Thomas Raymond Kelly (June 4, 1893 – January 17, 1941) was an American Quaker educator. He taught and wrote on the subject of mysticism. His books are widely read, especially by people interested in spirituality.
Kelly was born in 1893 in Chillicothe, Ohio, to a Quaker family (members of the Religious Society of Friends). The branch of Quakerism in which he was raised (Wilmington Yearly Meeting) had been influenced by the 19th century revivalists and worship services were similar to other low-church Protestant groups.
He graduated in 1913 from Wilmington College as a chemistry major. Then he went to Haverford College just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he came under the mentoring of Rufus Jones, a prominent Friend. It was at this time that he came into contact with the more traditional mystical vein of the Religious Society of Friends.
Kelly went to Hartford Theological Seminary to be trained as a missionary and he desired to serve in Asia. When World War I broke out, he signed up to work for the YMCA with the troops in training at Salisbury Plain in England.He eventually worked with German prisoners of war. He was fired as he and many of his colleagues became ardent pacifists and the military did not want persons with those views to have access to military personnel. When he returned to the United States he completed his Seminary training and married Lael Macy.
Kelly taught for two years (1919–1921) at his alma mater, Wilmington College. Then he went back to Hartford Seminary where he earned a doctoratein philosophy and an induction to Phi Beta Kappa. He and his wife then went to Berlin and worked with the American Friends' Service Committee in the child feeding program, where they were instrumental in founding the Quaker community in Germany.
When he returned he was appointed head of the Philosophy Department of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. He was unhappy there and came to realize that he did not agree with much of his evangelical background anymore.
In 1930 Kelly began working on a second Ph.D. at Harvard. While working on this degree he taught at Wellesley College (1931–1932) and again at Earlham (1932–1935). In 1935, he went to teach at the University of Hawaiiand began advanced research in Eastern philosophies.
In 1936, Kelly became a professor at Haverford College.He published the dissertation for his second doctorate in 1937, but he failed in the oral defense due to a memory lapse; this failure put Kelly into a period of grief, during which time he apparently had a spiritual awakening.
In 1938, Kelly went to Germany to encourage Friends living under Hitler's regime.
Kelly received word on January 17, 1941, that Harper and Brothers was willing to meet with him to discuss the publication of a devotional book. He died of a heart attack in Haverford, Pennsylvania, later that same day.Three months later Kelly's colleague, Douglas V. Steere, submitted five of Kelly's devotional essays to the publisher along with a biographical sketch of Kelly. The book was published under the title A Testament of Devotion. Some of his other essays have been collected in a book entitled The Eternal Promise. A formal biography was written by his son, Richard Kelly in 1966, and published by Harper and Row.
Kelly was married to Lael and they had two children, Lois and Richard.
Haverford College is a private liberal arts college in Haverford, Pennsylvania. It was founded as a men's college in 1833 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Haverford began accepting non-Quakers in 1849 and women in 1980.
Wilmington College is a private college in Wilmington, Ohio. It was established by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1870 and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The college is still Quaker-affiliated and has seven core Quaker values. In fall 2018, the college set an enrollment record, bringing in 450 new students for the academic year, totaling 1,103 students on Wilmington's main campus, and 139 students at Wilmington's two Cincinnati branches at Blue Ash and Cincinnati State.
Earlham College is a private liberal arts college in Richmond, Indiana. The college was established in 1847 by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and has a strong focus on Quaker values such as integrity, a commitment to peace and social justice, mutual respect, and community decision-making. It offers a Master of Arts in Teaching and has an affiliated graduate seminary, the Earlham School of Religion, which offers three master's degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Ministry, and Master of Arts in Religion.
Rufus Matthew Jones was an American religious leader, writer, magazine editor, philosopher, and college professor. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Haverford Emergency Unit. One of the most influential Quakers of the 20th century, he was a Quaker historian and theologian as well as a philosopher. He is the only person to have delivered two Swarthmore Lectures.
The Religious Society of Friends began as a proto-evangelical Christian movement in England in the mid-17th century in Ulverston. Members are informally known as Quakers, as they were said "to tremble in the way of the Lord". The movement in its early days faced strong opposition and persecution, but it continued to expand across the British Isles and then in the Americas and Africa.
T. Canby Jones was an advocate of the War of the Lamb, a Quaker peace activist, a professor emeritus of Wilmington College in Ohio, and was a student of Thomas R. Kelly. T. Canby Jones died in Paoli Memorial Hospital, suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Thomas Garrett was an American abolitionist and leader in the Underground Railroad movement before the American Civil War. He helped more than 2,500 African Americans escape slavery.
Isaac Sharpless, Sc.D., LL.D., L.H.D. (1848–1920) was an American educator, born in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Isaac Tatem Hopper was an American abolitionist who was active in Philadelphia and New York City in the anti-slavery movement and protecting fugitive slaves and free blacks from slave kidnappers. He was also co-founder of Children's Village with 23 others.
David Elton Trueblood, who was usually known as "Elton Trueblood" or "D. Elton Trueblood", was a noted 20th-century American Quaker author and theologian, former chaplain both to Harvard and Stanford universities.
Lewis Benson (1906–1986) was an expert on the scripts of George Fox, the founder of the Quaker denomination of Christianity.
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Howard Haines Brinton (1884–1973) was an author, professor and director whose work influenced the Religious Society of Friends movement for much of the 20th century. His books ranged from Quaker journal anthologies to philosophical and historical dissertations on the faith, establishing him as a prominent commentator on the Society of Friends.
Harold Evans, a Philadelphia attorney, was appointed by the United Nations to be the first Special Municipal Commissioner for Jerusalem on May 13, 1948. Evans arrived in Cairo, Egypt on May 23, 1948, but due to his Quaker religious principles he would not travel with a British military escort from Cairo to Jerusalem. He eventually arrived in Jerusalem in early June, but abruptly resigned his position afterward.
Thomas Elsa Jones was the fifth president of Fisk University, serving - and especially fundraising - from 1926 to 1946. He was later president of Earlham College, 1946 to 1958. A Quaker, Jones served as a missionary with his wife in Japan, and sponsored the first 'Friends' meetings in Nashville on Fisk campus.
Benjamin Franklin Trueblood (1847–1916) was an American pacifist who served the American Peace Society for 23 years. In this role, he functioned as the official public spokesperson and representative of the Society. He served as editor of the Society's journal, The Advocate of Peace which contained numerous articles by Trueblood. He was elected to the executive council of American Society of International Law in 1905.
Otto Theodor Benfey is a chemist and historian of science. Sent to England to escape Nazi Germany at age 10, he completed his education as a chemist at University College London before moving to the United States. A Quaker and a pacifist, Benfey taught at Haverford College, Earlham College, and Guilford College, retiring in 1988 as the Dana Professor of Chemistry and History of Science, Emeritus.
James Mahlon Haworth was a United States Army major, an Indian agent, and the first Superintendent of Indian Schools in the United States.
Clarence Evan Pickett (1884-1965) was an American religious leader, notable 20th century Quaker, and head of a non-governmental, humanitarian relief agency.