First Cousins Continue Zag Legacy

May 18, 2015
It All Began with John Kelly, Sr.

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University has been a household name for three generations of the Kelly family and continues with four first cousins now attending. The cousins include freshman John Kelly III and sophomore Mary McCambridge, Seattle; sophomore Cedar Kelly, Spokane (currently attending Gonzaga-in-Florence); and freshman Abby Borderwick, Minneapolis.

The cousins proudly trace their Gonzaga lineage to their 82 year-old grandfather, John Kelly, Sr., of Yakima, Washington. Mary McCambridge fondly remembers a conversation with her grandfather at the family’s North Idaho cabin at Lake Pend Oreille one Fourth of July weekend when she was age 7. Although the cabin was filled with dozens of relatives, Mary and her grandfather shared a quiet lunch at the kitchen table. Mary recalls her grandfather sitting across from her, looking her straight in the eye and saying, “You know Mary, when you start considering colleges, I hope Gonzaga will be at the top of your list.”

John Kelly III shared a similar experience. Sitting with his grandfather in the living room watching one of the first “Battle in Seattle” basketball games, John Sr. told his grandson, “Gonzaga is a great place and I would love to see you there.”

The elder Kelly’s longtime love and commitment to Gonzaga runs deep. In 1951, Gonzaga recruited him to play baseball and basketball. A gifted student-athlete, John attended Marquette High School, a Jesuit school in Yakima, Washington, where he was valedictorian. Since he was a high school sophomore, John was on the radar of Father Art Dussault, S.J., the late and legendary Gonzaga vice president known as “Mr. Gonzaga.”

Through his many visits to the Kelly family, Fr. Dussault nurtured a friendship with John that would span more than a half-century. Although recruited by universities including Notre Dame, Stanford and Santa Clara, John’s desire to stay in the West and his fondness for the Jesuits and Catholic education made Seattle U. and Gonzaga his top choices.

Ultimately, he accepted a full-ride baseball scholarship to SU during its golden age of athletics when its basketball team regularly advanced to the NCAA Tournament with stars including Elgin Baylor (who went on star in the NBA) and the famed O’Brien twins (John and Eddie) who led the Chieftains to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 1953. As a SU student-athlete, John was a member of three NCAA Tournament teams and set several pitching records, some of which still stand today. He was inducted into the SU Athletic Hall of Fame on May 24, 2008.

Although attending school in Seattle, John continued to maintain a special relationship with Gonzaga through his enduring friendship with Fr. Dussault, who involved John in fundraising for the University’s Great Teachers Program from 1963-1970. Ultimately Fr. Dussault invited John to join Gonzaga’s Board of Regents in 1986. Three of John and Patricia Kelly’s children – Shannon McCambridge (Trustee Emerita) and John and Joe Kelly – all graduated from Gonzaga in the 1980s. Another daughter, Mary Kelly, attended Gonzaga-in-Florence as a junior at University of Colorado.

And the Kelly legacy continues. While the four cousins reside in different residence halls, have different majors, and participate in different clubs and organizations, they get together monthly to share Sunday night dinner. And, when they do, someone inevitably walks by and says, “look at the cousins.”

When that happens, Borderwick says, “We just smile and think of Grandpa.”