During Dr. David Taylor’s freshman year, one of his fraternity brothers asked him to mentor an eighth-grader from Joanna named Jackie Williams. The fraternity brother was graduating and wanted Taylor ’81 to serve as a big brother to the son of a single mother.
“We found a connection,” Taylor said about mentoring Williams.
“I stayed in touch with him while I was at PC and even after I graduated. We were connected for 25 years.”
Taylor was in Williams’ wedding and then spoke at his funeral six years ago.
“The experience introduced the power of mentorship to me that shaped my whole vocation,” Taylor said.
This year PC recognizes Taylor’s service to Williams and others by bestowing upon him a Dum Vivimus Servimus Award. The honor recognizes alumni who exemplify the meaning of the College motto, “While We Live, We Serve.”
Taylor’s mentoring relationship with Williams provided Taylor with the experience to establish Momentum Bike Clubs in Upstate South Carolina in 2010. Taylor created the group mentoring initiative for middle and high school students who need extra support in their lives.
For the past 10 years Taylor has served as director of Momentum Bike Clubs while also serving as assistant research professor with Clemson University’s Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life.
Momentum Bike Clubs, which began as one group, has grown to 16 bike clubs that serve 225 students. It uses the platform of cycling to explore the world on two wheels and provide social support to students whose potential is greater than their circumstances.
Momentum has received state and national recognition as an innovative intervention that provides mentoring support to under-resourced students in Greenville and Pickens Counties of South Carolina.
“Bikes are the platform for building relationships and exploring the world, but the experience also builds resilience,” Taylor said. “Biking isn’t always fun: on a big climb, our legs are burning, our lungs are hurting, and our bodies are shouting ‘STOP!,’ and we say, ‘No, I’m not stopping. I can push through this.’
“Biking with friends really becomes a tool for resilience that reminds us that we can push through our challenges.”
Taylor said that reciprocity is also a large part of Momentum Bike Clubs.
“We’re not just trying to save poor students from under-resourced communities,” he said. “We’re seeking to build relationships of reciprocity, so that we share with our students, but we also learn from them.”
David and his wife, Tandy, have also been active in racial justice work. In 2013, the two moved to Nicholtown, a historically African American community in Greenville. David has served on numerous non-profit boards and community collaborations.
“I’ve immersed myself in issues of racial justice and read everything I can get my hands on about the history of racial terror and racial injustice in this country,” he said. “The rich relationships I have with neighbors, hearing their stories, has taught me in a very real way about structural racism and the devastating impact of that on people I know and love. Relational proximity has been transformative for me.”
David has participated in racial dialogue groups and has served on panels for racial equity and justice. “An important part of my service to the community is being an advocate and a spokesperson for racial justice. It is important for white people to speak up,” he said.
David co-wrote “The Role of Religious Institutions in Preventing, Eradicating, and Mitigating Violence Against Children,” published in December 2019. The article appears in Child Abuse and Neglect, The International Journal—Special edition commemorating the 25 anniversary of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
David also co-wrote “Bear One Another’s Burdens: a Church and a Community in Transformation,” published in May 2020. David presented at First Annual International Symposium on Family, hosted by The Institute for Family and Neighborhood Life and The American Ortho-psychiatric Association (2009) The article appears in International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice.
After graduating from PC, David spent a year as a volunteer-in-mission with the Presbyterian Church US as a teacher at Katubue Institute in Zaire, Africa (now Democratic Republic of the Congo).
He worked in the chaplain’s office at PC for a year before earning a Master of Divinity and Master of Christian Education from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga.
David and Tandy have served churches in downtown Atlanta and rural Virginia. They were the organizing co-pastors of the Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, S.C. After nearly 25 years in pastoral ministry, David made the transition in 2010 to Clemson University to work on a federal mentoring initiative and begin Momentum.
David and Tandy have two grown children, Sam and Emily.