Glenn and Christine Kelly

Maternity BVM Patrons, Members of the Joseph Society, and Scholarship Sponsors

As he drove to Maternity BVM School for his regular visits, Glenn Kelly couldn’t help but notice the large broken clock in front of the school, perpetually freezing the time at 3:30.

The clock, which broke sometime in the 1960s, became a symbol to Glenn of some of the challenges the school and its supporters, including himself and wife Christine, faced in trying to reinvigorate the Humboldt Park school that was once on the verge of closing.

But through their dedication to the Big Shoulders Fund’s Patrons Program and a solid partnership with Maternity BVM, the broken clock is gone, enrollment is up, work is underway to create a new science lab, and the school has a clear mission and vision with the Kellys’ full support.

The Kellys became Patrons at Maternity BVM initially with Ken and Amy Viellieu more than a decade ago, hoping to have a more direct relationship with a school and its families. Soon, they found themselves wanting to do even more. The Kellys established their own scholarship program to help Maternity BVM students and pledged to make a planned gift to Big Shoulders to support the organization long into the future.

The Kellys’ involvement with Big Shoulders stretches back to the organization’s early years, with Christine serving on the Board of Directors and chairing the board’s Patrons Program. “What I liked about Cardinal Bernardin’s thinking at the inception, and what Big Shoulders has carried on since then, is the idea that the schools are open to anybody, whether they’re Catholic or not,” noted Christine, who retired as a principal with William Blair & Co. The couple began contributing because they both felt strongly that education was a critical door to open in helping change the opportunities available to children in poverty, and the graduation rates and success evidenced at the inner-city schools was exceptional.

The appeal of the Patrons Program was that it allowed Christine and Glenn to become more engaged with a specific school, assisting the principal and Maternity BVM to improve its marketing efforts, establish a computer lab, and bring in new resources. The Kellys said they’ve been excited to engage at the school level.

The Kellys see the different initiatives of Big Shoulders coming together at Maternity BVM with positive results. “You link them all together like we’re trying to do at Maternity BVM, and the impact is phenomenal,” said Christine. They’re working to bring a new science lab to the school, an effort further inspired after a trip to Big Shoulder’s Brush Creek Ranch summer camp in Wyoming.

“We had a couple of our students go out there, and we were amazed at the change when they came back,” Christine commented. She recalled one student in particular, a tall young man with an imposing presence who was actually quite shy. He had barely left his neighborhood, let alone been on a plane. When they talked to him beforehand, he was quite nervous at the thought of it all. But, after a week of riding horses in the wilderness, conducting science experiments, and being pushed out of his comfort zone, “he came back a changed, confident young man,” she said.

Through their scholarship program, the Kellys take on four new sixth graders each year, providing financial support through the students’ eighth grade year. The couple visits with the students throughout the year to talk about their future and to work with them on interview skills. They also take the scholarship recipients on an annual field trip. “It’s wonderful to watch the kids grow,” she said.

The Kellys became members of the Joseph Society, a group of people who have made planned gifts to further the special mission of the Big Shoulders Fund for years to come. Glenn, a retired R.R. Donnelley executive, said the couple established a planned gift to Big Shoulders because the organization’s impressive results evidenced by strong statistics don’t lie. Christine added, “When you walk into these schools and you feel the safety and care and the love these children get, it’s incredibly compelling. This is a great investment for the future of Chicago, and a wonderful opportunity to both provide a path for a child and invest in Chicago’s future workforce.”