Sage - Graham Covington


Meet Graham Covington. He’s giving forward by investing his time with underprivileged high school students to prepare them for college and career.

Nationwide, there are thousands of economically- disadvantaged, yet highly motivated high school students who want to go to college, but lack the financial resources and guidance to get there. Graham Covington, along with numerous high energy, dedicated volunteers with Minds Matter of Portland, provide both.

Graham retired from Boise Cascade in 2005, and became one of three principals of Grease Consulting, a McKinsey and Company distribution partner, finding ways to help businesses execute better. Graham is also a jazz pianist with Portland’s After Six jazz featuring Ron Steen on drums and Dennis Caiazza on bass. But the project that Graham is most proud of is his work with Minds Matter of Portland.

Founded in 1991 in New York City, Minds Matter is a remarkable all-volunteer organization helping thousands of low-income students across the country to prepare for and attend college. In 2006, Graham, along with many others, launched the Portland chapter and, over nine years, he and 150 other volunteers have helped over 120 seniors attend four-year colleges and universities. Every student enrolled in Minds Matter has gained admission and substantial financial aid to a four-year institution

Upon retirement from 30 years in the forest products industry, Graham was looking for a volunteer opportunity in education. His son was a tutor with Minds Matter in New York. After visiting the New York chapter, Graham was impressed with the students and all-volunteer academic mentoring mission. Minds Matter students compete to give up their Saturdays three years in a row for the opportunity to advance their own academic potential.

Minds Matter volunteer tutors and mentors commit to spending two hours every Saturday morning and afternoon respectively throughout the school year. Each student is assigned two mentors from the Portland professional, educational, and business community. The volunteers provide the academic leverage, and are the bedrock of the Minds Matter educational model. Minds Matter graduates go on to graduate from college, some of whom return to Minds Matter as tutors and mentors, thereby completing the “virtuous circle.” It's a remarkable enterprise and a great achievement for Graham and all the volunteers who generously give of their time to this deserving cause. Four Minds Matter graduates have been awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship awarded nationally to 1,000 applicants.

Graham believes that no student dedicated to earning a college education should be limited by socioeconomic status. By connecting students to great mentors and tutors, and providing financial aid for college, Minds Matter is creating new opportunities for them, and inspiring others to do the same. Plus he is still having fun and promoting generational equity to anyone who will listen. Please visit:


“If our kids learn to be critical thinkers,
they can do anything.”
Graham Covington

Graham's Tips for Giving Forward:

Help students apply the Minds Matter mantra:

  1. If you can communicate clearly orally and in writing you can do anything in life. If you can’t, you can’t.

  2. Don’t be afraid to be the “only one” or to stand against the wind.

  3. The key to success in life is a good vocabulary.

  4. Learn to improvise, take risks, and make mistakes.

Graham is a SAGE peer-to-peer advisor.
Contact him with questions.