“The consummate professional.”
“So down to earth.”
“He should have been on Broadway.”
When Ed Kelly’s students reminisce, each focuses on a different side of their old accounting teacher. But they all agree: Ed Kelly was an extraordinarily gifted professor.
Greg Finerty ’70, a 30-year veteran of the prestigious PriceWaterhouseCoopers firm, recalls Kelly as man who had high expectations of his students and inspired them to succeed: “He always wore a suit—not a sport coat—and his tie knot was right up to his collar. He’d come in and open his briefcase, ready for business. He wasn’t imposing physically, but he had a presence about him. You could see that Ed Kelly was in charge—you were there to learn. He made you into a good accountant.”
Professional, yes, but also practical, says classmate and fellow accountant George Paulick ’70, who works at the Westinghouse Foundation. “He always said he wanted us to really know the basics, rather than all the different theories. He said that the companies we work for will teach us their methodology, but so long as we understood debits, credits, and balance sheets, we would do well. When you were confused, Ed wouldn’t give up until you and the entire class understood… No matter where I go or what I do I bring his principles with me. I keep in touch with other students of his who have very successful professional careers. That’s his achievement.”
Robert Bedore ’68 waited in line for registration, not sure what major to take, when “a small guy with a round face and glasses approached me and said, ‘Do you know how to add? Then this is your major, buddy.’ And he was right! His was always the class I wanted to go to. He was full of life; never gloomy.”
When asked for some samples of Kelly humor, Bedore, now a corporate real estate accountant, recalled, “He had an imaginary character called Rollo, the dumbest guy in the world. If we really messed up in class, he’d say, ‘You must have been out with Rollo last night.’ And he told a hilarious story of the time his wife locked the house and for safekeeping attached the key to the dog’s collar. Ed got home and the dog wouldn’t come near him, so he was locked out. ‘So you see, you should never trust anybody,’ he said.”
Richard Saxon ’82 recalls Kelly as a caring instructor who brought out the best in his students. Applying too late to be accepted as a full-time student, 19-year-old Saxon had trepidations about being in the evening division with older students. But Kelly made him feel right at home. “He knew your name right off the bat. He took an interest in what you were doing and where you were headed.” Soon Saxon forgot his discomfort: “He asked for the experience of the older students—how do you do this at the factory? How is this done at the steel mill? I found it fascinating. He was a visionary in his methods—you learned accounting without knowing you were learning it. He made all the students get to know each other. To this day I have a working relationship with people from that first evening class.” Richard owns Saxon Jewelers at the Fort Steuben Mall.
Ed’s reputation spread far and wide. Recruiters knew that a Kelly-trained student would do well in any accounting firm or business. His students remember him as a mentor. Robert Bedore summed it up: “He was a man of real character, an accountant with a sense of humor and a sense of purpose: to make sure we got a good look at the future and where we were going.”
Originally published in the Spring 2009 Baronette newsletter. Professor Kelly taught at the College of Steubenville from 1949-1981. He died on April 15, 1981, which his son, Dr. Thomas Kelly, chair of Franciscan’s Department of Accounting, Business Administration, and Economics, called “a fitting date for a tax expert.”