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Tuscarawas News Detail

A History of Loyalty at Kent State

Posted Apr. 28, 2014

Put your money where your heart is: Inspiring others through our giving

enter photo description
Deborah (Deb) Keith, learning specialist
and life coach with Intercollegiate Athletics,
works on an exercise bike as a test subject
for research being conducted by Kent State
Assistant Professor Angela Ridgel, Ph.D,
(standing). Ridgel is studying the role of
exercise in the management of Parkinson’s.
The Kent State women’s field hockey team
raised funds to support Ridgel’s Parkinson’s

Deborah (Deb) Keith, learning specialist and life coach with Intercollegiate Athletics, grew up learning from her father that a “university is built by people, their trust in one another and their loyalty, which is a result of that trust.”

Kent State University has almost always been a part of Deb’s life. Her father, former Kent State Assistant Dean Charles W. Keith, Ph.D., is posthumously recognized as the “Father of Technology” at Kent State for his part in the creation of the National Association of Industrial Technology (now ATMAE). Her mother was the head counselor in the College of Education, Health and Human Services for many years, and Deb and her siblings attended the Kent State University School. Deb holds two degrees from Kent State, and has been employed by the university for the past 18 years. She characterizes her family’s association with Kent State as “rich and diverse.”

In 1955, Charles began his first college assignment as an industrial arts professor at Kent State. A few months after he began teaching, his wife, Mrs. Keith, was stricken with polio. He had to scramble to find care for Deb and her siblings, while traveling back and forth to the hospital almost daily and struggling to keep up with his work and financial obligations. As a new professor, he worried that he was in danger of losing his job if he could not shoulder his numerous burdens.

One night, in the midst of simply trying to hold things together, Charles heard a knock at the door. When he opened the door, he was surprised to be face to face with then Kent State President George Bowman. As told by the elder Keith, Bowman said, “Charles, I know that your family has been experiencing tough times. And I just want you to know that I believe in you, and we at Kent State stand behind you.” Then he handed her father a blank personal check and said, “I want you to take this and fill out any amount that you need. Just let my personal secretary know.” Charles tried to refuse the kind gesture, but Bowman insisted. “You have to, Charles. It’s for your family.”

Deb’s father cashed the check for $100, which eased much of his burden. Throughout the following years, he had numerous opportunities to leave Kent State. However, as he explained to his family, when someone believes in you, you are loyal and you give them all that you are.

Today, in her position with Intercollegiate Athletics, Deb is committed to inspiring, teaching and supporting her student-athletes. She has devoted her career to seeing students thrive academically and in all areas of their lives.

The Circle of Inspiration

Deb believes in the “circle of inspiration.” She believes that all of us have many opportunities to influence each other every day. When she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in October 2010, this sense of reciprocal influence became more tangible than ever. She learned about Parkinson’s research being conducted on campus and became a test subject in a research study on the role of exercise in the management of Parkinson’s, being conducted by Kent State Assistant Professor Angela Ridgel, Ph.D.

“I was so excited about finding this program at Kent State,” Deb says. “The exercise has had a profound effect on my disease. It helps me and helps them. I realized how much connections mean. We all have gifts to give and we need each other’s gifts.

“I was initially concerned about how the student athletes would respond or act around me once they found out I had Parkinson’s,” Deb adds. “As the learning specialist and life coach for student-athletes, as well as being a breast cancer survivor, I’m no stranger to adversity. However, this diagnosis impacted me in ways I couldn’t predict. It’s as if I’ve become a ‘mental-athlete,’ facing each day with determination, appreciation and perseverance. And each day, as I teach this perspective of courage, humor, and dignity to our student athletes, they, in return, teach it to me.

“I’m very close to the women’s field hockey team,” she continues. “Some of the girls found out about my disease. It was the best thing actually. I told them exactly what was going on and educated them. Last year, they were told they had to do a fundraiser, and they decided to raise money for Professor Ridgel’s Parkinson’s research.”

Along with being the regular season Mid-American Conference champions, the team raised nearly $1,500 for Parkinson’s disease research through their Shoot Out Parkinson’s philanthropy event.

Deb was inspired by the team’s efforts.

“The fact that this very special team is willing to champion the cause of Parkinson's disease with their words and actions means more than I can say,” she says.

As a member of the university community working together in the service of the university’s mission, you influence and inspire others through your giving – students, faculty and staff alike.

At Kent State, generous alumni, faculty and staff have created hundreds of funds that provide much-needed financial support to groundbreaking research and deserving students. Please consider joining your colleagues in supporting the programs, students, faculty and staff members who make these reciprocal relationships possible. Put your money where your heart is! Direct your support to  Ridgel’s Parkinson’s disease research or the school, college, department or program of your choice. 

Click here to learn about other ways to give.