Arthur Keys earns Emory honor for international relief, development work

Arthur Keys earns Emory honor for international relief, development work

January 16, 2012
Written by Staff Reports

In little time, Arthur B. Keys Jr. has made a lot of history.

Founder, president and CEO of International Relief and Development, Keys is being recognized as an Emory University History Maker for his leadership, humanitarian service and commitment to the university community.

"I am very humbled by the Emory History Maker Award," said Keys, who has chaired the stewardship campaign for his local congregation, UCC of Seneca Valley in Germantown, Md., for the past two years.

"I see it as recognition of the significant impact International Relief and Development has had on people's lives around the world as it has become a major humanitarian development agency. The Emory Award is a motivation for us to continue expand our influence in the coming years."

Keys founded International Relief and Development in 1998 and has overseen the distribution of more than $1.75 billion in humanitarian assistance to Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the United States Gulf Coast.

In little more than a decade, Keys has grown the nonprofit, non-governmental organization into a major provider of U.S. foreign assistance and a leader in the international stabilization and development community.

With a staff of 4,000-plus working in more than 40 countries and an annual cash flow of about $400 million, International Relief and Development has become one of the largest non-governmental organizations implementing USAID contracts in the world.

Keys served on the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries from 1975 to1985 and was closely involved with community action programs and social concerns throughout the denomination.

"I had the good fortune to be mentored by strong leaders," he said. "These leaders helped me understand the interface between social ethics and current social and political issues. They taught me how to build sustainable, community-based programs to address political issues and shape the social order."

While with the Homeland Board, Keys was involved in many efforts, including a farm worker ministry; the boycott of J.P. Stevens products; labor union reform; passage of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment legislation; welfare, tax and health reform; racial and economic justice; Appalachian issues; ecumenical partnerships; and local and church-based community organizations.

 "When Yugoslavia fell apart, because of his family ties, he ended up being personally aware of the suffering that people were experiencing and the need for humanitarian aid," said the Rev. Carolyn Roberts, senior pastor at UCC of Seneca Valley. "It was out of that personal experience and his own response to try and address some of that that International Relief Development came into being.

"Arthur is unstinting in giving the members of the team –– whatever that team happens to be, in D.C. or out in the field –– credit for the work that they do to make things happen, to address the needs that are being addressed," said Roberts.

Keys has more than 30 years' experience with domestic and international humanitarian assistance, economic development and food/agriculture programs. A native of Washington, Pa., he has a doctorate from Emory University and a master of divinity degree from Yale University. He received his bachelor's degree from Bethany College, where he currently serves on the Board of Trustees.

Specializing in meeting the needs of communities emerging from conflict or natural disaster, the organization partners with donors, local organizations and many others to deliver sustainable services in agriculture, governance, health and infrastructure.

 "I am biased, but [International Relief and Development's] track record of building roads and clinics in Afghanistan, producing fortified noodles in Indonesia and/or providing services for refugees in the Middle East is unmatched," said the Rev. John Deckenback, UCC Conference minister for the Central Atlantic Conference.

A member of the organization's Board of Directors for the past 10 years, Deckenback lauded Keys for founding a multifaceted organization "capable of undertaking relief and development initiatives in some of the world's most conflicted and dangerous places."

 "Art once said, where others rush out, we rush in.'"

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