Meet Kim Kelly-Bartley '78

Describe your Marywood Experience (in general terms, a summary including where you came from, your first impressions of the college...)

I was the first of my family to apply and get accepted to college, living in a small coal mining town now named Northern Cambria, PA.  I saw the catalog, applied to many schools, but Marywood was the school that offered me a 4 year scholarship, in PA and with a major in Communications which was rare to find at college.  Unlike today, I never visited any of the colleges, so my first day was my first impression.  I remember walking up to the table of girls who all new each other from Binghamton, NY, introducing myself, and becoming friends with the group that lasted me through the next 4 years!   Ironically, another girl, in my communications major was a roommate for one of those girls and soon we formed our group that got through college life’s ups and downs during the next several years.  It was this comradely friendship that stood out for me from the very first day.

Tell us about two or three key memories from your time as a Marywood student. (a couple of stories /anecdotes about any aspect of your Marywood experience)

The first year was filled with getting to know friends.  We played a lot of jokes on each other in Regina Hall.  The funniest I remember was removing one girl’s entire belongings from her room (with her roommate’s permission and help).  It was during our freshman finals, and she freaked out when she saw an official “eviction” notice.  Back then, we often had changing roommates so this could be a concern.  Eventually, as we listened across the hall to her comments and concerns, we opened the door, came out laughing and she realized the joke.  It was the first of many we played on each other.

I remember the smaller classes and in particular the Editorial Writing Class which was about critiquing magazines.  For this class we had about 10 of us and we had on the list of magazines Playboy.  There was only one boy in the class and he had to order and deliver for all of us girls the magazine.  To this day I tell people about the fact that when Marywood meant to give us an education to think, that included reading cover to cover Playboy!  

I also took advantage of the flexibility of the program using an Ad Hoc Curriculum contract which afforded me the opportunity to take a variety of classes combined in a way that supported my career dreams while still fulfilling the minimums to graduate.  

What was your favorite course? Why was it your favorite?

At the time I attended, the “winterim” classes were in place between the end of the first semester and second semester.  They were great classes because they were so very different from other classes on the curriculum.  One in particular for me was titled “The Sociology of Mass Communications”.  I had the chance to be taught by two teachers coming from two very different perspectives which challenged us to think about the changes happening to us because of television.  This thinking about the impact of “new” technology and the impact of pictures and words applies still today.  It was one of my favorites because even I had the chance to author some research about the impact of words.  Today, with new technologies, the application to our social world still applies and the discipline of thinking about its impact is still the critical thinking that I apply.

How did your Marywood education shape you as a person? 

There was a teacher, Sr. Kathleen Turner, who taught a class called “Belief and Unbelief”.  Many times during a week or a month, aspects of this class and Sr. Kathleen as a person, will come to mind.  In essence for me, it solidified my grounding in accepting that the world includes the spiritual nature of man coming from God.  But it helped me to explore the rationale for it to become comfortable with challenges from others and to accept their beliefs as nonthreatening and in sync with the world, not disruptive or threatening.   It helped to develop a sense of wonder and curiosity about the differences in others and to celebrate and learn an understanding of people’s and individual’s beliefs.

Is there a relationship in your Marywood years that launched you--helped you to become the person you are today? Tell me about that person, how you connected to her or him, and what that relationship meant to you.

The person who most humbled me during my four years at Marywood was my often roommate, Geraldine (Gerry) Mehling.  Gerry was often in the hospital dealing with surgeries and maladies associated with juvenile arthritis, a condition that caused her to endure daily pain and often confined her to a wheelchair or sent her to the hospital for months at a time.   She inspired all with whom she was in contact as we watched her courage in the face of the pain, her passion for finishing what she started (she eventually received her MSW) and her sense of humor as she dealt with the trials and tribulations of her life and loves.   She went out with us to the bars, to the proms and dances and every family event she could following our graduation.

She passed away when she was 42 still fighting for chances to work and live and never gave up.  

While we were roommates, she never complained about the hassles of a campus with no ramps or elevator to get to the cafeteria or working around her medical needs of getting in and out of a wheelchair.  She encouraged us with letters that she wrote with hands so crippled her fingers were less than the size of your pinky.  She’d tell us the stories of her life and invite us to join her.  Gerry is someone Marywood can be proud to say was one of theirs in the spirit of the school and its mission.

What do you do now? (position or job title, company, responsibilities, also board, church and civic responsibilities)

I’m Vice President of Marketing and Menu Development for White Castle Restaurants, the oldest restaurant chain.  I’ve worked here for 22 years and been working in marketing and advertising for various restaurant chains since graduating from Marywood.  My responsibilities include strategic brand and creative development, new products, digital and traditional advertising and all aspects which touch customers of our brand.  

I’m engaged with many community groups including Rotary and The Ohio State University Hospitality Advisory Board as well as active in industry groups such as Women’s Foodservice Forum and Technomic (a research group).  I’m a former Board member of the Church’s Chicken International Franchisee Board and am currently chair of their marketing committee.  I’ve previously been on the board of Junior Achievement and active with committees supporting Children’s Hunger Alliance.  I have been a Sunday school teacher at our parish as well.

Was financial aid one of the reasons you chose to pursue a Marywood education?  If so, how did it make an impact on your education and professional career?  

Yes, I received a full scholarship to Marywood.   I’ve been able to apply the thinking taught there to improve others, myself and society because its educational value was so great.  In business terms, the ROI from learning to think has been far greater as it helped me to move into greater levels of influence requiring broader and deeper thinking capacity.  

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment(s) since leaving Marywood?

Oddly enough it isn’t work related though I do enjoy the success of what Marywood provided in the classroom.  Instead, what I gained from the combination of classes, campus life and the approach to teaching us to think has helped to stay married for 30 years and raise 3 children with my husband, John, while balancing the career demands with our lives.  

You see, when I graduated, women were just getting started in the balancing of careers with families.  There weren’t many women to talk to about it so the ability to work out the problems with others and keep the family unit together came from what I learned while taking the classes, living with others and being challenged by the faculty.  It was learning to believe in myself as a woman  that equipped me to succeed together with men when I graduated no matter the challenge I presented to the status quo.  It is the belief that my work would speak for me more than a battle about gender is how I succeeded and it was that confidence that my associations at Marywood gave me.

Do you currently contribute to Marywood University and our students?  If so, what would you like to tell fellow alumni who may be considering a gift?

Whenever we can, we contribute because this world needs leaders and I feel that the characteristics needed for the leaders of tomorrow were/are taught at Marywood – capacity to think, learn and apply with compassion and hard work to improve the world.   Why wouldn’t anyone want to surround the world with people like that and therefore financially give someone a chance?