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A mainstay of JCU’s Department of Theology & Religious Studies for over 45 years, Professor Emeritus Joseph F. Kelly, died on January 15.

Dr. Kelly joined the John Carroll faculty in 1972 and taught at the university until his retirement in 2017. He earned a reputation as an exemplary teacher-scholar, winning JCU’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 1996. His courses were among the most popular in the department—particularly those courses he created around his own research, such as “History of Christmas” and “History of the Idea of Evil.” Students recall his rapid-fire lectures, vivid slides, and a seemingly encyclopedia knowledge of the 2000-year history of Christianity. “He was always encouraging to me,” recalled one former student. “He was a fine scholar, excellent teacher, and a thoughtful individual.”

Joe Kelly Early Years

A product of Jesuit higher education, Kelly’s early research focused on The Venerable Bede, a 7th century English monk, but his historical scholarship rapidly expanded. He was truly prolific. During his time at Carroll, Kelly published 17 books, 58 peer-reviewed articles, 183 book reviews, and over 200 encyclopedia articles—averaging 10 publications per year, with a book every three years. All the while he taught packed core classes, sat on countless university committees, presided over the North American Patristic Society, and served 15 years as Department Chair.

“I never knew anyone quite like Joe Kelly,” said Dr. Edward Hahnenberg, Breen Chair in Catholic Theology. “He built this department into one of the best. He’s been missed since the day he retired. Missed, but never forgotten.”

May his memory be a blessing.