The eternal impact of a Lowcountry chaplain
Last summer, the Rev. Rob and Kathy Dewey made a multimillion-dollar commitment to create a center for chaplaincy at Charleston Southern University. Their generosity, represented as one of the largest philanthropic gifts in the history of CSU, was honored at a celebratory luncheon on May 14.
“Rob puts the ‘do’ in Dewey,” President Dondi Costin said in his opening remarks at the luncheon. “This is a milestone in the life of Charleston Southern University. Because of [the Deweys’] generosity, this is also a milestone for the surrounding area. We are going to be a platform for ministry and training and equipping and envisioning and thinking of what chaplaincy is, and our model is Rob Dewey.”
Costin, an Air Force veteran and chaplain himself, shared something he learned during his career. “You are chaplain to all and pastor to some.” Costin obtained the rank of Major General in his 32 years of commissioned service and served as Air Force Chief of Chaplains at The Pentagon.
Many in the Charleston area know Dewey as the founder of the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy. His resume overflows with experiences ministering to people in some of the most tragic events in our modern history such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the Emanuel Nine murders in downtown Charleston. A retired Episcopal priest, he and his wife received an inheritance and wanted to make an eternal impact with it.
“My mother did leave us some financial support that we’re not going to need,” he explained to the event’s audience. “So for this to be able to happen is a blessing to us, and we just feel so blessed to see it being used.”
He added that his involvement with an academic institution is a bit ironic. “I flunked ninth grade, I wouldn’t have gotten out of college or seminary without tutors. This has been an impossible dream that I never knew was going to happen.”
The luncheon featured an impressive line-up of guest speakers who have been impacted by Dewey: Anita Zucker, chair and CEO of The InterTech Group Inc.; Chief Don Lundy, president of the National Association of EMT Foundation; U.S. District Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks; Dr. Victor Welzant, director of education and training at the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc.; and the Very Rev. J. Michael Wright, rector and dean at Grace Church Cathedral.
Zucker said that Dewey showed her the meaning of service through his contributions in ministry—whether it was 9/11, New Orleans, or local tragic events. “The Dewey Center for Chaplaincy at Charleston Southern University will provide so many of the lessons I’ve seen you, Rob, teach so many. Your compassion for others, Rob, is endless. It’s endless. You used to spend so many hours with my late husband, Jerry. He loved that time that he spent with you,” she said, adding that she and Dewey became friends and fellow Rotarians soon after. “Service above self. The Rotary mission describes you perfectly. All of you aspiring chaplains, remember that. You’re there to serve others.”
The Dewey Center for Chaplaincy kicked off last fall with courses in chaplaincy studies—one of which was held under the Ravenel Bridge with Dewey speaking about his experiences as a chaplain.
There are two tracks within the chaplaincy center: training and academic. Dr. Ron Harvell, director of the center and retired Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force, noted at the event that CSU is one of a handful of places in the country where one can attain a bachelor’s in chaplaincy studies.
“We’re really jazzed about what God has for us and what we’re going to get to do in the future,” he said.
Those interested in the degree program, training opportunities, or supporting the program may visit charlestonsouthern.edu/deweycenter to learn more. Watch the recorded event and view photos from the event here.