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A Word from the President

June 27, 2010

Keystone: What's in a Name?

Dennis W. Felty
Dennis W. Felty
President, KHS

The roots of our mission to create opportunities for growth and meaningful life choices so all people can be valued, contributing members of their community can be found in our name. Although we were not conscious of it when Keystone was founded almost 40 years ago, our name carries a great deal of symbolism that reflects both our mission and vision.

A keystone is an architectural structure that forms the highest and strongest point of an arch. Historically, stone masons would place all of the irregular stones in a pile to the side and would use only the most uniform stones with straight edges and sharp corners to build the foundation and walls of a structure. When they were ready to complete the arch, though, they would turn to this irregular pile of stones to find the perfect keystone. To view a collection of fine art photographs of keystones from around the world, please visit our Keystone photo gallery.


The keystone may be irregularly shaped, different from the rest of the stones in the building, but it has a critical role to play in the integrity of the structure. As the highest and strongest point of an arch, it bears the weight of the arch and the building around it. The keystone is the stone that supports the entire structure and keeps it standing. Often, the arch is so strong that it will remain standing long after the rest of the building has crumbled.

The arch is a highly organized structure, and it provides a doorway into or out of the building and access to the community. Doors are an important part of our Keystone history, and they can both grant and deny access. Before the Harrisburg State Hospital closed in 2006, many doors were closed and locked for people with disabilities. Thousands of people were systematically excluded from the privileges and protection of full citizenship.

Keystone worked hard to create a comprehensive system of care and community alternatives, and soon the Harrisburg State Hospital opened its doors and the people who had been locked behind them rejoined society and received support through Keystone's and the region's community programs. In that process, we opened a door to freedom, family, community, healing, productivity, and most importantly full participation in our society.

Disability is an inherent part of the human experience. Like the keystone, people with disabilities are often rejected and excluded because they don't seem to fit the mold of society. But just as the keystone is an essential part of the arch, we all play an important role in society, regardless of our disabilities or abilities. Without the irregularly shaped keystone, the arch would fail. For our community to be as strong as it can be, we need everyone to be fully participating members.

As I have traveled the world, I have found that the keystone is a universal component of the structure of civilization. It can literally be found everywhere. In its symbolic role, the keystone serves as a constant reminder of the consequences of the segregation and isolation of an individual or group solely because of qualities that are no fault of their own. The definition of who is a valued member of society and who gets locked out or who gets locked in is ultimately a political decision. As political winds change, we are all at risk of being on the wrong side of the door. We have a responsibility to ensure that the arch grants access, opportunity and participation, assuring that everyone has a place at the table of life.


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