Dr. Sarah D. McKay Has Both Made History And Assisted In Preserving History At Florida Southern College

Mar 30, 2022

by FSC Staff

Dr. Sarah McKay was Florida Southern College’s first, and to-date only, female Chair of the Board from 2003 to 2005. She has served as a Trustee from 1996 -2009 and since 2010.

Dr. McKay is a Lakeland native who graduated from Wesleyan Conservatory in Macon, Ga., and later attended the University of South Florida, where she pursued graduate work in art. She was married to the late L. Kirk McKay, Jr.

She has received numerous, well-deserved awards and accolades for her service to Florida Southern College, various civic organizations, the city of Lakeland, and the state of Florida.

The United Methodist Higher Education Foundation presented Dr. McKay its Stanley S. Kresge Award in 2009. The Award is the foundation’s highest national award. It is given annually to a person who has dedicated membership in The United Methodist Church, and who supports United Methodist-related education, both of which describe Dr. McKay.

In 2010, the title of “Great Floridian” was bestowed upon Dr. McKay by a proclamation of the State of Florida.

She is well-known for her contributions to public and private education. The Florida House on Capitol Hill, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, created the McKay Civics Initiative for middle schoolers. The initiative has presented lessons to thousands of Polk County seventh graders. Dr. McKay served on the council for the organization and received its first Champion of Education Award in 2014, largely because of her financial support for an effort to encourage the teaching of civics in schools. The award would subsequently be named the Dr. Sarah D. McKay Champion of Education Award.

Dr. McKay served as the Junior League of Greater Lakeland president from 1964 to 1965, and later as sustaining advisor to President Anne McLaughlin. In May 2018, the League announced the creation of the Sarah D. McKay award. The award was to be given annually to a Junior League of Greater Lakeland member in good standing, who personified philanthropy, leadership, empowerment, inclusiveness, and a commitment to improving the Lakeland community.

She served on several boards, including the Polk Theatre, Downtown Lakeland Partnership, the United Way, and the GiveWell Community Foundation. The GiveWell Community Foundation awarded her its Legacy Award for her civic leadership. She was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award after serving on the Board of Trustees for The Polk Museum of Art.

In addition to being the first woman Board Chair at FSC, Dr. McKay achieved other firsts for women. She served as the first woman chairman of the board of directors for Lakeland Regional Health. She was also named Philanthropist of the Year by that organization. She was the first woman to be awarded the George W. Jenkins Award by the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.

In 2019, FSC President Dr. Anne B. Kerr and retired Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis presented Dr. McKay with the inaugural Outstanding Leader in Civics Award for her leadership in history, government, and civics education. The award was named in her honor, to be given annually.

The Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay, Jr. Archives Center at FSC collects, organizes, preserves, and describes the Institutional history and records of Florida Southern College. The archives house faculty papers, alumni papers, information about politicians associated with the College, and the history of Florida Citrus. The center was dedicated in February of 2009.

Florida Southern College recognized Dr. McKay’s outstanding leadership and work by awarding her a well-deserved Honorary Doctorate of Public Service in 2005.

Gerrianne Schaad and Amy Skillen of the McKay Archives contributed to this work.

“FSC Builds upon History of Civic Leadership Though Statewide Educational Program.” Florida Trend, https://www.floridatrend.com/article/26346/fsc-builds-upon-history-of-civic-leadership-though-statewide-educational-program.

Gary White. “Sarah D. McKay: New Award Named for Lakeland Woman.” The Ledger, The Ledger, 21 Nov. 2014, https://www.theledger.com/story/news/2014/11/21/sarah-d-mckay-new-award-named-for-lakeland-woman/27008338007/.

“Junior League of Greater Lakeland.” Junior League of Greater Lakeland Announces Sarah D. McKay Award – Junior League of Greater Lakeland, https://www.jlgl.org/sarah-mckay-award-announcement/.

McKay Archives Library - Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL, https://www.flsouthern.edu/library/archives.aspx.

Technologies, Brick River. “The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.” FLUMC, 12 Mar. 2015, https://www.flumc.org/newsdetail/930747.