Celebrating the life of Helen J. Kelly
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Born in Providence and raised in Pawtucket, she was a daughter of the late Dr. Earl F. and Helen (Fisher) Kelly. She graduated from Elmhurst Academy of the Sacred Heart, Providence and Marymount College, Tarrytown, N.Y.
Helen's love of people and love of travel shaped her life. After teaching junior high school English in Pawtucket, RI and Levittown, NY, Helen spent her professional life at New York University for over 35 years, ultimately serving as Director of Special Programs at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She was renowned for her leadership in creating and producing conferences, study-abroad programs, and summer programs, workshops, and institutes. She served as administrator of Steinhardt's Puerto Rico Center, as the first editor of Steinhardt's newsletter, and gave generously of her time to many University committees, including the NYU Community Fund. Helen's initiative, imagination and resolve established NYU programs in 60 countries including Mexico, Thailand, France, Italy, Uganda, and South Africa. She travelled to all of them and more and had friends in them all. Particularly noteworthy among the many conferences she produced at NYU was a 1994 conference on The Beat Generation, featuring Alan Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, David Amram, Gregory Corso, Ed Sanders, and several other important contributors to the movement. As a consultant, Helen spent a year in Mexico working at Puebla University helping the faculty set up international programs. For many years Helen volunteered as a tutor of students in the Lower East Side’s University Settlement Program where she mentored and maintained relationships with students long after they had completed that program.
Among the professional awards Helen received were recognition by the National Association of Professional Women as a Professional Woman of the Year for her outstanding leadership and commitment in higher education, and the Gloria Gaines Award from Marymount College in recognition for her many years of service to the college, as a member of the Alumnae Board.
Helen was predeceased by her parents, her brothers Earl F. Kelly and Harold T. Kelly, her sister Dorothy M. Kelly, and her niece Colleen McSoley.
She is survived by her sister, Margaret (Kelly) McMahon; sister-in-law Freddie Kelly; nine nieces and nephews and their spouses: Margaret McMahon, Maureen McMahon and Doron Goldman, John McMahon and Susan McLaughlin, Earl McMahon and Dina Plapler, Peter McMahon, Erin and Ed Walter, Gail and Matt Harrison, Harry Kelly, Kathryn Kelly and Craig Beauchamps, Colleen's husband John McSoley; and great-nieces and great-nephews: Caitlin, Liam, Jack, David, Steven, Ethan, Jena, Daniel, Aime, Caleb and Colton, Andrew, Sarah, Matthew, Tim, Kate, Erin, Brendan, Aidan, Kylie, Lauren, Abby, Will, and Vivienne.
Despite Helen's dedication to her work she made time to celebrate all the major life events of each and every member of her family. Almost every niece and nephew, as well as the following generation, learned to ski from Helen. She provided an introduction to the arts and culture of New York City. Her personal interest in and very individualized support for each nephew and niece was remarkable. Everyone believed they had a special relationship with Helen; everyone was correct. Helen's enthusiasm, warmth, caring, energy, determination, good humor, and eagerness to talk with each person she met have left a lasting impression in the world.
The funeral will be held Saturday, March 3 at 9am from the Monahan Drabble Sherman Funeral Home, 230 Waterman St., Providence with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 in St. Sebastian Church, 67 Cole Ave., Providence. Calling hours Friday 4-7pm. Burial will be in Mount Saint Mary Cemetery in Pawtucket. In lieu of flowers donations in Helen's memory may be made to The Marymount Endowed Legacy Fund at Fordham University, 45 Columbus Ave., New York, NY 10023.
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