Thomas O. Kelly, II, professor emeritus of history, co-founder of the Siena College Research Institute (SCRI) and director of the World War II Conference, died at home July 25, 2019.
Tom received his bachelor’s degree in history from Iona College, and his master's in history from Fordham University. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1952 and was stationed in Korea from 1953 to 1954 as a Morse code radio intercept operator. He was a teacher at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, NY from 1960 until 1962.
He began teaching at Siena College in 1963 and stayed until his retirement in 2000.
“Tom and I worked together for 40 years,” said Doug Lonnstrom, Ph.D., professor of quantitative business analysis. “We co-founded the Siena College Research Institute and ran the World War II conference for many years. Tom loved Siena College and the students. We co-authored a book about American presidents and spent many hours on radio talk shows and TV promoting the academic values of the college. My wife says we were so close that we would finish each other's sentences. We became best friends with Tom and Dottie and made many trips with them, including a Civil War cruise on a paddle boat on the Mississippi River. It is a sad day, we miss him deeply.”
Tom was deeply loved by his students, many of whom were inspired to work harder both in the classroom and in their careers because of his passion and dedication. Tom made students feel like they were not simply learning about history, but truly living the history he taught.
Tom would say he “never had a bad day at Siena,” because he was so fulfilled by the work he was doing for his students. His legacy lives on through those he mentored and the impact he had on countless Saints.
“Tom Kelly’s contribution to Siena College and the Siena College Research Institute motivated and inspired so many and set many of us on the road to the growth and success we enjoy today. I will miss Tom and forever will appreciate his contributions,” said Don Levy, Ph.D., director of SCRI. “Specifically, Tom and Doug Lonnstrom laid the foundation of the Research Institute and the studies of American Presidents and First Ladies that we continue today. Tom loved the Presidents’ study and I will forever hear his voice and see the sparkle in his eye as he would describe events, processes and little known life events of not only the most well-known Presidents but the surprisingly obscure men that have occupied the oval office. I’ll think of Tom and thank him for his foresight, knowledge and support every time we conduct the study, or every time, and it happens often, that a journalist or scholar reaches out to us at SCRI about our rankings of Presidents or First Ladies. Siena College has lost one of its giants. We thank you Tom and will miss you.”
The Professor Thomas O. Kelly, II and Dorothy S. Kelly Scholarship was established to memorialize the role of faculty and the contributions of their spouses to the education of Siena students. The scholarship is awarded to a sophomore who is majoring in history and/or American studies. The Kellys’ goal was to provide the “education for a lifetime” to students who otherwise would not be able to attend Siena—a true testament to the passion the couple has for education.
Tom wrote An Upstate Boyhood, WW II and Beyond, and co-wrote U.S. Presidents: From Awesome to Awful. He was a political and historical commentator for local media. Tom was a member of the Schenectady Ancient Order of Hibernians and the VFW.