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Graham’s Gift: A Labor of Love
$719,389 gift advances diabetes research and education in South Texas


The Clifford Elder White Graham Fund for Diabetes Research will support the work of researchers at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio such as Nicolas Musi, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Division of Diabetes. Dr. Musi conducts research focused on understanding why obesity and aging increase the risk of developing diabetes, and how exercise works to prevent diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Clifford Graham grew up learning the value of hard work on her family’s ranch, 16 miles outside of Cuero, Texas. Graham and her siblings helped their mother care for their father, John Fletcher Elder Sr., who was diagnosed with diabetes in the early 1920s. Graham’s uncle, Nathan Elder, of Nixon, Texas, was a physician who traveled to their home regularly to treat her father. Despite the best care Dr. Elder could provide, amputation was inevitable. With limited resources, technology and medications at the time, Graham saw her father lose a limb and his health deteriorate until his death in 1929.

Determined to fulfill her late father’s wishes, Graham earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Southwest Texas State University and a Master of Education degree from the University of Houston. She chose education as her career, teaching in public schools from 1936 until 1965.

Graham often thought of her father and was inspired by the memory of her uncle. She vowed to honor them by learning more about diabetes and medicine, and by helping future generations of physicians and patients.


Clifford Graham in the 1950s

Graham’s upbringing taught her to live simply and frugally. By the 1990s, she had saved enough money to aid a number of medical organizations. In December 2008, upon her death at the age of 98, Graham’s family said they were proud to announce a major gift she made to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. An endowment of $719,389 established the Clifford Elder White Graham Fund for Diabetes Research.

“Aunt Clifford would be thrilled to see what this gift will accomplish in perpetuity,” said Roxanne Elder, Graham’s niece and a trustee of Graham’s estate. “If her father were battling diabetes today, she would bring him to the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio for treatment. This is where she would want him to get help.”

The endowment will fund diabetes research under the direction of faculty members in the Division of Diabetes such as Nicolas Musi, M.D.

“Despite major advances in diabetes research and patient care, an alarmingly large number of diabetic patients continue to develop complications from the disease,” Dr. Musi said. “There is much more we can learn about this disease and its intricacies.”

In addition to funding research, the gift initiated an educational partnership between the Health Science Center and Cuero Community Hospital. Faculty will travel to Cuero throughout the year to participate in lectures and other educational opportunities at the hospital’s Women’s Health Center, which was established by a gift from Graham to the hospital and named in honor of her mother and aunt.

“This is exactly what Aunt Clifford would have wanted,” Roxanne Elder said. “The Health Science Center is a flourishing research institution with so many resources it can share with its counterparts in rural parts of the state, such as Cuero, where my Aunt Clifford grew up. Generations will benefit. This is an incredible honor and legacy to Aunt Clifford that will also pay tribute to her father, her brave physician uncle, Dr. Nathan Elder, and her entire family.”