Emerald Youth gets new board chair

John CrooksOur Town Kids, Our Town Teens

The Board of Trustees of Emerald Youth Foundation has named a new chairperson for the first time in over a decade.


Dr. Keith Gray

Dr. Keith Gray, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the University of Tennessee Medical Center, will succeed the position previously held by Doug Kennedy, CEO of Johnson & Galyon Construction.

“The faithful, steady leadership Doug Kennedy has offered for 18 years has been absolutely instrumental in the growth of our organization, and we will see the ripple effects of his influence for decades to come,” said Steve Diggs, president and CEO of Emerald Youth. “I am confident that Dr. Gray has the temperament and spiritual leadership to lead our organization through the next chapter and am grateful to both him and his wife, Kala, for their heart for children in our city.”

Kennedy, who has served as chair for 15 years, will remain as a member of the Emerald Youth Board of Trustees.

Throughout his 40-year career in construction, Kennedy, an architect by trade, has been part of many notable projects including East Tennessee Children’s Hospital – NICU & Surgery Addition, the additions and renovations to Neyland Stadium, the Whittle Communications corporate building, the renovations at Rockefeller Center in New York City, and the renovation and restoration of Ayres Hall, a landmark structure at the University of Tennessee. Doug and his wife, Vicky, reside in Knoxville and have raised three children: Justin, Kristin and Ryan.

“I have spent many years in the construction industry and learned a lot about building things the right way. Building young leaders is something I have seen up close through Emerald Youth, and I am sincerely grateful for my time as chairman as well as my friendship with Steve Diggs,” said Kennedy. “It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to serve children and families in urban Knoxville through this role, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to be engaged in the years ahead.”

A native of Snow Hill, N.C., Gray earned undergraduate and medical degrees from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., as well as a master’s degree in business administration from UT’s Haslam College of Business. He completed a general surgery residency and surgical research fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and a fellowship in surgical oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He and Kala have five children.

“I firmly believe that healing can happen for neighborhoods and families in our city, and I believe God is using Emerald Youth Foundation and its partners to bring this about,” said Gray, who called succeeding Kennedy an honor. “My prayer is that God will use me to help continue to achieve Emerald’s mission of raising up Godly leaders who help renew their communities.”

Since 1991, Emerald Youth Foundation has worked to support Knoxville’s youth and prepare generations of Godly community leaders. EYF has engaged more than 25,000 children and young adults in a variety of community programs over nearly three decades. Every year, EYF serves more than 2,500 children, teens and young adults in the heart of Knoxville through faith, learning and health programs. Learn more at www.emeraldyouth.org.

John Crooks is director of communications for Emerald Youth Foundation.

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