Mary Jo Adams, Don Kelly and Lindsay Shy receive UMSL Hero Awards

by | Jan 23, 2023

The award is presented to up to three staff or faculty members each month in recognition of their efforts to transform the lives of UMSL students and the wider community.
Black woman, white man with glasses and white woman are in a collage, smiling and looking forward.

Mary Jo Adams, Don Kelly and Lindsay Shy received the January UMSL Hero Awards for their excellent work and commitment to UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

University of Missouri–St. Louis Chancellor Kristin Sobolik and her cabinet continue to recognize the exemplary efforts of staff and faculty members from across campus by bestowing the UMSL Hero Award on up to three individuals each month.

This month’s honorees are Mary Jo Adams, associate director of prospect management and research in University Advancement; Don Kelly, intellectual property attorney in the Office of the General Counsel; and Lindsay Shy, business administration manager in the Division of Student Affairs.

Mary Jo Adams

Adams was surprised to hear she’d received the UMSL Hero Award. She didn’t realize people were paying attention to her work.

“I’ve been here for 12 years in June,” Adams said. “I’ve worked in a variety of roles. I’ve worked in Advancement Services, I was the assistant director of Alumni Engagement for seven or eight years and then I went back to Advancement Services. Now I’m here in development. With each role, I take some sort of facet of that job duty with me. You don’t leave any job duty behind.”

After graduating high school Adams joined the military to get funding for college.

“I was fresh out of high school,” Adams said. “I weighed maybe 100 pounds soaking wet, and here I was, a military police officer.”

Due to an injury during training, Adams was honorably discharged. She later got a job as an editor at a medical book publisher. Her division was sold to another publisher, and Adams found herself seeking a new role.

She heard about an opening at UMSL as a project support specialist in the Advancement Services department and was hired on the spot. Adams restructured and maintained the department’s databases, and it didn’t take long for her abilities to get noticed.

Her performance was so impressive that the role of assistant director of alumni communications was created for her in alumni engagement and tailored to her communication and technical skills.

She learned those skills at Webster University, where she earned a bachelor’s in business management and a master’s in communications management. Her work ethic was likely honed during her time in the military.

Her job now as the associate director of prospect management and research is a far cry from nursing, the profession Adams originally intended to pursue. But she’s still being of service, which has been the foundation of her career goals.

Sharon Fenoglio, associate vice chancellor of advancement, values Adams’ continued pursuit of excellence in her work and nominated her for the UMSL Hero Award.

“Working for UMSL for 11 years, it is not just Mary Jo’s institutional knowledge that makes her special,” she said. “It is a willingness to always say ‘yes’ when she is asked for help. Alumni engagement, advancement services, executive events, wherever the need is greatest, you will find Mary Jo rolling up her sleeves and digging in to work, finding solutions and assisting in getting the job done. Mary Jo shows ups, works hard and is committed to the UMSL mission.”

Though there are always challenges, the rewards of her role outweigh them.

“I love advancement,” Adams said. “The best part is the fact that I have seen students transition through a lifecycle of being the student, and now they are actual donors. It’s like, ‘I remember seeing you walk across the stage at commencement, and now you’ve landed at this big corporation, and you’re giving back to UMSL in some capacity.’ It doesn’t even have to be financial. It could be just volunteering your time on a board or mentoring a student.”

Adams attributes her success not only to the hard work she’s put in but also the relationships she’s built over her years at the university.

“When you’ve been in one place for 12 years, you can’t help but make friends and develop lifelong relationships,” she said. “That’s probably why I’ve thrived in university development.”

Don Kelly

Kelly, a lawyer in the Office of the General Counsel at the University of Missouri System, was in private practice in St. Louis for over 30 years. Upon learning of an opening at the university, he decided a change would be refreshing and applied. He got the position and fortunately has been enjoying his role as the university’s intellectual property counsel.

In addition to managing all three aspects of intellectual property – copyrights, trademarks and patents – the other “fun stuff” Kelly manages is the newly implemented practice allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness otherwise known as NIL, for the athletics departments.

Kelly was born in New York and lived in Japan, Guam and the Philippines and Venezuela as a youth. Though he graduated with a degree in physics from Duke University, he went to college wanting to either be a pilot or lawyer. He was enrolled in the Navy ROTC program and after two years decided law made the most sense for him.

In just over two years with the university, Kelly has made a distinct impact with his work, as noted by Justin Roberts, associate vice chancellor for marketing and communications, who nominated him for the award.

“While Don serves the entire UM System through his role in the Office of General Council, he is very engaged here at UMSL, even working on campus weekly in Woods Hall,” Roberts said. “Since his arrival, Don has helped me navigate a number of areas around contracts as well as trademarks. His friendly demeanor and knowledge helps him to translate complex legal issues so we understand what implications may impact our university.”

In addition to Kelly’s knowledge and ability, the gratification he experiences doing his job is a factor in his success in the role.

Clearly, making the switch from private practice to working at the university was the right choice for Kelly. He’s found a great fit for his skills and is fully engaged in his work.

“I really enjoy my time here at UMSL,” he said. “I never had an opportunity to come here, except for a few events at the Touhill. So it’s really, really nice to be part of a campus that has so much going for it. And the whole system is just really enjoyable.”

Lindsay Shy

Shy always wanted to work with children and had intended to assist youth in the juvenile justice system after graduating from UMSL with a degree in criminology and criminal justice. Circumstances led her down a different path to her current role as a business administration manager.

While in school at UMSL, Shy worked as a director of a daycare center. That experience later helped her secure a job at a title company as a closing agent. But after a few years in the role, the company folded, and she had to find another job.

She became aware of an opening as an administrative assistant in the College of Nursing, which was the beginning of her transition into business management at UMSL.

“I was offered the position at UMSL in the nursing department, and then the career kind of just flowed from there,” Shy said. “I love UMSL. I loved working there.”

As an alumna who also grew up in the area, joining UMSL professionally seemed like a full-circle moment. Though Shy didn’t pursue her original career track, she still gets a chance to serve young people in the form of UMSL students. Additionally, remaining in business management roles has been a good fit that’s provided continued professional growth.

“I started in that support role and kind of learned the fiscal nature of the university,” Shy said. “Then I moved over to another opportunity that presented itself in the chemistry department in business support. So once I moved over there, I feel like that was probably where I gained the most experience. I sat in that position for eight years. At that time Tanika Busch was in the College of Arts and Sciences as the fiscal officer, business manager. She has mentored me so much.”

Busch, now the vice chancellor for finance and administration and UMSL’s chief financial officer, continues to be one of her biggest supporters and nominated Shy for the UMSL Hero Award.

“Lindsay supports the Division of Student Affairs, one of our largest units on campus,” Busch said. “She also supports athletics. She does an excellent job of balancing her responsibilities in multiple units across campus. Lindsay makes herself available to answer questions and brainstorm solutions for financial situations. She has a positive attitude and never treats a question as unworthy of her time. Lindsay is an asset to the Division of Student Affairs and the finance team.”

One of the best aspects of Shy’s role is the variety. Even though protocols and processes may be the same, there is always something new to tackle.

“I’m the business manager, and I am over the Division of Student Affairs, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Touhill and also athletics,” Shy said. “So within my role, I manage the day-to-day fiscal and business operations of all of the units. Managing all of the budgets is just a whirlwind. It’s different every day.”

Shy was happy to receive the honor and unaware of the broad impact her work has had.

“I was definitely surprised,” she said. “And then I had a little humbling thought to myself thinking, ‘Wow, this truly does make me feel valued as an UMSL employee.’”

Wendy Todd

Wendy Todd

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