Blessing & Naming of the Thomas J. Kelley Makerspace for Robotics & Engineering

Saint John’s High School, a Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Catholic school serving grades 7-12 announces a $1,000,000 gift from the estate of alumnus and past parent Thomas J. Kelley ’50, P’79 that will be used to create an endowed fund to support the operation of the school’s Makerspace for Robotics and Engineering and provide professional development for all faculty and staff in order to maximize the use of the innovation space for all students in all academic disciplines. The Makerspace, opened in the fall 2017, was named in his honor in a ceremony on Tuesday, October 5 in the Ryken Center on the school’s campus located at 378 Main Street, Shrewsbury.

“This planned estate gift from Mr. Kelley will further transform the education and the experience at Saint John’s,” said Alex Zequeira, Headmaster of Saint John’s. “His vision and commitment to sustaining the excellence of our educational and formative experience here at the school will be felt by generations of Pioneers to come.”

The endowed fund created by Mr. Kelley will, amongst other makerspace-related initiatives, fund professional development for faculty from all academic disciplines to use the makerspace in their classes. The school’s Principal, Margaret Granados, stated, “the ability for faculty in all academic departments to utilize our state of the art makerspace will enhance learning and the hands-on experience that is at the very heart of how boys best learn.”

A native of Worcester, Mr. Kelley graduated from Saint John’s High School at the school’s original Temple Street in Worcester location before enrolling in the College of the Holy Cross where, after his graduation, he was commissioned an officer for the United States Navy and served our nation for 21 years. After his Navy service, Mr. Kelley went on to earn his Master’s and Doctorate degrees. He served five years as Dean of the Master's in Business Program at Anna Maria College and later was a management consultant. He often shared with the school that his commitment to Saint John’s was because it remained faithful to the vision of its founders, recently writing “I am loyal to Saint John’s because it has remained true to its mission.”

The Thomas J. Kelley ’50, P’79 Makerspace for Robotics & Engineering is a 2,400 sq. ft. lab home to the school’s engineering program and state and world champion robotics team. “Saint John’s started its engineering program with 12 students in a classroom 10 years ago and today it is one of the largest electives taken by students with nearly 90 seniors enrolled this year,” shared Mr. Zequeira. He continued, “the space also supports our robotics team that won the state championship in 2019 and 2021 and had the number one autonomous robot in the 2019 world championships in Detroit.”

Recent research from the University of Northern Iowa examined how a makerspace curriculum impacts the way in which learners apply the 4 C’s (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication) and indicated that students who participate in makerspaces tend to use their creativity to problem-solve, are communicative and collaborative with other makers, and tend to use critical thinking skills when presented with an obstacle.