Former member of the HNU Board of Trustees Jim Kelly passed away on August 31. Kelly was a member of the HNU Board of Regents from 1981 until 2000, when the Board of Regents was formally dissolved (although many HNU Regents continue their involvement with the University). Kelly was appointed to the HNU Board of Trustees in 1994 and served in that capacity for the University until 2014. He and his wife, Rosaleen Kelly ’55, received the Durocher Award in 2010, and he was awarded an honorary degree from HNU in 2014. Kelly was a loyal and generous donor to the University, and the entire HNU community is indebted to him for his service and dedication.
Below is the address that Sr. Cynthia Canning delivered during Commencement 2014, when she presented Kelly with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
"The criteria for nominees for the Honorary Degree of Humane Letters from Holy Names University are impressive. The person must, first of all, have demonstrated personal and professional qualities consistent with the mission and goals of the University.
Further, the recipient must also satisfy a combination of the following criteria:
Scholarly achievement, community or church service, the promotion of justice, and personal moral integrity
Demonstrated and recognized leadership
And contribution to the betterment of society through their talents and enterprise.
It is my great privilege this afternoon to introduce an individual who is profoundly deserving of this honor and who has demonstrated each and all of these criteria in his personal and professional life and in his deep commitment and support of Holy Names University spanning well over three decades.
James P. Kelly’s contributions to this University over more than three decades are legendary and beyond measure. A longtime member of the Board of Trustees, he has served as Vice Chair of the Board, Chair of the Advancement Committee, and member of both the Executive and the Capital Campaign Steering Committees. It was under his leadership of the Advancement Committee that both the Science Renovation capital campaign and the Student Activities Center capital campaign were accomplished with great success and significant benefit to the student experience here.
While he received his B.A. in history from St. John’s University in New York in 1951, and later his MBA from New York University, Jim is as close to being an alum of Holy Names University as one can get! He is married to Rosaleen Kelly, HNU Class of 1955, an illustrious and highly esteemed member of the alumni. Together, Jim and Rosaleen have supported every major endeavor on campus: the critically important annual fund, the construction of the Valley Center for the Performing Arts, the Michael Feinstein Concerts, the Athletic Department, the renovation of the Science Center and the Student Activities Center – just to scratch the surface! As Trustee Ann Reynolds once said, 'There isn’t an inch of this University’s campus that hasn’t benefitted from the generosity and vision of Jim and Rosaleen Kelly.'
In addition to their own Kelly family, Jim and Rosaleen have, for more than 32 years, been members of another family: the family of Holy Names University – and of the Sisters of the Holy Names, who hold them both in the highest esteem. They have embraced, exemplified, and supported our mission and the mission of HNU beyond measure!
Jim Kelly is universally admired and respected for the wide range of his good work
He is an entrepreneur and living example of the American Dream. It was at great risk and an uncertain future that Jim co-founded Emerald Packaging over 50 years ago. Starting in a small Berkeley warehouse with limited equipment, under Jim’s leadership the company has grown dramatically into the most dynamic, progressive, leading-edge organization in its industry. It is now operating 24/7 out of a modern 150,000 square foot facility in Union City and is nationally recognized as one of the produce industry’s top packaging suppliers. On two separate occasions, in 1987 and 1996, Jim received his industry’s highest honor.
Jim is a tireless advocate for this generation’s young people to have this same opportunity to live the American Dream, even in today’s challenging environment; hence, his extraordinary generosity to Holy Names University, his support of Family Aid for Catholic Education, Next Step Learning Center, and his philanthropic involvement in more educational institutions than we have time to list his afternoon.
These contributions are a matter of public record and are impressive on their own; but there are also countless other private, unsung, extraordinary kindnesses, acts of generosity and reaching out to others in distress, that are part of the way Jim and Rosaleen live their lives and that are truly life-transforming for other people.
Perhaps even more important than Jim’s talented leadership and generous, seemingly limitless philanthropy have been the gifts of mind, heart, and spirit he has brought to every aspect of his involvement in this University. He is unwaveringly committed to the mission of the Sisters of the Holy Names, to social justice, and to the core values that make Holy Names University the very special place it continues to be.
In awarding this honorary degree to Jim, we also honor and express our gratitude to all of the Kelly clan, including Jim and Rosaleen’s daughter Maura and her husband Derril Koberlein, both active, admired, and very generous members of the HNU alumni, as well as the Kelly sons, Jim and Kevin – all of them characterized by the same commitment to the community and to increasing educational opportunities for those who might otherwise not have them.
James P. Kelly – Jim – we invite you to come forward to receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from President Hynes.”
Kelly's official obituary ran in Bay Area newspapers on September 4.