Four years at Ohio State University gave Keith Key the knowledge and determination he needed to become a success as a businessman and financier.
Now Key is giving back with a $1 million gift to support what will now be known as the Keith B. Key Center for Student Leadership and Service, part of the Ohio Union student center.
Today, the Powell resident owns Keith B. Key Enterprises, a Columbus-based real estate development firm
Key, 47, said he wanted to return the favor after the university provided him with opportunities to become a leader at a young age.
As an undergraduate student, he was a football player and served as president of both the Ohio State branch of the NAACP and the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
He spearheaded a variety of campus projects, helping to found the block party that became the African-American Heritage Festival of today, and serving as a student curator for the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center.
He graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics.
"OSU was pivotal for me," Key said. "It gave me the appetite for entrepreneurship. Just having the Heritage Festival under my belt, an event that hosts 10,000 people, was overwhelming. It taught me a lot about meeting and organizing a lot of people, and to really be able to achieve something on a large scale."
After college, Key worked as a management trainee at Huntington Bank, and by age 25, he helped create a national program to extend banking and lending options to low-income communities.
He went on to co-found Omni Management Group, a financial management and consulting firm.
The real-estate development company that bears his name, founded in 2004, was an extension of that company.
Today, KBK Enterprises has offices in Columbus, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., and does business in seven major cities nationwide.
The company has completed more than $1 billion in real estate development overall.
Key even had a chance to revitalize the neighborhood where he grew up when his company redeveloped a Pittsburgh public housing community as part of an $80-million project.
He also was the developer of the Heritage Community in Columbus, where he helped create one of the first online high school learning communities in central Ohio.
But he said he never forgot his roots. At Ohio State, he made lifelong friends, met his future wife and made countless professional connections.
He already was looking for ways to benefit his alma mater when he discovered the Leadership and Service wing of the Ohio Union, which serves as a home base for dozens of campus clubs and organizations and features study space, meeting areas and technological resources.
It's also the only part of the union open all day, every day.
"When I saw this, I thought, 'This is the place I would have lived in every day. I would have made it my home,' " Key said. "It's a great place for me to invest and help expand upon its mission of creating strong leaders."
In a written statement, Ohio State Vice President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston said the $1-million investment will "help ensure students have leadership opportunities and entrepreneurial training, and graduate well-prepared for leadership roles."
Key lives in Powell with his wife, Donica. They have three children: Danielle, Darienne and Keith.