When The Boeing Company built its Dreamliner 747 factory in North Charleston, South Carolina, a few years ago, it proved a learning experience — both for the firm’s adopted community and for the staff who relocated in the state’s third-largest city.
"We realized that being a true part of the community we call home demands sustained and meaningful engagement with the faith-based community,” recalled Timothy Keating, executive vice president for governmental operations and global engagement.
“I learned that Friday nights are for high school football, Saturday is for family and Sunday is reserved for God. We understand that to make a real difference in the local community requires fostering relationships with faith leaders because the church is the center of people’s lives.”
The Rev. Nelson Rivers III, pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church, was one of the first clergy Keating met. Rivers convinced Keating to form a partnership for a kindergarten through grade 12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) initiative and after-school programs in support of the North Charleston community.
That was only the beginning.
One of Rivers’ longtime friends and associates is James H. Salley, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement at United Methodist Africa University. In town to plan for an AU Development Committee meeting, Salley asked Rivers to join him, retired Bishop Marcus Matthews, Africa University board chair, and Munashe Furusa, AU vice chancellor.
Rivers became so excited about Africa University that he and three Charity Missionary Baptist members traveled to the university. Then he invited the AU choir to sing at his church.
Rivers approached Keating about helping to fund the choir tour. “Boeing was proud to sponsor the Africa University choir during their February performance in South Carolina,” Keating said.
Raised in the Jesuit faith, Keating said his mother taught him to live by the golden rule: Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.
“One quote that all Jesuits like to use is attributed to St. Ignatius: ‘Go forth and set the world on fire,’” Keating said. “You are charged to leave the comfort of this place and be a voice for those that have no voice — to be a change agent — to destroy what is not working and see what rises from the rubble. I have drawn inspiration from that quote and those lessons throughout my entire life.
“At Boeing,” he continued, “we seek to be a global industrial champion. We also have a broader mission to ‘connect, protect, explore and inspire’ the world. That’s a mission we are dedicated to pursuing, and we can’t do it in our own backyard alone.”
When Salley invited Keating to speak at this year’s Africa University commencement, the executive discovered new ways to live out that mission.
“During my visit to AU,” Keating said, “I had a very special opportunity to teach a class and engage with students. I was struck by the enthusiasm, ambition and intellect of the students, and I left feeling inspired about the next generation of young people preparing to lead their communities and workplaces.”
Matthews expressed delight with Keating’s visit.
“The visit affirmed that AU is a world-class university for leadership development in Africa,” he said. “To have a company like Boeing send one of its top executives to deliver the graduation address and start conversations exploring a future relationship is exciting. I found both Tim and his wife, Ann, to be spiritual voices in the corporate world.”
Ann is a retired schoolteacher. She and Keating were high school sweethearts.
“She is my strength, my light, my inspiration — and the one person who levels me,” Keating said. The couple decided to invest personally in AU with a four-year, endowed $130,000 scholarship fund in perpetuity for women majoring in education.
“Ann made it clear to me that we had an opportunity and responsibility to help,” he added. “The scholarship is focused on education because educating the next generation is a gift that continues for generations.”
Grace Muradzikwa, Africa University board secretary, has high hopes for the first young woman selected to receive the scholarship.
“I would like to see this student making history with many firsts,” she said. “I would like to see this student doing so well that she will open more doors for other students.”
At Africa University, Keating received the first honorary doctorate degree in leadership and governance.
“I was proud and humbled,” Keating said, “grateful for the honor but also excited to take part in an AU commencement and share a special connection with the graduates on their big day. This degree is a reminder to me that I have been given much, and to whom much is given, much is required.”
“The visit by the Keatings, their generous gift of an endowed scholarship and Dr. Keating becoming an alum of Africa University make the Keatings key members of the Africa University community,” added Furusa.
“Boeing and AU have a shared interest in technology and innovation, two topics that are top of mind for Boeing every day. There’s a lot of opportunity for partnership there,” Keating said. “Boeing is also committed to building a STEM-engaged workforce both for our company and the thousands of others found throughout our global supply chain.”
“Africa University and Boeing are global brands,” the vice chancellor said. “A partnership between these two organizations would obviously bring mutual benefits and opportunities. As a pan-African institution with students from over 27 African countries annually, we believe Africa University can provide a network of opportunities for Boeing’s businesses on the continent while Boeing would provide immense opportunities for practical learning for our students.”
“I am confident the partnership is just the beginning of bigger collaborations,” added Muradzikwa. “No one ever visits the university once and forgets about it.”
“It’s a big story for Zimbabwe, for South Carolina, for Boeing and for Africa — and a huge story for The United Methodist Church moving forward,” Salley said.
Retired from United Methodist Communications, Dunlap-Berg is a freelance writer and editor living in Carbondale, Illinois.
News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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