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Photo: Dominique Johnson/Al DÍA News
Photo: Dominique Johnson/Al DÍA News

Philly introduces first African American to lead CVB

Members of the hospitality and hotel community gathered at the Philadelphia Convention Center Wednesday evening to welcome and introduce Philadelphia…

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Members of the hospitality and hotel community gathered at the Philadelphia Convention Center Wednesday evening to welcome and introduce Philadelphia Convention Visitors Bureau President and CEO Julie Coker Graham. 

Coker Graham, who spent 21 years in Hyatt management before coming to the bureau in 2010, is the first African-American woman to lead a major CVB.

“I love Julie Coker Graham; she’s a wonderful person and she’s enthusiastic professional that brings an unparalleled amount of energy and passion in what she does,” John McNichol, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. “In our short time working together I can tell you that Julie has very big shoes to fill with Jack Ferguson leaving the PHLCVB, but what an excellent choice by the PHLCVB to bring in Julie Coker Graham to lead this incredible organization.”

On Jan. 1, Coker Graham became the new president and CEO of PHLCVB, assuming the role following the retirement of former president and ceo Jack Ferguson last December.Coker Graham joined the PHLCVB in 2010 as Senior Vice President of the Convention Division and was promoted to Executive Vice President of the PHLCVB in June 2014 as part of a strategic succession plan. 

As she took the stage to the sounds of clapping from family, friends and coworkers, Coker Graham expressed how overjoyed she felt and how great of a journey it has been for her in the city of Philadelphia. 

“Why is it Philadelphia’s time?, and I think that is important,” Coker Graham said. “Philadelphians make this city great, we have outstanding cultural attractions, award-winning restaurants, but what really makes Philadelphia a great partnership, is working together for a common goal. That common goal is for Philadelphia to win, it’s not about individuals, it’s not individual organizations it's about Philadelphia winning. And all of us together can certainly do that.”

Coker Graham also made the announcement that the National Medical Association, the largest and oldest organization representing African-American physicians and healthcare professionals in the United States, will hold their convention in Philadelphia next July. 

Taking place July 27-Aug. 3 next year, event will attract 3,500 attendees, generating more than $5 million in economic impact for the city, according to Coker Graham. 

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney was also in attendance, recalling the time when he first met Coker Graham and how he knew she was meant for greater things. 

“I met her years ago and from the very first time I met her, I knew that she was a star,” Kenney said. “She [Coker Graham] had every aspect of personality and intelligence and just drive, she was the best face that we could have in hospitality.”

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