University of the Fraser Valley

2024 Honorary Degree recipient Marion Keys: “Community service is the reason I get up every day”

2024 Honorary Degree recipient Marion Keys: “Community service is the reason I get up every day”

2024 UFV Honorary Degree recipient Marion Keys.

Even if the change you make is small, it matters 

Like all difference makers, Marion Keys has an origin story. To explain why she’s dedicated decades of her life to community service, she looks back to her youth growing up in a “difficult” home environment, making it through with tremendous support from friends, and teachers. 

Keys, one of this year’s UFV Honorary Doctorate recipients, says she wasn’t aware of her inclination to serve until her early 30s. Working for Ford Canada, she went to a sales seminar. At the end of it, the organizer  asked her what she was doing in sales. 

“Every test we’ve given you shows that you want to help people,” the woman said. 

That moment, Keys says, was a revelation. 

“It was true,” she says. “I just wanted to help people.” 

Keys has been on a mission ever since. A full list of her accomplishments would be pages long, but the highlights include helping to form the Abbotsford First Electors Society (AFES) in 2016, with the mission to involve residents in governmental processes and to support council candidates from diverse backgrounds. Abbotsford councilor Kelly Chahal, the first South Asian woman to hold public office in Abbotsford, considers Keys a valuable mentor. 

“Marion has championed and mentored women such as me to take lead, ownership, and move forward and participate in my community,” Chahal writes. “She has done this by sharing her wisdom, her experiences and most importantly, her heart.” 

Keys studied politics and policy at the University of British Columbia, and since 2010, she has served as regional director and board member of the United Party of BC for nine ridings in the Fraser Valley, and board member for the party’s Women’s Network. 

“Marion has a spirit like no other, and she has the unique qualities that draw others such as me to her,” Chahal says. “As a novice politician, I continuously sought her advice and wisdom and unlike others who promised to support and stand by me, she was one of the few who walked the talk, spent time with me, and encouraged me. 

“I am thankful she considers me as one of her friends.” 

Since 2017, Keys has been a board member of the Maplewood Care Society and an organizer for the Holmberg Memorial Golf Classic, which supports the Abbotsford Hospice Society. She helped raise more than $10 million to build Homberg House. 

Since 2022, Marion has been a committee member of the Abbotsford Economic Development Roundtable on behalf of the three Abbotsford Rotary clubs. In 2022, she was awarded the Platinum Queen’s Jubilee medal of community service, and she’s twice won the Paul Harris award (1990 and 2018) for her work with Rotary International. 

Those who work alongside Keys describe her as selfless, and someone who embodies leadership. 

She says everything she’s done and continues to do is about helping people, and she has no intention of slowing down. 

“It (community service) is the reason I get up every day,” Keys says. “I just want to make things better, and I think when you have a core value like that, it never goes away. I’ve never lost my capacity to get up every morning and find something useful to do.”