Nora Kelley, a beloved Professor in the English Department, recently passed away at age 95. Her tenure with the College spanned 27 years (1967 to 1984) and she received Dolphin Award honors for Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Faculty in 1981. As a remembrance, we present a collection of memories from her former colleagues.
Nora came to SICC before I did and was already well ensconced as a popular teacher when I arrived in 1968. She pioneered the Modern Irish Literature course at the college. I remember her as always deeply engaged with the students and enormously popular with them.
Nora also taught courses for me in OPTIONS: the CSI College Study Program for Older Adults. Her Irish Literature course was a major attraction for my OPTIONS students…Her intelligence, charming personality, and leadership skills were outstanding…She was loved by her colleagues and students.
Nora Kelley went back to school as an undergraduate, probably when she was in her 40s. My impression is that she had no college before that time but she may have had some; certainly she had not earned an undergraduate degree. Then, having graduated, she went on to earn a PhD in English at New York University. She was teaching at Staten Island Community College when I arrived there in 1970; she probably completed her PhD a few years later.
After ARC (Adults Returning to College) was established, she always taught at least one course in the program. You can imagine what a role model she provided for these students, mostly women, about how it’s never being too late to get a degree and start off on a second career.
Her dissertation was on Irish literature…and her advanced course was always Irish literature in some incarnation or other. It was (locally) famous. In her last semester of teaching (before she retired–again, I’m not sure of the date), her students made up t-shirts, in kelly green of course, with the legend “I read Ulysses with Nora Kelley” on the front. (James Joyce’s Ulysses, that is.) You can imagine the excitement the day she walked into class and saw the entire class decked out in green. She was an ebullient and successful teacher and a good colleague.
Nora was a beloved colleague at SICC in the English Department. We all admired her determination to finish her PHD at NYU, which she did after a life of raising her children. The students were devoted to her and she had a passion for teaching that was simply infectious. We hated to see her retire, which she was forced to do at age 70: retirement age was limited in those days. She was simply the best.