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Thomas P. Kelly Jr., an Oscar-nominated producer who served as a professor and dean of Loyola Marymount University’s College of Communication and Fine Arts for nearly three decades, has died. He was 91.
A resident of Glendale, Kelly died April 7 of natural causes, his daughter Liz Kelly Barone announced.
Kelly wrote and produced the Oscar-nominated A Space to Grow (1968), a 32-minute documentary narrated by Henry Fonda about the federally funded Upward Bound program that aims to engage students in learning to inspire them to attend college.
He was an LMU professor from 1974-94, teaching classes on documentary writing, television and film production, fundamentals of directing and other subjects, then served as dean of LMU’s College of Communication and Fine Arts from 1995 until his retirement in 2003.
A new student art gallery on campus was named in his honor in 2008.
Kelly was born on April 14, 1929, in New Haven, Connecticut. His father was a newspaper compositor and printer, and his mother worked as a hotel maid. He received a scholarship to Providence College, where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in history.
After three years as an expeditor at an aircraft manufacturer, Kelly returned to school and earned his master’s in drama from Catholic University in 1957. During summers, he moonlighted at the Stratford Shakespeare festival, working on such productions as King John, directed by John Houseman.
At the classical touring company Players Incorporated (now known as the National Players), Kelly portrayed Baptista and Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew and Capulet in Romeo and Juliet while managing the company across national and European tours.
From 1960-64 at Norwood Studios in Washington, he served as a writer, director and producer and guided A Visit to Washington With Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson on Behalf of a More Beautiful America to a Peabody Award in 1966.
Then, as an in-house producer and writer at the Office of Economic Opportunity, he worked on A Year Toward Tomorrow, which won the documentary short subject Oscar in 1967, and A Space to Grow.
He came to Los Angeles in 1969 to take a job with John Sutherland Productions, which produced documentaries and industrial films.
Survivors include his children, Thomas III (and his wife, Elsa), Joseph (Diana), Regina, John (Phil), J. Matthew (Lynn), Liz (Philip) and William (Fannie); and grandchildren Sean, Chantal, Joseph Jr., Veronica, Amelia, Genevieve, Ava, Hudson, Riley, Vivienne and Marguerite.
Donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association on the tribute page for his wife of 55 years, Ginny, who died in 2016.
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