Friday, January 16, 2009

In Memoriam

I'm really glad that my college sends me email updates on what's occurring there, even though I graduated eight years ago. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known that one of my favorite professors had passed away last Saturday. Professor Denis Kelly taught philosophy and religion classes at Marian College, and I was lucky enough to have him for a course on Asian philosophies. Though my memories of college are becoming vague, I do remember that I enjoyed the class, and it really opened my eyes to the world and the belief systems of other cultures. Prof. Kelly was one of those big, jolly men who looked just like a real-life Santa Claus, white hair, beard, and all. In fact, for years, he played Santa at the college's special Christmas brunch held for the kids of faculty, staff, students, and alumni. I remember that he drove a motorcycle, and I loved how he would walk into class in his leather jacket, his helmet under one arm. Also, he was one of those professors who would sometimes spend his meal times in the student area of the one cafeteria on campus. I thought it was really cool that, instead of taking some quiet time away from his students along with the other faculty in their own separate lounge area, he would sit down at a table of kids, handkerchief pushed into his shirt collar under his chin, and discuss whatever the hot topic was at the moment. I may have even sat at his table once or twice, though unfortunately, I can't quite remember. One clear memory I have of him occurred in the cafeteria. I think it was St. Patrick's day, and if I'm correct, he had some Irish heritage. He also had a lovely baritone singing voice, and on that holiday, he spontaneously stood up in the middle of the cafeteria and sang for everyone who would listen, which was truly everyone, since he sang so loudly and clearly and beautifully. I even think the song was "Danny Boy", one of my all-time, absolute favorites, though I could just be muddling a couple of different memories together. One thing I do know is that he was thrilled when I told him I was engaged to B, the event having occurred at the same time of year as when I took Prof. Kelly's class. Yes, our college community was so small and close-knit that our professors were not only concerned about our academic lives, but our personal lives as well. I don't remember our conversation, just his smile of delight. Tomorrow morning, B and I will go to the visitation before his funeral to pay our respects. He was a great man, and he will be truly missed. Rest in peace, Prof. Kelly.

(Thanks to my friend and fellow Marian Knight, R.S., for the lovely picture of Prof. Kelly. I regret that my little V will never be able to meet him as Santa.)
Best to you all,

1 comment:

Momma Bear said...

that's sad! I'm glad you'll get to pay respects though.