The St. Catherine community is mourning the loss of alumna Joan Kelly. A 1946 graduate, she died Wednesday, Nov. 2. Described by those who knew her well as “loyal, wise, practical, and generous,” Joan Kelly was a faithful, lifelong supporter of St. Catherine University and an exemplary alumna. Through hard work, a disarming congenial personality, and well-honed business skills, she was an early and highly successful woman business owner who led the trade show business founded by her father to national stature.
Kelly attributed her exceptional business acumen to the outstanding liberal arts education she received at St. Catherine University and to the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught and influenced her throughout her education. She sold the business and retired in 1991.
Joan Kelly was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and earned a bachelor of arts degree in English at St. Kate’s in 1946. Long before women in business were the accepted norm, she was a St. Catherine convocation speaker where she shared practical advice about careers previously not held by women and urged students to pursue liberal arts degrees.
Joan was continuous donor to St. Catherine for over 60 years, and made significant gifts to every St. Catherine capital campaign. She was a charter member of the Ireland Society and President’s Forum. She was among the first alumnae to establish a named scholarship in 1981, supported the Women and Leadership Forum, and in 1996 co-chaired her 50th Reunion Giving Committee, raising the largest combined gift to date for a reunion class.
Joan established the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Faculty Excellence Award Fund and the Bonnie Jean Kelly Student Excellence in Writing Award in 2006 to honor her beloved sister Bonnie Jean, who died while a student at St. Kate’s. The faculty award honors and encourages outstanding faculty and the student writing award acknowledges and fosters their development through excellence in writing. Also, in 2006, she established the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Distinguished Visiting Scholar Fund to enhance the academic reputation and visibility of St. Catherine University.
In 2012, she was honored with the St. Catherine’s Alumnae Award for her excellence in leadership and service to others upholding the ideals of the University. In 2005, she was named to the Centennial 100 that honored those who made a significant impact on St. Catherine in its first one hundred years and in 1998 she received an Alexandrine Medal in 1998 that honored her for intelligence and integrity inspiring others to make a difference in the world.
Joan was preceded in death by parents, Martin P. and Bonnie McL. Kelly; sister Bonnie Jean Kelly; and cousin, J. Robert Kelly. Survived by cousins, Jerry Kelly (Phyllis), Karen Kelly (Peter Bridston), Megan Kelly (Jim Smart), Jack Kelly Smart; many other cousins and dear friends. Joan wished to extend her heart-felt thanks to her relatives and dear friends, her treasured neighbors and her invaluable advisors and counselors. Those who loved Joan wish to especially thank caregivers, Florence, Abby and other Baywood staff members, and the entire HealthEast Hospice staff for their kind, gentle, attentive and respectful care of Joan.
Services were held at Our Lady of Victory Chapel on the St. Kate's campus on Thursday, November 10. President Roloff welcomed guests and former President, Andrea J. Lee, IHM, delivered the eulogy.