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March 14, 2001


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From left: Carroll Key, husband Freddie Key, and SMU Dean Robin W. Lovin

DALLAS (SMU) -- Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology has named Carrol Whitley Key of Trenton, Mo., the 2001 recipient of the Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award, presented annually to laypersons who exemplify Christian faith and commitment to Christ.

The award was presented to Key during special ceremonies at a luncheon in early March during the 27th Annual Laity Week at Perkins. The special week features workshops and discussions on theology and church matters led by members of the Perkins faculty.

"We at Perkins and in the church are honored by persons such as Carrol Key," said Robin W. Lovin, dean of the Perkins School of Theology. "Her steadfast faith and action in rural Missouri provide a model for Christian discipleship."

The Seals Award recognizes laypersons who exhibit the Christian faith and commitment to others as exemplified by the late Woodrow B. Seals, a senior U.S. district court judge and church and community leader whose interest and energy were instrumental in establishing Perkins' Laity Week. Those selected for the award exhibit commitment to family, church, vocation, community and the world.

Key was raised with her three brothers and one sister in the small rural community of Trenton, Mo. After graduating from high school, she completed her Associate of Arts degree at the local junior college and began teaching in a one-room rural school near Trenton. Two years later she married a high school classmate, Freddie Key, and they began farming south of Trenton. She became active in Dockery Chapel United Methodist Church, a small rural church her husband's family helped found. She and her husband still live on the same farm and serve the same church.

Her commitment to children and youth through church, community and school activities is well documented. A Sunday School teacher for more than 30 years, Key directed a weekly evening program she established for elementary children called "Kids Group" for 20 years. Key worked with the 4-H Club as well as the Future Farmers of America. She served in missions to people in the Appalachians in Kentucky, as a lay delegate to Missouri West Annual Conference, in her church's involvement in mission projects such as the Heifer Project, the Festival of Sharing and on the Conference Reorientation Committee.

Her political activities have demonstrated her courage to stand up for the environment and the oppressed. She also has worked with state and national legislators to mitigate the effects of the farm crisis of the 1980s, to reduce the risk of pesticides on imported fruits and vegetables and to prevent the construction of a hazardous waste facility in northern Missouri. She also marched with Jesse Jackson in Plattsburg, Mo., to protest the much-publicized foreclosure of an area farmer.

Key first became concerned with environmental issues in the early 1990s and was instrumental in forming the first citizen's environmental organization in her area. She worked with the Missouri Conservation Department to plant trees and monitor water quality in rivers and streams. She worked with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to ensure that large hog confinement operations do not pollute local water supplies. She also helped found the Trenton Master Gardeners, a group that plants and maintains several public gardens in Trenton, including those at the community college, at the entrances to Trenton, in the city park and at the county courthouse.

Her interest in music led her to help found the Green Hills Community Orchestra. She also has served as church pianist.

Perkins School of Theology was founded in 1915 by the Methodist Episcopal Church South, now The United Methodist Church, as one of the original schools of Southern Methodist University. Laity Week is part of Perkins' commitment to meeting the educational needs of laity.