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Faculty Spotlight: Joe Kelley

Kayli Adams ‘20

Staff Writer

Joe Kelley is a dedicated Professor at Merrimack College, Co-Chair in the Department of Religious and Theological Studies, and the Director in the Center of the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. He arrived at Merrimack in August 1974 and taught religious studies while working part-time in campus ministry. Kelley lived right on campus in Ash Centre so he could bring ministry into the residence halls.

 In addition to teaching religious studies, Kelley has served the college as the Director of Campus Ministry, Vice-President of Student Life, Vice-President for Mission, Provost, and then Vice-President for Development. There is no doubt that Kelley is a valuable member of the Merrimack community.

“It’s been a privilege to work with so many talented and dedicated people in all of these positions,” Kelley said about enjoying his many roles at Merrimack. “As director of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations I have also had the privilege of working with other religious communities and learning from them.”

Before coming to Merrimack, Kelley went to graduate school at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His graduate study was at the intersection of Catholic theology and clinical psychology, and he is a licensed clinical psychologist. In addition to his studies in theology, he became a licensed clinical psychologist.  He studied philosophy and languages at Villanova University in Pennsylvania as an undergraduate. Additionally, he had worked in ministry in both New York City and Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Gradually, Kelley returned to his roots in theology, and over the past 25 years he has done more research and writing in the thought of Saint Augustine of Hippo.

In recent years, Kelley teaches courses like “Sex, Politics, Religion and Saint Augustine” and “Pellegrinaggio in Italia-Journey in Search of Augustinian Community.” 

“My favorite part of teaching students at Merrimack is inviting them into learning that builds upon their life experience. It is exciting and rewarding to help students reflect on religious teachings or traditions in light of their personal experience,” Kelley said. I believe that the purpose of education in the liberal arts is to liberate people by introducing them to the thoughts of great writers and artists, while at the same time helping them find the inner authority by which they can discern the true value of what they read and hear.”

Kelley has had the opportunity to travel in his studies, and one of his favorite places to travel is Italy. In his Pellegrinaggio course, students embark on a pilgrimage to Italy and learn about Saint Augustine’s journey in life and in Italy. When asked what his favorite place was to travel, Kelley stated, “Two places: Italy, because–as I tell people–despite my Irish name and lineage, ‘sono italiano nel cuore, anche nel stomacco!” This translates to English as “I am Italian in my heart, even in my stomach!” Kelley’s other favorite  place is Krakow, Poland, where he met and married his wife, Alina.

This year, Kelley is looking forward to spending more time with his family, including his two young granddaughters who live in Providence, Rhode Island.