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James Kelso dies, was Killian aide

James Kelso
James Kelso

James G. Kelso, executive assistant to late MIT President James Killian during the late 1950s, died Monday, March 7, at Norwell Knoll Nursing Home after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 86.

Kelso came to MIT in 1948 as an instructor of history. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1952 and taught U.S. history and economics. He served as a placement officer in 1955 and as executive assistant to President Killian from 1956 to 1959.

At the time, Killian praised Kelso's "broad experience in dealing with students, with industry, with government and with research agencies. His service to the Institute has been very important."

A native of Worcester, N.Y., Kelso lived in Duxbury, Mass., for more than 50 years, devotedly serving town government. He was on the Finance Committee, School Committee, Planning Board, Conservation Commission as well as many other town boards. He served six years as selectman. "I wish I could have done more," he once said.

Kelso left MIT in 1963 to pursue careers in banking and management. He was appointed executive director of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in 1965.

Kelso received a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1941 and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from Harvard University in 1947 and 1953, respectively.

Kelso served as a paratrooper in World War II. He made jumps in Sicily, Normandy, Holland and Germany; he held eight battle stars and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action. He served from 1941 to 1946.

He leaves his wife, Dorothy of Duxbury; daughter Deborah and son-in-law Cliff Pye of Lawrence, Kan.; daughter Tass and son-in-law George Maentz of Colorado Springs, Colo.; daughter Laurie of Duxbury; and son Tony and daughter-in-law Jane of Duxbury. He also leaves five grandchildren and his sister, Elizabeth Caiazza of Worcester, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 30, 2005 (download PDF).

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