Alumni Spotlight – Jonathan Lee Kelly SVMP ’01

Alumni Beat: Can you share your background with us – where you grew up, your undergraduate experience, and your interests?

Jonathan Lee Kelly: I grew up in Greensboro, NC and attended Wake Forest University, majoring in Chemistry. I enjoy developing investment ideas, sleeping, Cartoon Network, C‐Span, reading, Wii, cooking (especially southern food), and when I have the time, writing and youth leadership development. I tend to think of myself as a country boy at heart from the South –I worked construction on the weekends as a teen and as a child, spent weekends on my grandmother’s farm. A lot of my leadership capabilities were developed in the church and a lot of my views on the world were shaped by the idealism portrayed in Frank Capra’s movies “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”


AB: What is your current role at Rosemont Capital and what do you do in this capacity?

JLK: I evaluate investment opportunities and help out with special projects that can benefit from my experiences abroad in EMEA and Asia‐Ex Japan.


AB: What do you remember as the highlights of SVMP?

JLK: What’s most salient these days is how much I was inspired by my SVMP classmates and the program overall to dream bigger and to go after those dreams. There was an implicit belief that there was plenty of room at the top for all of us, so we ended up living out a saying of Lemuel Lewis, a Richmond Federal Reserve Governor, “See you at the Top!”


AB: You were able to not only attend SVMP but also HBS for your graduate studies. How different were the two experiences, if at all?

JLK: I think that because of the age at which you participate in SVMP, it naturally lends itself to being a transformational experience as you are just on the cusp of graduation, career, graduate school, and life in general. SVMP structures your time which makes a big difference. The MBA Program is different because you are living within a community and the learning process can migrate between the classroom, community, and your own life’s priorities.


AB: Why did you decide to pursue master’s degrees in business and government and how do you hope to leverage them? Is there advice that you can share with alumni considering a similar path?

JLK: The short of it is, that I did not want to regret later in life not having made time to attend the JFK School. That said, I made the decision to apply after the first semester of my MBA.


Today the programs have changed such that you can no longer pursue both degrees concurrently as I did, rather you must make joint applications from the start or pursue the JFK after obtaining your MBA. So my tactical experience here is now obsolete. It is worth noting that the JFK School is an aspirational place so if you liked that about SVMP, there is more of it in a Master of Public Policy/Public Administration as there are more implicit and explicit expectations at the JFK School about the impact you can have on the world. While these are present at HBS, you have to listen harder and seek it out a bit more than you do at the JFK School or in SVMP.


AB: Now that you have benefited from SVMP, HBS/The Kennedy School of Government, and years of work experience, what are some of the most important things you have learned about yourself and what are your dreams for the future?

JLK: I think there a few takeaways looking back over the last decade. Here are some key takeaways:


1. You don’t have to invent the wheel to use one.


2. You will meet extraordinary people in your walk of life ‐ be sure to cherish them, they make the journey more rich and you never know how long they may be in your life or what role they may ultimately play.


3. Sometimes life’s possibilities and opportunities are larger than your ability to comprehend them, don’t forget the basics at times like this… “One foot in front of the other.”


4. Life is not fair. Come to terms with it. Remember that doesn’t let you off the hook from making the world a better place and more fair.


5. Find your race and your special work in life and get after it.


6. Try not to take it personal, very little of life can be taken personal in the grand scheme of things. Accordingly don’t waste your precious time on things you cannot control or engaging in activities which distract you from your race or special work.
7. One of your biggest advantages in life is remembering that tomorrow is a new day and having the intestinal fortitude to compete and claim your stake.


8. There will be setbacks and triumphs, but these occasions are no reason to forget who you are, where you come from, where you hope to go, who you might be able to impact along the way.


9. Lemonade without lemons would just be sugar water. Life without challenges would much the same.


Keep the faith. Have fun. Stay young at heart.
‐ Jonathan Lee Kelly


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