Colby-Sawyer Legend, Friend and Decorated WWII Veteran Lt. Col. Robert Pratt Kelsey Jr.
Lt. Col. Robert Pratt Kelsey Jr. (retired), a longtime friend and supporter of Colby-Sawyer College, died at the age of 87 on Tuesday, Jan. 25 at home in New London, N.H.
Bob, as he was known to friends at Colby-Sawyer, was born in Jacksonville, Fla. He attended Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass., and entered Harvard College in 1941, leaving in early 1944 to serve our country in World War II. He received a commission with the 11th Armored Division Battery A of the 490th Field Artillery Battalion. During the war he was decorated with the Silver Star and Bronze Star for gallantry in combat, and twice awarded the Purple Heart. Following the war he was assigned to Kings College in Cambridge, England, where he earned credits to complete his degree from Harvard. He remained active in the U. S. Army Reserve, serving on the general staff of the 94th Infantry Division, as commander of the 919th Field Artillery Battalion and the 7th Howitzer Battalion, 7th Artillery, and in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development, Department of the Army. He retired in 1965 and was also active in the United States Service Organization (USO).
Bob began his professional career at the First National Bank of Boston. He was then president of New Hampshire Finance Corporation, a sales finance and consumer loan company and went on to become a financial broker with Clark Dodge & Company, which later merged with Kidder Peabody & Co. in Boston, Mass., which was subsequently acquired by the General Electric Company.
In 1974, Bob married Patricia (Pat) Driggs, a graduate of Russell Sage College who was dedicated to physical education instruction, including for four years at Colby-Sawyer College.
In 1976 Bob was called on by members of the Board of Directors of The Dana Farber Cancer Institute and The Jimmy Fund to serve as executive vice president and treasurer, a position he held for three years. His wife Pat served as a trustee at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
The Kelseys retired in New London, N.H., and both kept busy in the community. Bob was an involved member of St. Andrews Church and Pat served as chair of the New London Recreation Commission and was active with the New London Garden Club. The Kelsey family deepened its ties to Colby-Sawyer College with deep affection and steadfast support; Pat was a member of the President's Advisory Council from 1987-1991, and in 1987 received the college's Town/Gown Award. She served on Colby-Sawyer's Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1998 and 1999 to 2008, and she was a founding member and executive director of the Chargers Club, a group dedicated to supporting the athletes and teams at Colby-Sawyer. In 1994, Pat was awarded the Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal, the college's highest award for service.
The Kelseys' extraordinary philanthropy, expressed through transformative gifts and distinctive service to the college, has helped Colby-Sawyer realize its aspirations toward new levels of academic excellence, a generosity that earned them membership in The Legends Society and deep gratitude from the college community.
Bob Kelsey, with the encouragement of his wife, trustee emerita Pat Kelsey, had an enormous impact on Colby-Sawyer College, says Vice President for Advancement Beth Cahill. His generosity, which spans more than two decades, has provided important resources to the college at just the right times that have helped this college thrive. I met Bob early in my tenure at Colby-Sawyer. The college was hosting a dinner, and Bob left just before dessert. From then on, I knew the only way for Pat to enjoy a dessert after dinner when the Red Sox were playing would be to have it served before the first inning began. It is fitting that Bob's legacy continues on campus with the Kelsey Fields and Kelsey Tennis Courts.
Bob leaves his wife, Pat; three daughters and a son by his first wife, who died in 1970; two stepchildren; ten grandchildren; two great-grandchildren and a sister.
A service will be held on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 at 2 p.m. at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, New London, N.H. followed by a reception in Wheeler Hall, Ware Campus Center on the Colby-Sawyer campus. An interment will be held at Old Main Street Cemetery in New London, in the spring.
Memorial contributions may be sent to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Division of Development, 10 Brookline Place West, Brookline, Mass. 02445 or St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 294, New London, N.H. 03257.