Donald Reed Kelley, James Westfall Thompson Professor of History Emeritus at Rutgers University, died on August 24, 2023 in St. Peter’s Hospital, New Brunswick. Born in Elgin, Illinois in 1931, Donald received his AB degree from Harvard in 1953 and his PhD from Columbia University in 1962. In 1953, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as an MP for two years in Germany. After returning to University life, he taught at SUNY-Binghamton, Harvard University, the University of Rochester, and finally at Rutgers University. In addition to teaching, Donald edited the Journal of the History of Ideas from 1985-2005, transforming it, according to one leading scholar, from a “somewhat backward looking periodical” into a wide-ranging “platform for important debates.”
Kelley was the author and editor of some two dozen books and more than 130 essays, translated into other languages and cited by scholars around the world. From Istanbul to China and Washington, D.C. he lectured widely and served as visiting professor globally, expanding his own horizons of knowledge. Recognized for his “dazzlingly erudite” scholarship he received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation (2), the Institute for Advanced Study (3), the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the Davis Center at Princeton University among others. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society both elected him to membership, while in 2012, the American Historical Association honored him as “one of the master craftsmen of American historiography” with its award for Scholarly Distinction.
As his failing eyesight prevented additional scholarship, Kelley took ever increasing enjoyment and intellectual stimulation during visits from former colleagues and students. He relished the presence of his treasured and adoring family: John Kelley and wife Denise Dailey, Patrick Smith and husband Carlos Cano, and Patience Bloom and husband Sam Bloom. Historian Bonnie G. Smith, his wife and collaborator on several projects, survives him.
Relatives and friends are invited to a Memorial Gathering on Saturday, September 23, 2023 from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at Boylan Funeral Home, 188 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick.