Robert Anthony Kelly was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on the 21st of February, 1956. Growing up in West Kingston, the young Robert would have seen a number of his older friends proudly going off to school in their Kingston College ties. Robert Kelly thought then that he wanted to attend Kingston College one day. When those friends started to come home and regale him with stories of KC and the Legends of Fortis, the thought grew into a firm decision. By the time Robert sat the Common Entrance Examination, the firm decision had evolved further, attaining the proportions of an obsession.
And so in September 1967, Robert Kelly entered Kingston College as a First Form student. He was to spend what he describes as six of the best years of his life as a student at Kingston College. He would later be recognized as the fat chap who would bring his chair outside his upstairs 5th Form class room at the end of classes to watch the track and field and the football teams train under the watchful eyes of the late Howard Aris and George Thompson, respectively. A sports enthusiast while at school, most of his exploits on the sports field, however, resided in the temple of his imagination. He did, however, on occasions, suit himself out as an opening batsman, and at least one living person – Kelly himself – can remember him troubling the scorer on one occasion during a Colts match. Thankfully, there is more empirical evidence to support the entry in his resume that he was a member of the KC Chapel choir.
In June 1973, Robert Kelly, the Kingston College graduate departed for New York on what should have been a short sojourn justified, mainly, on attendance at his sister's wedding. However, Robert's father had other plans, and happy that he had finally got rid of a son who had been eating him out of house and land, Father Kelly suggested that it might not be a bad idea if the young man were to consider furthering his education in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
In 1974, Robert started reading for a Political Science degree at Medger Evers College in New York, before 'migrating' to Massachusetts in 1976 where he undertook a Bachelor's of Art degree in Government, graduating cum laude. He then returned to New York for graduate school at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he completed the course work for a Masters of Art degree in Public Administration, submitting a thesis entitled "The Changing Role and Structure of the Jamaican Civil Service". During the period 1979 – 1982, he completed the Juris Doctorate at the Western New England School of Law in New York, completing a thesis "Immigration Law – A Tool of US Foreign Policy".
While working on his Juris Doctorate, Robert was to learn from his room-mate, Percy Ferguson, of the existence of the New York Chapter of the KCOBA. He immediately wanted to know more, but was also cognizant of the reality of his situation as a student constantly sparring with penury as he tried to equip himself to live the American Dream. But then Fate intervened. In conducting research for his thesis, Robert came to the conclusion that a reading of CLR James's The Black Jacobins was a sine qua non undertaking. When he tried to get a copy, he was told that the only person around who had one was KC legend Foggy Burrowes. When he called Foggy and outlined his predicament, he was most pleasantly surprised at how accommodating Foggy was. However, there was a condition: he would have to make a personal visit to Foggy Burrowes in New York to collect the book. And once Foggy had him in his snare, there was no escaping the lecture on the greatness of Kingston College and the role that old boys like Robert Kelly must play in keeping it great. Robert Kelly immediately knew what he had to do. He joined the KCOBA New York Chapter, became a stalwart in that organization, always working for the advancement of Kingston College and becoming, unquestionably, a most ardent ambassador of the Fortis brand.
For over thirty years in NY, he dedicated all his spare time to raising funds for KC. Robert Kelly has served as President of the KCOBA NY Chapter in two stints: 1991-1994 and 2006-2011. Although he lived in Springfield, Boston, over in Massachusetts, he seldom missed a meeting of the KCOBA NY Chapter and was recognized as the face of the Chapter even when he was not the president. Among the programmes that he has been associated with at the KCOBA NY Chapter, Robert proudly lists the scholarship programme for KC students and graduates and the Breakfast Programme at the Melbourne Campus. Other significant great achievements of Robert Kelly as President of KCOBA NY include:
- Increase the relevance and visibility of the Association both in NY and Jamaica.
- Instrumental in changing the composition and complexion of the Board, insuring a great mix of youth and experience.
- Responsible for the unprecedented growth in membership.
Visitors to the home of the Kellys in Springfield speak admiringly in describing how the guest rooms are cluttered with boxes of gear and equipment that Robert and his family have collected and acquired for KC. Adamant that his teenage son should acquire some KC experience, about 10 years ago he arranged with then Vice- Principal Helen Douglas for the young Kelly to attend summer school at KC.
A former colleague in the executive of the KCOBA NY sums up the collective views of the Fortis Family when he wrote:
"We admire and respect Robert for his love of Kingston College, dedication, sacrifice, humility, maturity and understanding of what it takes to lead such a large group with diverse opinions and needs. Hands down he is the best President we have ever had!"
In December 2010, Robert Kelly descended on Kingston College to continue making his contribution to Kingston College. He was soon taking on the role of Plant Manager, and in the short period, he has already made a tremendous mark. This is immediately visible in the refurbishing of the Chemistry Labs, the renovations done to the Pavilion at Clovelly Park and the improvements done to the playing field, again, at Clovelly Park. He was also instrumental in the successful implementation of the maintenance project which undertook necessary masonry work and the painting of the buildings at North Street, as well as the repairs to the roof over the Fifth Form Block.
Few KC Old Boys are as passionate about the school as Robert and not many have given back so much to KC. Over the years only ill health or family matters have kept him and his wife from attending the Big Purple Session in Miami, the Summit of the Chapters or other important KC events in Toronto, Atlanta or Jamaica.
For his dedicated, loyal and outstanding performance, for his invaluable and lasting contributions to Kingston College, and for so many other reasons, the KCOBA is proud to include Robert Kelly as one of its honourees for 2011. Download Robert Kelly's Acceptance Speech