Kimberly Todd-White’s devotion to knowledge continues in the form of a memorial scholarship

Bethany English

Kimberly Todd-White, a lecturer who taught courses in Pan-African studies, the English department and the Honors College, was not like other women, just as her favorite song “Scarlet Begonias” suggests.

She had rings on her fingers

and bells on her shoes,

And I knew without askin’ she was

into the blues

Scarlet begonias

tucked into her curls

I knew right away

she was not like other girls –

other girls

-Scarlet Begonias, The Grateful Dead

Students, family, faculty and friends merged to celebrate her life Oct. 26 in Oscar Richie Hall. The celebration also served as a benefit to raise money for a scholarship in Todd-White’s honor.

Karen Kastner, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication, suggested the idea of creating the scholarship to Scott White, the husband of Todd-White, and he threw himself into making it a reality.

“It was like a lifeline to me,” White said. “I thought it was such a good idea.”

White said a scholarship seemed to be the perfect memorial for his wife because of her fierce dedication to teaching others. He remembered her grading papers late into the night and being available for students who needed her.

“She was dedicated to the idea that knowledge could change people’s lives for the better,” White said.

Todd-White wasn’t just a devoted professor. She loved shopping, kittens and music—particularly following the Grateful Dead across the country.

She went to her first Grateful Dead show in Pittsburgh with her younger brother Jeff Todd. He said she loved it so much that they went to see the band perform the next night in Rochester, N.Y.

And a tradition was born.

For more than 10 years, Todd-White and her brother spent their summers chasing the band across the country. Once, Todd said he and his sister saw 15 shows in a row all along the East Coast. The last stop was Pittsburgh, where they arrived ragged after a month on the road only to encounter their parents in the parking lot waiting to see the concert with them.

When White entered Todd-White’s life, he also shared her passion for the Grateful Dead and began to follow along as well.

Todd eventually dropped off from the traveling, but his sister and her husband continued their musical pilgrimage into the late ‘90s.

Though no students opted to read at the benefit, many commented on a Facebook page created in her memory, named “Smile Like Kim Todd-White,” or sent e-mails to express the impact Todd-White had on their lives.

Jenny Cappuzzello, junior middle childhood education major, attended the benefit. She took College Writing I and II with Todd-White. She said Todd-White helped her become a better writer and inspired her to see life from a different perspective.

“She influenced a lot about who I am today,” Cappuzzello said.

During the benefit, Alice Cone, an English instructor who knew Todd-White, read a poem in her honor. The poem ended with the world transforming into a rainbow, an image that evoked the unrelentingly optimistic spirit of Todd-White in Cone’s opinion.

Facts about Kimberly Todd-White

She kept a dress journal to keep track of her outfits and make sure she never wore the same thing twice.

She loved Native American jewelry. Turquoise was her favorite stone.

She had two cats, named Quinn the Mighty Eskimo and Althea.

She had a passion for purses.

She braided hair at Grateful Dead concerts while her husband made tie-dye shirts.

She liked Eminem and the Black Eyed Peas.

She loved the beach and laying out in the sun.

Source:Scott White, Christina McVay

Her deep belief in the value of education and her desire to offer others access to knowledge are the founding blocks of this scholarship, White said.

Another benefit is tentatively scheduled for the spring in East Liverpool, where Todd-White lived as a child. White and Christina McVay hope to collect $25,000 in order to turn this scholarship into a permanent endowment at Kent State.

The scholarship will go to a student who demonstrates some financial need, has a 3.0 GPA or higher and is a Pan-African studies major or minor, White said.

Susan Marks, director of advancement for the College of Arts and Sciences, said if the endowment level is reached, a student will receive 5 percent of the total endowment every year, a total of $1,250.

“That’s the great thing about an endowment because it keeps going forever and continues helping students,” Marks said.

At the beginning of the evening, donations totaled $4,000. Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund should send a check made out to The Kimberly Todd-White Memorial Scholarship to the Kent State Foundation, P.O. Box 5190, Kent State University, Kent, OH, 44242.

Contact Bethany English at [email protected].