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Seattle Foundation Hosts Dr. Marshall Duke

Dr. Marshall Duke and Srilata Remala talk about family narratives during an event hosted by Seattle Foundation


August 09, 2017

Seattle Foundation recently hosted a series of events featuring Dr. Marshall Duke of Emory University.

Known for his research as a clinical psychologist and creating the “Do You Know” scale with Dr. Robyn Fivush in 2001, Dr. Duke spoke about the importance of developing a strong family narrative between generations.

Telling family stories goes beyond just hearing the story; it is the process of storytelling that builds resilience among children. It is most common for stories to be exchanged at family events like reunions, vacations, funerals, birthdays and holidays by the grandmothers of the family.

The lessons that are taught through stories teach children resilience and the knowledge that their family story is there to guide them through difficult times.

Dr. Duke shared a quote from an acquaintance that said, “Stories of the past help us explain the present so that we can direct the future.” With this in mind, he emphasized the importance of reminiscing on the family narrative in order to learn the family values. By becoming familiar with the family narrative, it helps children own their story, becoming responsible for their actions as they reflect the family core values.

In today’s age of social media, Dr. Duke emphasized the responsibility of the grandparents to sit down and tell their grandchildren the stories. Though they may be talking to 15 year-olds in the present, they are telling stories for the 40-year olds in the future. Having these stories instilled at a young age and repeated over time is important in creating a sense of belonging to a large entity which in turn instilling resilience.

“[Dr. Duke’s] findings on resilience within families formed by storytelling were fascinating,” said Caroline Condiotty, a former member of Seattle Foundation’s Youth Grantmaking Board. “During his lecture, I found myself thinking about the times I have done the infamous eye-roll at one of my father’s stories or pondering ‘what would my family do?’ in tense situations.”

Srilata Remala and Kim WrightSrilata Remala closed the evening’s events by sharing her family’s story. She recalled the moments growing up where her parents would tell stories of their roots and how grateful they were to have come so far from their impoverished beginnings in India. Her family narrative centered on remembering where the family came from and giving back. In 1999 her parents created the Satya & Rao Remala Foundation, which Srilata and her sister Srilakshmi took over in 2014.

To the Remala’s, family philanthropy has brought them together. Srilata recalled how her parents made sure she and her sister could define themselves as they passed on the family foundation, learning how to engage the next generation and letting go. These lessons have encouraged Srilata to empower her own children, just as her parents did when they sought out Seattle Foundation, while also passing on the important family stories that teach hard work and gratefulness.

Creating the container families need to transmit their unique values and reach their generosity potential is important for storytelling. Kim Wright, Director of Family Philanthropy at Seattle Foundation acknowledges that some families can create their containers comfortably on their own whereas others may prefer to partner with skilled facilitators who can minimize dynamics and bring multiple generations to a table of equal decision-making.

“Seattle Foundation is a great partner in providing clients with relevant local and national thought leaders in family philanthropy,” said Client Advisor Brian Whitaker of Laird Norton Wealth Management. “The marriage of their Giving with Goals curriculum, experienced team of advisors, innovative tools and the research from Dr. Duke provided a great space for our clients to deepen their learning and interest in advancing their work to be generous, thoughtful and connected families.”

To learn more about our family foundation services, or to set up a complimentary visit with a philanthropic advisor, email our Director of Family Philanthropy, Kim Wright, k.wright@seattlefoundation.org or call 206.515.2136.

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