Anne Graffice always has been a builder of things.
The St. Thomas Aquinas graduate who was born, raised and still lives in Alliance helped people build their wealth during the nearly 10 years she worked as a stockbroker.
When she became executive director of alumni engagement at her alma mater, the University of Mount Union, she built buildings, endowments and programming to help students become the leaders they wanted to be.
And now in her current job at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Graffice sees her role as helping build Stark County’s future. The Hall of Fame is a partner in the development of Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village, which is a multimillion-dollar mixed-use development project underway on the Hall’s campus.
“We’re not just building buildings and having things come up out of the ground,” she said. “What we’re building is something that our community can be proud of, something that we also can build upon, that we can grow and create prosperity with in a different way that’s never been experienced here before.”
Graffice’s official title at the Hall of Fame is vice president of development and strategic adventures.
“It’s as fun as it sounds,” said Graffice, who started at the Hall in 2016. “I have been able to go on these adventures and take the mission and vision of the Hall with me.”
She said her boss, David Baker, the Hall’s president and CEO, came up with the title and deliberately kept it vague.
“My title is ambiguous by design,” said Graffice, whose office sits next to Baker’s. “It fits a lot of spaces because David knew that as the project moved forward, different things would come up and he could say, ‘Anne can do it.’ ”
Under that title, Graffice has served a range of roles from the Hall’s diversity officer, to community liaison to the head of its government relations.
In some ways, the job at the Hall of Fame has brought Graffice full circle. She grew up with football and learning about excellence.
Her parents attended high school with Linda and Larry Kehres. Larry Kehres would go on to become Mount Union’s head football coach for 27 seasons and college football’s winningest coach with 11 Division III national championships before retiring in 2013.
“Coach Kehres was like my dad,” said Graffice, who said her family never missed a Mount Union football game as she was growing up. “He was an incredible presence for my brother and myself. He’s a man of great integrity.”
Graffice, who babysat Vince Kehres, Mount Union’s current head football coach, said Larry Kehres instilled in her the values of the game long before she was asked to help deliver the Hall of Fame’s message of excellence.
“He helped me understand what it means to be successful,” Graffice said. “That it’s not the wins on the field, it’s how you treat people and what you do when nobody is watching.”
When she took the job at the Hall of Fame, Graffice hung a framed Mount Union jersey on the wall in her office. The jersey is signed by Larry Kehres.
A co-worker quipped, “You’re in the pros now.”
She answered, “If you want to talk about excellence, there’s nothing greater in my mind.”
Graffice lives in Alliance with her husband, Jeff, who is a special education teacher at Alliance High School, and their daughters, Lauren, 17, and Layne, 13. Both girls attend Marlington Local Schools.
Graffice’s Local Favorites:
Favorite local restaurant:
“Any of the Gervasi properties. The Swaldos are absolutely incredible, and what they have done for our community by way of their developments is amazing. It’s truly wonderful to have their vision and leadership that have led to so many great restaurant choices for us.”
Favorite local place to shop:
“Love all of the boutiques that we have in Stark County. A few favorites are Laura of Pembroke, the District, and the new Kendall & Blue downtown is super cute.”
Favorite local theater:
“The Firehouse Theatre in Alliance has tremendous performances, and it is always fun to see people you know in a different element.”
Favorite lunch spot:
“I have several but would definitely put Heggy’s in Alliance and Kennedy’s Barbecue in Canton at the top of the list. Both are owned by two of the best families—Heggy’s by the Sell family and, of course, Ernie Schott, who owns Kennedy’s and Taggarts.”
Favorite things to do:
“Walk the Iron Horse Trail (in Alliance)—especially in the fall when the leaves are changing. Bob Fonte and his team at Stark Parks have done a spectacular job creating trails and parks that we all can enjoy year round.”
Favorite local volunteer opportunity:
“My mom was the most generous person I ever knew. Even though she didn’t have a lot, she always gave to those around her in need, so I have tried to live by her example, volunteering and giving back whenever/wherever I can. My girls and I have served Thanksgiving many years for hundreds at the Salvation Army in Alliance, alongside the great students at Mount Union. Kim Stanely is a rock star for the Domestic Violence Shelter in Alliance, championing the effort there. Dr. Tim Novelli is nothing short of inspiring given his incredible work for veterans through the Patriot Project. Tim got me involved in Gold Star families, which has been an honor for me to be a part of.”
Most admired local CEO or business owner:
“Well, he is not a CEO or owner, per say, but I would share the leader I admire most is Larry Kehres, former coach of the Mount Union Purple Raiders. He has been my mentor and friend of our family for a lifetime. Coach has shown by example how to lead with integrity. He has always taught me that it’s not about the wins on the field, but how you treat people and how you care for your team that matters. His success speaks for itself, but what most people don’t see is that he cares deeply about his family, about the Alliance community, Mount Union and every single person that was ever a part of the Purple Raider football program.”