IN MEMORIAM: BETH-ELLEN KEYES
Beth-Ellen Keyes, a staunch NYWICI volunteer leader and the diminutive powerhouse behind the production of the Matrix awards over many years, died unexpectedly of natural causes on July 30th, 2021.
For more than two decades, she was a powerful force on behalf of New York Women in Communications, lending her talent, resources and high energy in myriad ways. Beth-Ellen served on the organization’s board of directors and that of the NYWICI Foundation. She was particularly involved with the student Scholarship program which has distributed more than $1.9 million to date. A recipient of the prestigious NYWICI Liz Hoover Award for outstanding service, she was also awarded a Member Empowerment Grant (MEG) for continuing education in nonprofit fundraising. Beth-Ellen initiated the Mentorship program, and added the innovation of having it work two-ways: senior professionals helping juniors, and tech-savvy juniors helping seniors up their games. Over time, it has become an important resource for helping women to prosper and climb their career ladder.
Most people know Beth-Ellen from the many years when she produced the NYWICI Matrix Awards, an annual fundraising gala which honors outstanding women from across the communications industry. In that role, she worked with VIPs from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Joan Rivers, Robin Roberts, Katie Couric and so many others.
I personally had the pleasure of co-producing the Matrix Awards the year President Bill Clinton was a surprise guest for honoree Helen Thomas, who was given her award by none other than the legendary newscaster Walter Cronkite. It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget.
When the news spread about Beth-Ellen’s passing, many of her NYWICI friends wrote touching memorials. Here are just a few:
Nancy Nichols – Former NYWICI President, Former NYWICI Foundation President, and Scholarship Committee member: “Beth-Ellen was one of a kind and perhaps the most passionate person I know in terms of supporting those programs in which she truly believed. The NYWICI Scholarship Program was at the top of her list and greatly benefitted from her devotion and enthusiasm for the organization and for helping the next generation of talent make their academic and career dreams come true. For two decades, she devoted a myriad of hours each year reviewing the scholarship applications, participating in all of the candidate interviews and keeping in touch with many of the winners. No one took attendance at our many committee meetings, but if we had, Beth-Ellen’s record would have been 100%! She will be sorely missed.”
Patrice Tanaka – Former NYWICI President; Chief Joy Officer, Joyful Planet:
“I was stunned to learn yesterday of the passing of Beth-Ellen Keyes last week. She was one of the amazing women I had the good fortune to meet through New York Women in Communications (NYWICI). I remember the energy and creativity she put into producing NYWICI’s signature event, The Matrix Awards. She was a force of nature.”
Judy Kalvin – President, Kalvin Public Relations: “Working with Beth-Ellen on the Matrix Awards was like playing in a symphony orchestra under a world-renowned conductor. She managed everything with grace, professionalism and, above all else, love for NYWICI.”
In loving memory, a scholarship has been started in her name. Donations will be accepted at https://nywici.org/donate.
By Julie Livingston