Brother Joel William McGraw, F.S.C.

2019 Honorary Outstanding Italian


Brother Joel,73, grew up as William Harley McGraw on a quiet stretch of Reese between Poplar and Walnut Grove, and except for the six years he taught in Catholic schools in Missouri and Oklahoma, has devoted his career to CBHS. There, he still teaches one section of senior English—including world lit—and religion, and works much of the rest of the day in the development office.

He’s up at 4:30 each morning. In dark or dawn’s light, he picks up trash in the high school parking lot, including fast food wrappers and all manner of debris blown in by the wind. By 6:15a.m., he’s at St. Louis Catholic church, his home parish, for Mass. And on some Sundays he is also the organist. The boys at CBHS love Brother Joel and are in awe that he knows every single one of them by name. They know he has put his life into the school, and they are proud to be his legacy. 

Brother Joel is the real-life example of what it means to serve the community and humankind. In his little black book are the addresses and phone numbers for a stream of humanity that he calls in honor of birthdays and anniversaries and to comfort in sad times.

There isn’t another person in the Catholic community in Memphis who has touched so many people with their love as Brother Joel. He has done it as a teacher and as a Christian Brother and he has touched us deeply. 

The Memphis Italian Festival is proud to honor Brother Joel as this year’s Outstanding Person.