David P. Conyers was a great man of faith who served Arkansas United Methodist churches for more than 37 years before his death in 1997 at the age of 82. His wife, Mary Helen, was by his side throughout his ministry. She died in late 2003 at the age of 88.
As testament of their faith and loyalty to the church, in their estate Rev. and Mrs. Conyers left gifts totaling more than $1.6 million to three institutions of the Church.
The couple, who had no children, provided $562,000 to Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., for scholarships. An equal amount was designated for scholarships for students attending Philander Smith College in Little Rock. A third gift, also totaling $562,000, was given to the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference to be used for ministries with American Indians.
"That's quite a legacy," said Jim Argue Jr., president of United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, which serves as trustee of the Conyers Family Scholarship Endowment Fund benefiting Philander Smith College.
Rev. and Mrs. Conyers were "generous and faithful Christians, and it showed in their ministry," said Dr. Clint Burleson, a retired pastor, who, like Rev. Conyers, served North Little Rock's Lakewood Church. "They were loved and well appreciated by the congregation. And they very much loved the Methodist Church."The generosity they displayed through their end-of-life gifts "was not just a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Dr. Earl Carter, a friend and colleague of Rev. Conyers. "This was a pattern of giving that they had developed throughout their lives. That was just the kind of people they were -- very liberal with their generosity. But they always did it in a way that not many people knew about it. But they certainly did it out of the goodness of their hearts."
David Conyers was born in Sidney and graduated from Duke University Divinity School in 1943. He served United Methodist churches in the former North Arkansas Conference for more than 37 years. His pastorates included Elm Springs/Harmon, Judsonia, Ozark, Central Avenue-Batesville, Morrilton, Clarksville, Helena, Lakewood-North Little Rock, Newport, Jacksonville and Cherokee Village. Upon his retirement in 1980, he served as associate pastor of the Cherokee Village church and was later named pastor emeritus.
Mary Helen Harrison Conyers was living in Rogers at the time of her death in November 2003. A native of Corinth, Miss., she lived most of her life in Arkansas and was a graduate of Hendrix College. She and Rev. Conyers married on Sept. 30, 1945, in Bentonville, Ark.
"David and Mary Helen were a very warm and generous couple who had a passion for church-related higher education," said Rock Jones, executive vice president and dean of advancement of Hendrix. "Their gift, which affirms the important role the United Methodist Church plays at Hendrix, will help us make sure that all qualified students have access to the benefits of a liberal arts education at Hendrix."
"We are extremely pleased to help link the generosity and stewardship of this couple to the hopes and dreams of future generations of deserving students at Philander Smith College," said Roger Bryles, chief financial officer of the Foundation.
David M. Wilson, superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, said he was "flabbergasted and amazed" at the gift, which came as a complete surprise. "Outside of the support we receive from general agencies, this is the biggest contribution that an individual or group has ever made to OIMC. It is pretty amazing."
David Conyers "was the consummate pastor and the consummate gentleman," said Rev. Phillip Hathcock, who followed Rev. Conyers as senior pastor at Cherokee Village UMC and entreated him to extend his ministry there after retirement. "There was no one finer. David just had a heart for people. They were both extraordinary, gracious people."
Of the three recipients of gifts from the Conyers estate, "each has a unique mission," Hathcock said, "and those would align with David's heart. He loved the United Methodist Church."
This article appeared in the winter 2005 issue of Legacies, a publication of the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas.