Bob and Ellen Kelly
by Rachel Buttner, Assistant Editor
Sitting on a bench near Murphy Field before the Fordham men's tennis team's Oct. 13 match against NJIT, Ellen Kelly sees her son Ben, a sophomore at the Gabelli School of Business, and calls out to him. He's surprised—and delighted—to see her, not to mention the shoebox full of homemade chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies. "I always bring cookies for my boys and the team," she says, "always in a shoebox."
Ben and his brother Nick, a senior at Fordham College Rose Hill, are teammates on the Fordham men's tennis team. They picked up the sport from their mom, who started playing as an adult and is now a United States Tennis Association chair umpire for national tournaments. She also coaches high school students in New Jersey.
"If I'm not selling real estate along the beautiful Jersey Shore, I'm on the tennis court," says Ellen, a sales associate for Gloria Nilson Realtors. "It's a real passion and lifetime sport."
The boys' father, Bob, an attorney who played club lacrosse while an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, admits to being a "tagalong in the tennis department." Outside of his family and work—he's the managing partner of the Red Bank, N.J., office of Littleton Joyce Ughetta Park & Kelly—Bob's main interest is music. He plays the guitar, piano, bass and mandolin. He also writes and records his own songs—"rock and roll, blues, country, anything that sounds good," he says.
Originally from Long Island, Ellen attended Cornell University. For the past 20 years she has been an admissions ambassador for her alma mater, interviewing high school students from New Jersey's Monmouth and Ocean counties every fall.
"I enjoy staying an involved alum," she says. "These kids are so lucky. The college experience goes beyond four years—the best is yet to come."
Bob, who grew up in Caldwell, N.J., was always aware of Fordham, but didn't fully appreciate the University until Nick and Ben enrolled.
"The academic environment, the social environment really embraced us," he says. "We want to return that."
As members of the Fordham University Parents' Leadership Council, the Kellys are proudly embracing their sons' university.
Last summer, the Kellys hosted an Arthur Avenue-themed Summer Send-off at their home in Fair Haven, N.J. While the 40 recent high school graduates and their parents enjoyed food from the famed Little Italy neighborhood near the Rose Hill campus, Nick and Ben shared stories of their college experiences and the parents swapped questions and advice.
"Fordham is a school that deserves to be promoted," Bob says. "We want to make it a first choice for students."
"We're honored to be Fordham parents," Ellen adds. "Fordham's approach to educating the whole person, developing thinkers—that's what a great university should be."