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To Make SIU SOM a Better Place

I endowed the Jim Franklin Todd and Keiko Uehara Todd fund to support the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion because my parents’ stories are powerful reminders to me of what can be achieved when Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are hardwired into institutional culture. 

My father’s story unfolds through the names of his grandfather, Jefferson Davis Todd, and his father, Franklin Pierce Todd.  My father’s family came from the county in Kentucky where Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, was born.  His grandfather’s name tells you what side of the Civil War his family aligned with.   Franklin Pierce, the President after which his father was named, was the president who preceded Lincoln and was pro-slavery.  My dad grew up taking field trips to Jefferson Davis’ birthplace and seeing confederate money in his father’s wallet.  As an adult, he voted for Barak Obama and wore a Black Lives Matter Button on his jacket.  He was happy to share how this transformation happened: it happened because he joined the Navy.  Jim experienced equity and inclusion through the hierarchy of the military.  There were transparent rules about how to move up the ladder and they were blind to race and socioeconomic status.  He went all over the world on nuclear submarines and met all sorts of people from all sorts of countries and through being exposed to this diversity learned that humans have so much more in common than they have differences.  In short, the Navy showed him a different culture than the one he grew up in, and he saw that it was better.  The power of an institution is immense. 

Through my mother, an immigrant from Japan, I experienced the common racism, microaggressions and prejudice that minoritized people in our country cope with on a daily basis.  I also experienced her great faith in the values of this country and her fierce pride in being an American citizen.  Her ability as an outsider to question our culture as well as her determination to find ways to make it better have been an inspiration to me all my life. 

In their names, I want to motivate all of us to make SIUSOM a better place. 

- Christine Todd, MD, '93