It’s 1967. Lyndon B. Johnson is president of the United States, Steve Spurrier just won the Heisman trophy, Library West recently opened its doors, and following the retirement of J. Wayne Reitz, Stephen C. O’Connell has become president of the university. In the College of Engineering, Shirley Kelly has just taken a position among the support staff.
She didn’t know at the time that she was the first black woman hired at the college, or that she would still be working here over 55 years later. (She tried to retire once, but couldn’t stay gone). Her first desk was in “The Hanger,” an airplane hangar-like building partially converted into office space that stood where the O’Connell Center is currently. Her current desk is in a portable building behind Chemical Engineering. But no matter where she has been stationed on campus, Shirley Kelly has been a home base for an enormous family of Gators that now span all across the globe.
Q & A with Shirley
- What is your official title at Gator Engineering?
Graduate Academic Advisor, Department of Chemical Engineering
- What has been your proudest moment in your career?
After graduating from a small business school in Gainesville, I got a job at the University of Florida, which was very hard to get during the early 60’s.
- If you could engineer a solution to one problem, what problem would you solve?
To educate more black and underprivileged kids
- What has been your most memorable moment at the college?
Dr. Richard Dickinson and the chemical engineering department gave me a beautiful 50-year work anniversary party. I will never forget it.
- What gives you the most joy?
I love assisting students and spending time with my family.
- What challenges have you experienced?
A recent hurdle has been moving the chemical engineering staff offices to a temporary location so that the building can be repaired. Also, it was tough not seeing our students face to face during to the pandemic.
- What do you hope for the future of Gator Engineering?
I hope to see the renovations and repair to the Chemical Engineering Student Center. I also want to see the rankings for the college and department continue to rise.