20 Under 40: Billie Jean Graham
Photo by Nathan Ham
Education: Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Finance, Washburn University
Hometown: Simpson, KS Spouse: Robert Lee Graham, Jr. Kids: Raelyn Lee Graham (1)
3 Words: Loyal Driven Optimistic
Role Model: My grandpa, George Henry Bergmann, is my role model. He made a lasting impact on all those around him and in his presence. He was a man deep in his faith whose number one goal in life was to get all his family members to Heaven. He loved his family unconditionally and was so forgiving. He never scarified his integrity, and he always helped others in need by giving back to his community through his time, talent and charitable giving. He made sure that his family was financially sound. He was a hard worker and worked up until the day he was hospitalized with Leukemia. He never gave up the fight and surpassed all his doctor’s expectations of how long he’d live. He led by example. I aspire to be like him in every aspect of my life.
Best Advice Received: To always dream big and never let anyone take it away from you.
Superpower: If I had a superpower I’d want it to be healing. It’s hard for me to see someone suffering and not feel a need to help them. I enjoy helping others in need whether it is volunteering my time, lending an ear to listen or donating to charity.
Accomplishments Most Proud Of:
Personal: Creating an endowed scholarship fund for Washburn business students at the age of 23. My undergraduate degree at Washburn was made possible because of gracious donors. I felt giving back to my alma mater was the least I could do in return and it quickly became a dream of mine to create a lifelong scholarship fund. It is amazing to think that my endowed scholarship fund is now assisting others as they work to earn their business degrees.
Career: Helping with the design and implementation of electronic income withholding orders (E-IWO) at BNSF. It was a two phase implementation and was completed without any capital funding dollars. E-IWO allows BNSF to receive child and spousal support orders from state agencies electronically. The interface automatically updates the garnishment orders in the payroll system, which allows orders to be processed more timely and decreases the risk of over/under withholding from employees’ paychecks.
At this point in your life, what do you know for sure? I know for sure that I own many aspects of my life including my happiness, my career, my reactions to situations and my beliefs. It is my individual actions or lack thereof that make an influence on my life. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. It is how I choose to react to the happenings in life that makes all the difference.
“Billie Jean’s claim to fame here at BNSF is an unwavering positive attitude, and an immense drive to get the work done and done right.” - Penny Kinder, BNSF Railway
“Although Billie Jean graduated and moved directly into her career, she did not forget Washburn. Upon receiving her degree, she pledged a significant gift to the Washburn Foundation, generally unheard of from a recent graduate. In addition, Ms. Graham has served on the Washburn Alumni Association Board of Directors since 2010. She continues to assist in making Washburn the best it can be.” - Denise Ottinger, PhD, Washburn University