“On your marks.” Anticipation builds. “Set.” Steadying his breath, he prepares his stance. Then, at the fire of a pistol, his feet are sent pounding against the hot track, as his mind singles out the few meters of distance between him and the finish line.
This was the ritual that shaped Grafton Ifill III’s youth.
Growing up in Nassau, Bahamas, track and field was a defining aspect of Grafton’s early life. Specifically, Grafton excelled as a sprinter. During this period, he would become one of the top junior sprinters in the world, accumulating accolades like Caribbean Junior Champion, Pan American Junior Champion, and World Junior Championships Finalist.
Although ultimately Grafton did not pursue a career in athletics, his success in track and field was but one of many instances in which his endurance and willpower shined through. After graduating from University of Pennsylvania in 2007 with a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE), he landed a job on Wall Street and launched a successful career despite the looming global financial crisis. He spent most of his career at Goldman Sachs and currently holds a position at J.P. Morgan.
Today, the same tenacity and determination that distinguished him as a young athlete has shaped him into an exceptional community leader through his role on the Steering Committee member of The Cary Council.
The Cary Council was created to generate a greater awareness of the mission of Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern Medical Center among young professionals and community philanthropists in the Greater Dallas Area. The Cary Council is dedicated to advancing the importance of early stage research, in support of Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern. Through engaging programming, they are catalyzing a new generation of community leaders and building awareness of the missions of these two institutions.
As a Steering Committee member, Grafton has helped lead The Cary Council’s efforts, including recruitment, governance, and integration.
“As new people come into the organization and really want to serve more and do more than just attend an event, our Integration Committee is working on how we can get them integrated so they can make an even greater impact and be fulfilled in that process.”
Before stepping into his leadership role on the Steering Committee, Grafton was a new member himself only a few years ago. He can still recall the exact moment in 2017 when his story with The Cary Council began.
As the afternoon hours of his workday trickled in, he was at his desk running through his usual work tasks, when his phone rang. On the other end was Andersen Fisher, a Steering Committee member on The Cary Council. Anders was calling to encourage Grafton to attend an upcoming Cary Council event. Grafton’s interest was piqued, he responded that he would get back to Anders as soon as he could confirm that he did not have any outstanding commitments.
A few moments later, his phone rang a second time.
Now Grafton found himself being invited to the same event by Annika Cail, who is also a Steering Committee member of The Cary Council.
“When two people that you really think highly of invite you to an event, you must go. And I went. And I’ve been involved ever since.”
Although Anders’ and Annika’s recruitment drew Grafton in, it was the mission that made him stay.
After spending time with members of The Cary Council, he was moved by each individuals’ story behind their passion for being a part of the organization. Michael Kahn, Founder and Chairman of The Cary Council, had a story that especially resonated with him; a story of honoring a loved one.
When Michael’s mother, Beth Kahn, was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2013, his family went to UT Southwestern for her treatment. The unparalleled attention and care given to Beth throughout her battle against glioblastoma is what motivated Michael to ask about joining the young leaders group. At that point, Michael discovered the opportunity to help encourage a young leaders group to form. As a result of his mother’s journey, and Michael’s inspiration, The Cary Council was launched. Michael continues to honor his mother’s journey by encouraging community members to continue advancing and supporting patient care in our community through research.
Growing up, family was just as much a vital part of shaping Grafton into the person he is today as track and field. The distinct memory of a specific family member has been a part of Grafton since the day he was born.
While Kameron Rahming was not Grafton’s biological brother, he was, for all intents and purposes, a member of the Ifill family. In fact, Grafton and Kameron were born in Nassau just hours apart on the same day. The boys shared more than just a birthday; their bond was strengthened by the close ties of their parents, who had been best friends before the two were born. They grew up together like brothers, remaining friends through every phase of their lives, even as they both entered their early years of adulthood.
The two were navigating through young adulthood when Kameron became sick. He was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancerous tumor that occurs in soft tissue, such as muscle. Kameron eventually lost his battle against Rhabdomyosarcoma in his early twenties.
Today, the memory of Kameron and his life lives on. To Grafton, the mission of The Cary Council contributes to his own personal mission to honor Kameron’s life.
“I’ve always been looking for ways to pay tribute to his life and so when I got a chance to spend more time with The Cary Council and heard Michael’s story and a lot of the stories of others, it just resonated with me. [Joining The Cary Council] was a way to not only serve Dallas but very privately honor Kameron as well.”
Through Grafton’s passion for The Cary Council’s mission and his leadership on the Steering Committee, he hopes to inspire the next generation of young leaders to take an active role in supporting medical progress in their community.
“I’m convinced that many of the doctors we meet on our Cary Council journey deserve to be as celebrated as the business leaders, rock stars, and athletes of our generation.”
Through The Cary Council’s signature event, An Evening with DocStars, community members have the opportunity to learn about the groundbreaking research taking place in the labs of UT Southwestern. The Cary Council supports young investigators, “DocStars,” who are in the earlier stages of leading-edge research. Often, early-stage research is faced with the challenge of insufficient funding, which can ultimately prevent transformative medical solutions from developing.
“Hopefully we can bring greater awareness to the work [the DocStars] are doing and how special they are. We hope we can help them get even more funding in the future to solve medical problems and cure some of these horrible diseases.”
Grafton is inspired every day by the philanthropic spirit of his community, championing Dallas as a hub for growth, potential, and progress.
“The culture and the spirit of Dallas have really inspired me. I’ve found that this city is filled with great people with a ‘do it ourselves’ kind of culture. People go out of their way to find ways to help. I’ve found that very inspiring and it’s made me really excited to do my part and hopefully contribute to help Dallas become a better city with even better institutions for years to come.”