Nov. 21, 2012
The Boston College Varsity Club has recognized Dick Kelley's distinguished career of service by naming him the inaugural recipient of the Varsity Club Medal. Kelley, BC's Assistant AD for Media Relations, is a 1987 graduate of Boston College and has been a member of the BC Athletics staff since 1991 and is best known as the Media Relations contact for the Eagles' men's basketball team. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2011.
Story by Tom Burke
"You were educated at Boston College. Sound like it."
That was Dick Kelley's pointed advice to Matt Ryan, the Eagles' renowned quarterback and one of the school's most frequently interviewed athletes in the modern era. It was a typical, pithy summation of what anyone from the University who is thrust into public view should strive for. And as Ryan went on to explain,
"Dick gave me tons of advice on how to handle myself, on being professional at all times during interviews. We had a great relationship where he could call me out on things. That's one of the things I admire most about him. He can be your biggest fan and your best friend, but he's not afraid to tell you how he sees it. There were certain words I used, and he taught me to be conscious of them. I've kept it all in mind as I've moved on professionally.
"It wasn't like he treated me any differently from anybody else. That was the relationship he's had with all the athletes who have come through there," adds Ryan.
Dick Kelley has been working with Boston College athletes and students ever since returning to his alma mater in 1991 as assistant director of sports information. He's counseled them, prodded them, helped them edit and polish their written and spoken words, and tirelessly publicized their accomplishments. They, in turn, have consistently demonstrated to a wide -and occasionally skeptical - collection of audiences that BC student athletes are students first and worthy representatives of their school.
The Boston College Varsity Club has recognized Dick Kelley's distinguished career of service by naming him the inaugural recipient of the Varsity Club Medal. Richard Ramirez, the Varsity Club president for 2012-13, explained that the medal is to be awarded to individuals who have served with Boston College with excellence, fostered its athletic traditions, and promoted sportsmanship while in service to the Varsity Club and Boston College Athletics.
Reid Oslin, who jumped at the chance to bring back his former graduate assistant full-time when a position on his sports information staff opened up, stated,
"Over the years, I heard so many times from people that `Your student-athletes are really well spoken.' And Boston College has enjoyed great media coverage. A great deal of that has been due to Dick Kelley.
"The way he worked with people was just tremendous, particularly with those who weren't from the polished backgrounds that some of the others had. Dick takes a genuine interest in all of the kids. It could be a tennis player, a golfer, or someone on one of the Olympic sports as well as the first string basketball or football players. He'd get them talking about their academics, what they're studying in school, and what they're planning to do down the line."
Kelley's first assignment in BC sports information was the basketball program. It was a natural fit and has been his responsibility, along with many other duties, during his entire tenure at The Heights. He'd filled that role in his first full time job when he worked a year at Boston University after earning his master's degree at Boston College.
Dick is also from a basketball family. He played three years of varsity hoop at Andover, Massachusetts, High School. His father Ed taught school and coached the game both at the high school level and at Merrimack and Pine Manor. His brother Ted, 14 months older, was good enough to earn a scholarship to Boston College. Ted was co-captain of the 1986-87 squad.
The second of three Kelley children, Dick was a diligent student, a voracious reader of history, political science, and biography. Early in life he showed a talent for writing, but as his mother Ann recalls, even as a grade-school child he was already on his way to making life easier and better for others.
Dick attended West Elementary School in Andover. The school had a special-needs program for children with severe disabilities. When he was in the fourth and fifth grades at West Elementary, he was one of a small group of students who would routinely forgo recess to feed lunch to the kids who couldn't do it for themselves. He received the school's prestigious Lillian Wynn Award for community service; it is an accolade that usually is reserved for older students.
Later on, during his high school years, the first thing Kelley would do upon arriving home after school was to spend some time with his grandmother, who lived with the family. Ann Kelley states,
"Richard is unique in thoughtfulness to others. He was always competitive in school and in sports, but he was competitive with himself, not with others. He has always been the go-to person in our family. And when he finally left home and went to Boston College, that became his new family."
After receiving his Boston College degree, Kelley was offered a job in Washington, DC with the Foreign Service. It was a unique opportunity for someone with his academic background, but the prospect of lengthy overseas assignments did not appeal to him. Sports and media it would be, and Boston College would be the place he'd seek out and stay. In addition to his work with the athletic department, he found time to teach a course in journalism in the Department of Communications for a few years.
Brother Ted recalls, "I was the older one, but he was more mature than I, and was the one I looked up to. There was another thing about the way he worked with athletes, whether they were the twelfth ones or the first ones on the team. He takes pride in spending time with the players to explain the responsibility that comes with being at BC, whether you're a scholarship athlete or a regular one. He helps them to speak in a way that is professional and reflects well upon them, their family, and the wonderful school BC is. Dick has so much respect for BC, as well as for those kids, he makes sure that they do appreciate it. That has always meant a lot to him."
Eagle hockey star Chris Kreider, who moved on to the New York Rangers after the NCAA championship win in 2012, is grateful for Kelley's relentless admonitions to "E-NUN-CI-ATE."
"He would give me a hard time about the way I interviewed, but it was always from the heart and extremely helpful. The New York media market is a lot to handle. I learned so much from D.K. He'd say `You have a great message but you're not doing a great job of telling it.' But his impact goes far beyond that," Kreider says.
Kreider went on to tell of his own difficulties with making the transition to college life after matriculating a year earlier than he'd originally planned. He wasn't ready for it. Kelley went out of his way, first suggesting that Chris come and visit any time he felt like talking, and then following up repeatedly until the two of them finally spent some serious time together and became good friends.
Baseball coach Mike Gambino, who played the game at BC and returned as coach three years ago, has dealt with Kelley both as an athlete and as a coach.
"He is so meticulous," Gambino said. "In this business there are so many little details, small things that can turn into big ones if you don't get them right. But you know that anything coming out of Dick's office is going to be correct , and the grammar is going to be right. But more than that, I love being around him. He cares so much about BC and has dedicated his life to the place."
Chris Cameron, Kelley's boss and colleague for 14 years, stated, "There was never a dull moment with Dick and Stephanie O'Leary around. I've long said that Dick and I complement each other very well; he is extremely detail-oriented and I am a big-picture guy. One thing we do have in common, though, is a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. He c an always make me laugh, and I know what will make him laugh. Another common trait is our disdain for improper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Improper use of "its and it's" or "your and you're" sends both of us into a rage.
"One of the things Dick does best is to mentor our student assistants and interns. Many of them have gone on to achieve great success in their careers. Dick has played a huge role in their development," Cameron said.
Boston University's Ed Carpenter, Kelley's first boss in athletic media relations, sums it up well.
"If I had to come up with one word to describe Dick Kelley, it would be `loyal.' He was tremendously loyal and hardworking for me, and for our coach Mike Jarvis. He loved the work he did. He was perfect for what this job is all about. You could tell that he had a great upbringing with his family.
"Nobody loves BC more than Dick. I was lucky that he worked for me. But I knew that he belonged at Boston College. And BC is lucky to have him."