Home away from home – for 47 years this academic advisor has built a family of Gator Engineers.
It’s 1967. Lyndon B. Johnson is president of the United States, Steve Spurrier just won the Heisman trophy, Library West recently opened its doors, and following the retirement of J. Wayne Reitz, Stephen C. O’Connell has become president of the university. In the College of Engineering, Shirley Kelly has just taken a position among the support staff.
She didn’t know at the time that she was the first black woman hired at the college, or that she would still be working here 47 years later. (She tried to retire once, but couldn’t stay gone). Her first desk was in “The Hanger,” an airplane hangar-like building partially converted into office space that stood where the O’Connell Center is currently. Her current desk is in Chemical Engineering. But no matter where she has been stationed on campus, Shirley Kelly has been a home base for an enormous family of Gators that now span all across the globe. Step into her office to see for yourself…
Last fall a new student showed up here and he said he was told that when he got to Florida, to school, to ‘make sure you go talk to Shirley.’ He’d been told that I would help him out if he got into any kind of situation or ran into any problems.
Q & A with Shirley
- What is your official title at Gator Engineering?
Graduate Academic Advisor, Department of Chemical Engineering
- What has been your proudest moment in your career?
After graduating from a small business school in Gainesville, I got a job at the University of Florida, which was very hard to get during the early 60’s.
- If you could engineer a solution to one problem, what problem would you solve?
To educate more black and underprivileged kids
- Who is your hero or favorite historical figure?
My mother who is now deceased
- What was your first music purchase or concert you attended?
My first concert was to see James Brown in Jacksonville.
- What is your favorite tool or gadget that you own?
My KitchenAid cake mixer