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OCT. 29, WATERVILLE, MAINE — Colby College announced today the naming of the Jack Kelley Head Coach for Colby Men’s Hockey in honor of the legendary coach who turned Colby men’s hockey into a New England powerhouse in the 1950s and made a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of players. The endowment will total $2 million and was made possible through gifts from alumni, parents, and friends of the College.
Colby will celebrate the naming at men’s hockey’s opening home game of the season vs. Bowdoin on Dec. 4. The game is free and open to the public.
A captain of Kelley’s team in 1976-77, Jack O’Neil ’77, initiated this naming opportunity and was critical to its success, both through his own philanthropy and through inspiring others to contribute. “Jack O’Neil is emblematic of all the great hockey players who benefited from Jack Kelley’s coaching and teaching,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “The lessons he learned from Coach Kelley have informed his approach to life and work. And his desire to honor a great Colby legend is as much about past success as it is about our commitment to future excellence.”
For O’Neil, Kelley was much more than a coach. “He drove us to elevate our game, both personally and as athletes,” O’Neil said. “He got more out of me than I ever thought existed. I have enjoyed watching how the current head coach, Blaise MacDonald, is inspiring his players, and it seems perfectly fitting that he be the first Jack Kelley Head Coach.”
A member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Kelley coached men’s hockey from 1955 to 1962, during which time the team posted a record of 89-51-5. With a 16-1 record, the Mules dominated the Colby-Bowdoin rivalry during that time. In 1962 Colby’s 17-1 record put it in the lead in ECAC standings. Kelley left for Boston University, his alma mater, after the 1961-62 season. He returned to Colby to coach for the 1976-77 season, and Colby’s young team went on to beat Division I Northeastern for Kelley’s 300th career victory.
“What Coach Kelley did with men’s hockey will reign as one of the greatest coaching accomplishments in Colby’s history, and his impact on the lives of his students is even more impressive than his record,” said Harold Alfond Director of Athletics Timothy Wheaton. “We look forward to celebrating and seeing Coach Kelley back in the Alfond Rink in December.”
Added Vice President for College and Student Advancement Dan Lugo: “In addition to honoring Kelley, this gift honors Colby’s proud hockey history while contributing to the exciting future of Colby men’s hockey and Colby athletics more broadly. The donors who came together to fund this position embody the values of teamwork imparted by Jack Kelley to his players.” The gifts make Colby’s endowed position the only one of its kind in NESCAC hockey.
At BU Kelley won national titles in 1971 and 1972. He formed the New England Whalers in the new World Hockey Association, went on to work in the Detroit Red Wings organization, and later became president of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Colby’s long history of intercollegiate hockey began at the same time Kelley arrived to coach, in 1955, with the opening of the Alfond Rink — the result of a generous gift by the late Harold Alfond. The rink also allowed Colby to host the first-ever women’s intercollegiate match, against Pembroke (Brown University).
Founded in 1813, Colby is one of America’s most selective colleges and the first previously all-male college in New England to admit women. Serving only undergraduates, Colby offers a rigorous academic program rooted in deep exploration of ideas and close interaction with world-class faculty scholars. Students pursue intellectual passions, choosing among 57 majors or developing their own. Independent and collaborative research, study abroad, and internships offer robust opportunities to prepare students for postgraduate success. Colby is home to a community of 1,850 dedicated and diverse students from around the globe. Its Maine location provides easy access to world-class research institutions and meaningful civic engagement experiences.