The following remarks were given by IWP alumna Rebekah Stroman during a Dedication Ceremony in honor of the late Professor Brian J. Kelley on September 7, 2012.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, friends and family. Thank you so much for coming out to the school tonight to join us in celebrating the life of our beloved Professor Kelley.
For those of you whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, my name is Rebekah Stroman, IWP class of 2010, and I’m standing/shaking in front of you this evening purely because of my deep respect and admiration of Brian Kelley.
My final semester at IWP (fall of 2009) was my favorite, perhaps due slightly in part to the prospect of graduating after three long years of working all day and going to school at night, but I know that it was, without a doubt, the most special time I had at IWP because of Brian.
I was taking his Case Studies in Counterintelligence class, along with Bob Stephan’s Spies, Subversion, and Terrorism class, and I loved them both. Going to Professor Stephan’s class allowed me more time to research and learn about Russian intelligence (a favorite pastime of mine), while attending Professor Kelley’s class was more like going to story hour. I was completely blown away by Brian’s knowledge and grasp of counterintelligence, having lived it his whole career. His was the one class where I was actually disappointed when the clock hit the 9:30p mark. I felt like a sponge in his presence – all I wanted to do was just sit and soak up all of the wisdom that he was so happy to try to instill in each of his students.
Most of us have come to know how Professor Kelley was mistreated by the community he worked so hard to build and protect, but one of the things that amazed me the most by this man was his humility and perseverance through even the most challenging of times. Being pretty hot-tempered myself, I cannot imagine the anguish that he must have experienced during the Hansen fallout. But each of us, his students, are better people for it. Brian took his heartache and struggle, and turned it into something that each of us could benefit from. You may think that I’m hinting that Brian gave us pointers or a list of things “to avoid when working for the intelligence community” …but that’s not it at all. We are all better people because of Brian’s example of extraordinary character. Humility, grace, service, dedication, perseverance. Those are perhaps the greatest lessons Professor Kelley ever taught us.
Oftentimes after class, I would pull Brian to the side for a moment to talk about “the mole” or my thoughts on Comrade J, or just how mind-bending counterintelligence is in general, and I would always catch a little smile creep up on his lips when I started talking or asking about the Russians. I think he thought my fascination with them was probably a bit odd but also entertaining. Months after the class was finished and I was back at the school for some odd thing, if we bumped into each other, we would immediately pick up our conversation on Comrade J as if it was yesterday.
The last time I saw Brian he was asking about my personal life. He wanted to know if I’d taken that job in Tucson, was the man I was seeing treating me right, etc. We had an ongoing joke that he would bring up whenever I saw him. He’d say, “Bekah, did your guy bring you flowers this time?” I’d answer, “well, no, no flowers this time. But I’d rather have a Jack Daniels over roses any day!” He got the biggest kick out of that!
Brian’s death was a huge shock to all of us, and when Bob Stephan emailed me about it I broke down in tears at my desk at work. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we’ve seen that smile or heard that laugh. But I know that without a doubt, for those of us who believe as Brian believed, we will see him again. That may be very politically incorrect of me to say, but I don’t think you can truly come to understand what Brian was all about if you don’t first understand his devout love of Christ, country, church, and family. That is where his truly unique character originated.
Brian, you are sorely missed each and every day by all of us who were blessed to know you and love you. Thank you, for always looking out for me and encouraging me to never settle. I promise you, I never will.
Thank you all.
Class of 2010