Mr. Graham, now 82, was trained as a chemist at the University of Chicago, graduating first in his class in 1932. After two years of graduate school there studying chemistry under Nobel laureates Enrico Fermi and Arthur Compton, his father, William, a Chicago lawyer, died.
“I decided to walk in his footsteps,” said Mr. Graham, who was an only child. He graduated with honors from the University of Chicago law school in 1936 and started practicing patent law at age 25. One of his clients was Baxter.
His interest and training in science was a great advantage in those early days, especially when dealing with scientists “who thought I might know something, but they didn't know what,” he said.
As Baxter grew larger, knowledge took a back seat to the importance of working with experts and specialists in all areas of management and marketing as well as research, Mr. Oddi said.
In a speech on leadership given earlier this year, Mr. Graham said success often is determined by “whether the individual leader, based on his or her own preparation, is determined to ‘rise to the occasion'—that is, make the very most of the opportunities—or chooses just ‘to show up.' ”
Of all of his accomplishments, Mr. Graham said he was most proud of his role in the development of the artificial kidney because it “made such a great change in the lives of people who otherwise would have died.”
That project, like many others, required taking a long-term view, combining patience and risk-taking.
“From the time we first begun work on the artificial kidney, it took about eight years to achieve profitability. It was 17 years before the federal government enacted a reimbursement policy,” he said.
Mr. Graham also faced other difficulties, such as when Baxter's longstanding distribution relationship with American Hospital Supply Co. ended in the early 1960s and a replacement marketing and distribution system had to be built almost overnight, he said. Ironically, Baxter eventually bought American Hospital Supply in 1985 in a deal valued at $3.8 billion.