As a young man he spent a lot of time contemplating what his brothers and sisters had achieved, including their choice of career: neurosurgeon, architect, chemist, computer scientist, school teacher, and music production company owner. He knows he benefited from the chance to observe and learn from the experiences of his older siblings, but at times, their accomplishments were burdensome. That’s all in the past.

When Grain chronicles his progression through college, through making career choices and pivotal decisions, he refers often to Holy Cross and the people who made an impact on his life. Over the years since graduation, “a lot of people have had to say ‘yes’ to get doors to open. All along the way, at every juncture, there has been a Holy Cross person in the mix,” Grain says.

He is thankful to President Emeritus Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., whom he describes as “a safe harbor while I was at Holy Cross.” He is grateful for the wise counsel of Ted Wells ’72, a former Trustee and frequent name on lists of the country’s 100 most powerful lawyers. Grain calls financier Bill Maloney ’59 his “mentor” and says he rarely makes a big life decision without first consulting him: “I think of Bill like a father.” Kevin Hicks ’82 and Rick Shea ’84 are friends and schoolmates with whom Grain is still in close contact. “Over time that kind of grounding doesn’t escape you,” Grain says, explaining how Holy Cross entrenched itself in him forever.

Bill Maloney speaks enthusiastically about David Grain: “I helped David get started on Wall Street, and I have watched with admiration as he progressed in his career. David has not only been highly successful in his business career, but also as a person. He is a wonderful husband and father; he cares deeply about his friends, and he is committed to the notion of ‘giving back’ to the community and his college. I feel very privileged to be his friend.”

Grain admits that there were times during his four years on the Hill that he had “mixed emotions about the place,” when he didn’t feel completely welcome. In 1980, he explains, Boston had just come through racially tense times with the busing crisis. That tension could be felt on the Hill, but whenever he got discouraged about his experience he would again be exposed to “the warmth of the community.”

Grain is constantly reminded of how well-prepared he was by the breadth and depth of his liberal arts education, and the Jesuit nature of the Holy Cross experience “only made the education richer,” he says. “You bring a different level of consciousness to your life. There’s a greater degree of conscience in your decision making that I credit to a Jesuit education.”

Grain has one regret. He says with disappointment, “I kick myself for not doing JVC (Jesuit Volunteer Corps) or something like it. I was too focused on getting on with things, paying loans and getting established. I wish I had taken the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives before joining the hustle and bustle.” Grain concedes that the financial support he gives the College makes a difference, but says, “there’s no substitute for youthful energy at the point of conflict.” He thinks too many people, including himself, “wait until later” to contribute to others. Grain wishes he had given more of himself “more often and earlier” and plans to impart that lesson to his children.

For much of his life David Grain carried the history of high achievement in his family like a heavy weight upon his shoulders. But now, at 38 years old, having claimed his seat at the table, David Grain laughs and says, “I’m having fun. I’m not going to slow down. I’m just getting started.”



David Grain ’84

David Grain ’84

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