Imagine a hot September day in 1973 on a rolling dirt road in rural eastern Oregon. With a long backward glance at the rolling fields and craggy gullies of her childhood, Kelly Kilkenny (Hale) is leaving Heppner, Oregon for a university whose entire enrollment measures 16 times larger than her hometown.
As a first generation college student, Kelly felt the loneliness that many freshmen experience. In fact, she remembers being so miserable that she wanted nothing more than to pack her orange Samsonite suitcase to return home. But Kelly's father, whose own dreams of a UO education were cut short by family circumstances, adamantly refused her pleas. "He told me to stick it out" she recalls "and that he'd see me at Thanksgiving."
Eventually Kelly found her place on campus and decided to major in education; one of the most popular fields for women at the time, along with nursing. She chuckles, "If you know my personality, you know that would not have been a good fit!" Yet, she was inspired by her older brother Russell who encouraged her to pursue her dreams and take classes in which she was truly interested. So Kelly decided to do what few other women dared, to declare a major in business during her junior year. Once enrolled, her education took on new meaning with each class, in particular Investment Analysis. "Every day I learned something new that excited me. It really changed my life." she remembers.
Inspired by her new-found career path, this pragmatic young woman got serious and decided to treat her studies with a single-mindedness rare in one so young. "I think you just have to treat your education like you would a job. Set up time to study outside of class. Stick to a schedule" she says. During this time, the library became her home away from home. Kelly even remembers a certain table on the library's second floor which came to feel like her own.
Eventually, Kelly's perseverance paid off when she landed a job in Portland. She currently is a Senior Vice President at RBC Wealth Management and for nearly 30 years has applied the same commitment she once gave to her studies toward helping her clients achieve financial health. She can't imagine a greater career and feels that every day presents a new opportunity to learn, much like her experience at the University of Oregon!
Today, Kelly still fervently believes in the power of education. From her excitement over a cousin who is graduating from Heppner High School and has been accepted at Harvard to her involvement in the UO Libraries Advancement Council, Kelly's dedication toward supporting the aspirations of others has never ceased. "It is important for me to support the libraries, because they touch every student on campus" she says. "When alumni give back, it sends a powerful message to current students. It says they can explore any path and achieve any dream." As an annual donor to the UO Libraries and other programs on campus, Kelly gives the next generation of students a place to discover their calling and a home away from home where they can pursue that passion.