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For the Love of the Game: Family of Graeme Keith ’54 Ensures Dual-Sport Athlete’s Wildcat Legacy Lives On

by | Mar 28, 2024

Graeme Keith ’54 is a name synonymous with Davidson Basketball and Davidson Golf. Though he passed away in 2023, his name will forever be associated with his beloved Wildcats as the generosity of his three children has named in his honor the men’s basketball practice court and the Davidson College Golf House at River Run Country Club.

Keith in his senior photo in the 1954 Quips and Cranks yearbook

“My dad fell in love with Davidson College and all it brought to his life,” said Greg Keith, who made a nearly $2 million naming gift to Davidson alongside siblings Carey Ellen and Russ. “Think about it — he played two sports he loved, met wonderful people in his classmates and teammates and met the love of his life, my mom, who went to Queens. They were some of the most important and happiest years of his life.”

Graeme and Greg started The Keith Corporation together in 1989, something Greg knows not all fathers and sons could do successfully. His dad left a 30-year career in banking to join his son in the world of real estate development. 

“He was a great business partner with the highest integrity and character,” Greg said. “I think anyone who ever met him would say he was the epitome of a Southern gentleman, and he was always striving to serve the Lord. A good person with a great heart.” 

Greg Keith’s path took him to the University and Georgia and then Wake Forest, but Davidson was a huge part of their family’s life for as long as he can remember. 

“We followed Davidson Basketball as a household, and it was very important to us all,” he said. “Dad was so impassioned about it, so it holds a special place in all our hearts. He’d meet new people and, before you knew it, he’d be telling them all about the basketball and golf programs. He was so proud to be affiliated with Davidson College.”

Leader, Advocate, Friend
Graeme spent his college years playing the two sports he loved, and he remained an integral part of both programs in all the years that followed. He led efforts to raise critical financial support, and he inspired those around him to get involved, too. The gift from his family allows his tremendous legacy to continue through the lives and successes of the scholar-athletes who compete today.

The men’s basketball practice court in the Harry L. Vance Athletic Center, which opened in the fall of 2015, is now named for an alumni athlete who became one of the most loyal Wildcat fans to sit in the stands.

“The Keiths have a long history of philanthropy, and we are thrilled they’ve chosen to honor Graeme with this gift,” said Men’s Basketball Head Coach Matt McKillop. “Graeme was a season ticket holder for decades, and his support and presence will continue to be felt in Belk Arena. The Keith name will be on the walls of our practice courts forever and will be seen by all who pass through our halls.”

As much as Graeme loved the game of basketball, he loved the game of golf even more. Longtime friend, fellow alum and volunteer assistant golf coach L.D. Simmons ’81 joined existing efforts, led by Graeme, to raise much-needed scholarship dollars to ensure the program’s forward momentum. This work led to the creation of the Dr. Tom Scott Golf Tournament, named in honor of the long-time coach. 

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Graeme over the last 40 years and an extraordinary gift from Steve MacMIllan ’85 in 2019, the golf program is the only fully endowed Division I scholarship program at Davidson College.

“I first met Graeme when I was a senior at Davidson, and he interviewed me for a job,” Simmons said. “But I started working with Graeme to support the golf team around 1990. He knew that leadership is not a position or title; it is action. And it was how he did things — quietly, diligently and without fanfare. No one loved golf more than Graeme Keith, and he always said Davidson was uniquely suited to attract good players.”

The 29th annual tournament, to be held May 6, is the first one planned without Graeme leading the way.

“He led the effort to create the tournament, and the event was also a chance for him to compete,” Simmons said. “He always put together a strong team, and his game was superb, even in his 70s. Graeme’s team won the tournament several years, and he took great pride in those Tom Scott trophies.” 

Graeme and the late Ben Vernon ’50 were also instrumental in bringing Head Coach Tim Straub to Davidson. Simmons recalls a lunch where his friends told him they had found the perfect coach. Last spring, Straub and the team celebrated the program’s third straight A-10 Conference Championship. Seeing the name of one of the program’s most dedicated champions and advocates on the golf house is only fitting.

“Graeme was one of the first people I met when I was hired for the job,” Straub said. “His love of our golf program was unmatched as a driving force behind the tournament and a leader behind the golf house project and the program in general. This gift makes a huge impact, especially with rising costs of travel, recruiting and everyday expenses of the team. It will make a difference for a long, long time.” 

Graeme’s obituary reads: “Graeme entered this world with God-given curiosity, charm and charisma, a drive and a spirit for excellence, the ability to make friends that transcended space and time … Graeme was a great friend. He saw into the heart of everyone he met, making them feel as if they were the only person in the world. He valued people, he valued their time, he valued their talent, and he sought to bring out the best in everyone.” 

Davidson College was among the many people and organizations touched by Graeme Keith’s life, and his drive and spirit for excellence will be present in the future successes of Davidson Basketball and Davidson Golf.

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