Donors honor immigrant heritage through gift to ISU’s Multicultural Center
Dr. Fariborz (Frank) Naeymi-Rad ’75, an international student to Illinois State from Iran, and Dr. Theresa A. Kepic ’73, a resident of Illinois State’s first International House in fall 1970, committed a $250,000 gift to support renovations and upgrades within the University’s Multicultural Center. Their gift will also support technology infrastructure at the center to connect students to alumni and other U.S. and international multicultural centers.
In recognition of their generosity, the joint rehearsal and multipurpose rooms will be named the Dr. Frank Naeymi-Rad and Dr. Theresa A. Kepic Rehearsal Room and the Charles J. “Jack” and GeJuan Cardwell Rehearsal Room.
“I always wanted to come to the United States,” said Frank. “My father was a general in the Iranian Shah’s Air Force and had completed his pilot training in the U.S. I knew education would be my path.”
Frank immigrated to the United States in 1968 during a time of national political unrest amplified on college campuses. He enrolled at Canton College before transferring to Illinois State and moving into ISU’s International House. Conversations with peers there—including roommate and friend Paul Murdock ’72, then president of the student body, and would-be wife Theresa Kepic—offered a quick primer to American culture.
“When I met my wife, she was very politically active. She had these collages of the Kennedys,” recalled Frank. “I learned the history of America through my wife’s collages and fell in love with her passion.”
Frank was further exposed to American life through his host family, Jack and GeJuan Cardwell, assigned by Illinois State in 1970. The Cardwells have guided Frank and Theresa throughout their growth and were instrumental as role models in their appreciation of diversity and inclusion.
“Jack and GeJuan were key players in my life’s story. It was unbelievable how giving they were,” said Frank.
The political climate intensified in the early 1970s, along with relations between the U.S. and Iran. Tensions were felt on campus on May 19, 1970, when a protest was staged at the flagpole on the Quad. State police were brought in after confrontations occurred between students who wanted the flag lowered to honor Malcolm X and other civil rights advocates, and construction workers who disapproved.
“It was a big turmoil. I saw a different side of America,” said Frank.
Theresa already understood what he was just beginning to realize—the value of freedom. Her parents were born in Slovenia and married in an Austrian concentration camp. Her father’s family was jailed for being anti-communist, and their land was seized. Theresa’s parents fled to the United States, arriving to a Slovenian community in North Waukegan by way of a Liberty ship through Ellis Island in 1949. Theresa was born two months later.
Theresa received a Master of Science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale followed by postgraduate research at the University of Illinois School of Medicine Department of Neuroscience at Peoria until she enrolled in medical school at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science Medical School in 1980, fulfilling a dream of hers since her brother Yanko passed away from cancer in 1969. She earned her medical degree in 1985 from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science and completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Cook County Hospital.
Frank earned a master’s in computer science from Southern Illinois University, and later completed a Ph.D. in computer science from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), while working at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science Medical School. Through his dissertation, Frank computerized Cook County Hospital’s emergency room registration and developed electronic medical documentation from medical students rotating in the emergency room. His work was later bought by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and was used to collect data during the HIV pandemic and successfully demonstrate the efficacy of GSK’s treatment. This electronic medical record is currently in use by 40,000 doctors for clinical documentation.
“I learned a lot about the role of technology in delivering and collecting patient data,” said Frank. He created the company Intelligent Medical Objects Inc. (IMO), which developed a terminology platform based on his Ph.D. dissertation for electronic medical records in the U.S. and English-speaking countries. This platform provided continuity for electronic health records in 80% of acute and primary settings.
Still chairman of IMO, Frank is now leading the charge in a new company, Leap of Faith Technologies Inc., which focuses on improving patient compliance and health care outcomes. Theresa retired from medical practice in 2016 but remains passionate about giving back, specifically to Illinois organizations that contributed to the couple’s success. Both are proud to promote cultural diversity at Illinois State through their gift to the Multicultural Center.
“We are two immigrants. The multicultural tradition fits who we are. My mother is Jewish, I was raised Shia Muslim, and my wife is Catholic,” said Frank. “And now, the United States is part of my DNA.”
Renovations are underway at Illinois State University’s Multicultural Center, and additional naming opportunities exist within the space. To discuss naming opportunities, contact Adam Ruble at apruble@IllinoisState.edu or (309) 438-1271 in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.