It has taken longer than anticipated to put my thoughts into cyber-words, not because I lack the deep friendship with Kelly that others have expressed, but because I am, by nature and by profession, a “fixer,” and I could not fix Kelly’s cancer. I oversee the Office of Career Services for NYU School of Law—I create, counsel, console, make calls and I occasionally “cure” a problem—but not this time.
I knew Kelly as a performer in the NYU Law Revue show—I was simply an audience member who observed the wingspan of her arms and legs that stretched seemingly the width of the stage. “Who is this woman? I asked myself, and looked up her resume immediately upon getting home. “Kansas? No way—she is pure New York, comfortable in her own skin, dancing/singing with confidence, a public interest soul trapped in a private sector body—so NYU Law,” I mumbled. I know talent when I see it (a dancer, albeit 40 years and 40 pounds ago), and Kelly was the acting, singing, and dancing triple threat. I would return to see her perform again—her broad wingspan, clear voice, and crisp dance moves stayed with me.
I did not see Kelly after her 3L Law Revue and I did not know that she was ill until five days before her passing. I learned of her prognosis through her law firm partner, Michael Grohman, who asked if I knew anyone with a connection to Justice Ginsburg. Yes, of course, and I put the wheels in motion for Dean Morrison to get the note from RBG that he delivered to Kelly personally the day before she passed. Does the family need lodging? I can get arrange that. Host a memorial service? No problem. Photo montage and audio clip? Clueless—but I’ll find a millennial and get it done. Plan B I could control. Plan A I had not yet accepted.
Kelly’s memorial service was in a beautiful room, with a very high arced ceiling. As I moderated the service, I looked up and felt it was the only place large enough for Kelly’s wingspan to embrace everyone in the room—family and friends from Kansas, an extensive network of class and alumni soul mates, and Duane Morris colleagues. They shared memories of Kelly’s childhood, accounts of her outreach and inclusion of others, commitment to public service, messages from teachers in Kansas, praise for her legal skills, and testaments to her fortitude. We closed with Kelly’s performance of “Hungry Heart,” and photos that captured how fully she lived the years she had with us. I felt a spiritual presence in that space that could only have been Kelly (and Mark, at 65, I may now have to rethink religion—oy vey!).
Ultimately, Kelly is the “fixer.” That she penned a personal mission statement to guide and choreograph our actions is remarkable. Following Kelly’s ten principles will not only serve to enliven her spirit, but her blueprint for life will help to heal each of us, and help to heal the world—in the end, isn’t that quintessential Kelly?
Let us all live “The Kelly Way.”