Multi-million-dollar gift from local chaplain funds new center at CSU

Rob Dewey and his wife, Kathy, recently announced their intention to provide funding to create a center for chaplaincy at Charleston Southern University.

The more than $2 million commitment will establish the Dewey Center for Chaplaincy, which represents one of the largest philanthropic commitments in the history of CSU. The Deweys have begun providing annual gifts to resource the center and have included CSU as the beneficiary of their estate.

“The extraordinary generosity of Rob and Kathy Dewey to establish this chaplaincy center will extend their legacy of ministry for generations,” said CSU President Dondi Costin. “I am not exaggerating when I say that Chaplain Dewey’s hands-on service in the trenches the last couple of decades put chaplain ministry on the map in this region and beyond. How fitting that his name would grace a center to commission a legion of chaplains who will follow in his steps.”

Dewey, a retired Episcopal priest and the founder of Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy, and Kathy, a retired school psychologist, consider it the next step after spending their careers caring for others. Dewey said, “Kathy and I do not want to leave the money we have been blessed with up to the probate judge to decide where it goes. We don’t have children and grandchildren, so we have adopted CSU.”

In the 1970s, Dewey served as a police officer in the Black Mountain, N.C., area and spent a year on staff with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association before attending the University of the South and Trinity Episcopal Seminary. It was while he was serving an assistantship on Johns Island and doing ride-alongs with police officers that he first recognized the need for a chaplain program to address the stress, PTSD and high suicide rate among first responders.

Seeing the benefit of combining the theological and the practical in ministering to people, he worked with local law enforcement officials in starting the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy, a ministry for all first responders and victims’ families.

Dewey was a chaplain for the FBI for 24 years, elected as lead chaplain in 2015, was a chaplain for organizations such as SLED and the Lowcountry Hospitality Association, and was trained in hostage negotiations and aviation incidence response. He also worked with the University of Maryland to form programs in their Pastoral Crisis Intervention.

Ben Phillips, dean of the College of Christian Studies at CSU, said, “This new center will develop academic programs to train chaplains for any of the over 60 forms of chaplaincy identified by the North American Mission Board. The center will also develop noncredit, certificate courses to train volunteer chaplains in first responder, corporate, and community chaplaincy, as well as conferences to support professional chaplains serving in the Lowcountry.”

Ron Harvell, deputy chief of chaplains with the U.S. Air Force, was recently hired as director of the center.