50 Influencers: Bob Kelley, the man who wrote the book

INA, Ill. (June 24, 2017) - In this week’s installment of the 50 Influencers, we look at a man who spent more time creating the print than he ever spent being the subject of it. Bob Kelley was Rend Lake College’s self-described “writer-compiler-collector-pseudo historian” and it’s thanks to his efforts that we are able to look back over the past 50 years of the college with such detail.

Kelley has held many titles at RLC. He came on board as a freshman in the very first class to ever attend the college in 1967. His mother, Kathleen Kelley was the Administrative Assistant for the college’s first Dean, Dr. Howard Rawlinson.

BobKelley1968TARN 2Bob Kelley as a freshman in Rend Lake College's first incoming class

In fact, he was among those in attendance for groundbreaking ceremonies for the Ina campus.

Following his graduation from RLC (69), he majored in journalism at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and went on after his undergraduate to work as a sports writer for the State Journal-Register in Springfield and The Sunday Courier and Press in Evansville, Ind. and sports editor for the Owensboro (Ky.) Messenger-Inquirer.

After cutting his teeth in the newspaper business, Kelley returned home in 1979 to work in RLC’s Marketing and Public Information Department, eventually rising to Director of the office and serving 27 years watching the majority of publications, news releases, newspaper ads, TV commercials and the like have come across his desk.

Kelley was honored with one of two “Outstanding Staff” Awards in 2005. Sharing honors with him was Reference Librarian Beth Mandrell.

“Bob has always been the ‘go-to’ guy on campus,” said then-Vice President Bob Carlock, his supervisor at the time. “He is the guy we rely on.”

Carlock indicated Kelley took on the massive task of marketing the college and keeping the public informed on his own for the majority of his career, until the workload began to require additional staff in recent years.

“We award this based on years of service, dedication and loyalty, especially for those who go above and beyond the line of duty,” Carlock said. “We rely on him all the time. He is dedicated to the point if something is going on at Rend Lake College, he will be there to help facilitate it.”

It wasn’t just his work with Marketing and Public Information Department that made Kelley an everyday name at RLC. He also devoted much of his time to supporting and covering the Warrior athletic teams as the college’s Sports Information Director and assistant coach to both basketball and baseball.

He served as Sports Information Director the first 24 years of his time at RLC. He was an Assistant Basketball Coach during Mitch Haskins’ first five seasons (1981-86) and assisted late-arriving Baseball Coach Kirk Champion in Fall 1981. He volunteered as Official Scorer for Men’s Basketball the last nine seasons and for the Lady Warriors for seven before retirement. The former sports writer and editor produced media guides for Men and Women’s Basketball (21 / 18 seasons), Baseball (21), Softball (11), Men and Women’s Golf and Cross-Country / Track and Field.

Kelley was Treasurer of the Great Rivers Athletic Conference from its inception in 1984-85 until 2006, save for one year. He doubled as secretary the first seven years and was publicist three years for the organization. He was a Steering Committee member for the RLC Sports Hall of Fame and has been responsible for plaques, programs and publicity for all Inductions to date and was M.C. through 2006. He has also emceed 11 All-Sports Banquets.

Outside RLC athletics, he provided publicity for S.I. Lions Club All-Star Games and programs for Jr. High State Tournaments.

He was inducted into the RLC Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2012 for his numerous contributions and support to all Warrior athletic programs. 

Kelley was also honored with the 25-Year Service Award in spring of 2004.

He and his wife, Kendi, are also Bronze Foundation Seal Award recipients for their numerous contributions to the Rend Lake College Foundation.

kelleyawardmediaBob Kelley, center, is presented the Rend Lake College Foundation's Bronze Seal award in this archive photo. The award was given by then-RLC President Mark Kern, left, and then-RLCF Director Pat Kern, right.

Being the writer and “pseudo historian” that he is, Kelley didn’t quit doing what he loved with he retired from RLC. He spent the past few years creating the resource for all things history of Rend Lake College.

By combining his own written introductions and accounts and then gathering all related press releases over the college’s 50-year history, Kelley has created an astounding 1325 page tome stretching the history of the institution for half-a-century. His work covers everything from administration to specific standouts, athletics to strive and everything in between.

It’s not hard to see why co-workers say things like this whenever his name is mentioned:

“He is dependable, hard-working and extremely professional with all he accomplishes,” noted a letter nominating him for the “Outstanding Staff” award.

“He is never too busy, despite his unending deadlines, to assist a colleague when the need arises. The thing that impresses me most is his willingness to help other people, even if it means being one of the last to leave each day or taking extra work home. He brings a delightful sense of humor to the workplace and always has a ready smile. His concern for RLC begins with our students and goes with him into our community, where he is one of our finest spokesmen.”

What better way to end a piece on the accomplishments and impact of a man like Bob Kelley than to let his own words speak for him?

From the introductory chapter of his RLC History, Kelley’s good-natured attitude and love of the college is clearly apparent.

“Before the reader begins discovering – re-discovering? – the virtues of Rend Lake College, past, present and future, we share the thoughts of a well-known character, aka Forrest Gump, who likewise shares a love for chocolates and community colleges. Take time to enjoy both luxuries.

~ Bob Kelley”

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