Give and Take

Joel and Mary Beth Keys

Joel and Mary Beth Keys make necessary sacrifices so they can give back in meaningful ways.

As the Rev. Joel Keys and his wife, Mary Beth, considered the many ways they could choose to give their resources to help others, the “sacrificial giving” approach appealed most to them.

“The idea is that when we give money to some place or program, we know what we are doing without so they can do with,” Joel explains. “As a result, our giving has shot way up. It didn’t make sense for us to drive newer cars if there were people on the street with no food. We can drive an old car if it means we can take our money and feed someone.”

Meeting the needs of others, including those pursuing an education at Davidson, took top priority for the couple. They have been loyal contributors to Davidson and have set up a bequest for the college.

“We give out of a sense of duty and thanks,” Joel says.

The ’69 alum and retired Episcopal priest remains close with classmates and several Davidson professors—some he is in touch with to this day.

“Davidson professors like Brown Patterson, Hansford Epes, Norman Johnson, George Core and others gave me credit for intelligence and created a space for me on the campus,” he says. “I remember the night Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, several of us went to [Professor] Tom Pinkerton’s house and reflected on what happened and what would happen. If I had gone to a large university, I probably would not have known the faculty quite so well.”

Joel arrived on campus his freshman year with ideas of becoming a lawyer or a professor, but by senior year, he knew he was heading to seminary.

“It was at Davidson that I had an affirmation experience about who I was and that there was a god who was involved in my life, whether I admitted it or not,” he says. “It was the perfect place to work through these things with faculty and others. Davidson is fertile ground for that kind of thing.”

Now retired on St. Simons Island in Georgia, the couple remains involved with the college, including seeking opportunities to participate in annual Volunteer Week projects. A couple of years ago, they traveled to Florida and helped sort clothing for families in need. They made a weekend of it and made some great new friends in the process.

“That’s the story of Davidson, though,” Joel says. “You give a little and you get a lot back.”