Margaret J. McKelvey was born and reared in Rochester, New York, and grew up in Grace United Methodist Church. She has always been interested in the world beyond the United States, even as a young child. At eight years of age she started learning French, a second language that she now speaks fluently. Margaret said that growing up in the United Methodist Church in the turbulent 1960's shaped her world view and set her on the path to a life of public service.
Margaret holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in French from Duke University and a Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. After graduating from college, Margaret heeded President Kennedy's call for a corps of trained young men and women to go to foreign nations to assist in development efforts. Margaret enlisted in the Peace Corps, and thus began her 43 years of public service.
She served two years in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa with the Peace Corps; seven years as an operations and preparedness officer with the Office of U. S. Foreign Disaster Assistance of the United States Agency for International Development; and thirty-four years with the U. S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration where she held the title of Director for Refugee Assistance in Africa. Margaret retired in September 2017.
In her 43 years of public service, Margaret visited 34 of the 55 nations of Africa, many of them multiple times. While engaged in emergency humanitarian management work across that vast continent, Margaret saw first-hand the urgent need for education and good governance.
Margaret first visited Africa University in 2006 with a Volunteers in Mission team from Foundry United Methodist Church (Washington, DC). Margaret recognized the university's potential to become one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the southern region of Africa.
When Margaret learned in 2017 that Africa University was preparing to launch a post-graduate degree program in migration, citizenship, and refugee protection, she was inspired to endow a scholarship in the Institute of Peace, Leadership, and Governance to provide support for graduate students enrolled in the new program who are or have been refugees. When asked what impact does she hope her gift will achieve, Margaret thoughtfully replied, "I hope that the graduates of the migration, citizenship and refugee protection program will be humane and powerful leaders in maintaining Africa's longstanding edge in hospitality and generosity, serving both at home in their respective countries and as leaders in the international community."
Since her retirement, Margaret's interest in Africa and Africa University has not waned. She has traveled to Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland. When asked what aspect of Africa University's ministry gives her the most satisfaction, she replied, "Training potential leaders who respect the best in African societies and who will also challenge many of the pervasive ills that are hampering development on the continent."
Elaine Jenkins, director of planned giving, Africa University Development Office
A World Service Special Gift is a designated financial contribution made by an individual, local church, organization, district or annual conference to a project authorized as such by the Connectional Table. Current World Service Special Gifts projects include the Africa University Endowment Fund, the Leonard Perryman Communications Scholarship for Ethnic Minority Students, the Methodist Global Education Fund, the National Anti-Gambling Project and the Lay Missionary Planting Network.