In Memoriam: Velma McKelvey

Note: This notice was excerpted from the Oct. 20, 2018 Claremont Courier. For the full notice, visit Velma Enriqueta McKelvey: A tireless volunteer, instrumental in Harvey Mudd College founding

Velma Enriqueta Vergara McKelvey, a devoted supporter of Harvey Mudd College since its founding, died peacefully at her home on July 13. She was 86 years old.

A California native, Mrs. McKelvey grew up in Los Angeles, graduating from Hollywood High School and earning an English degree from Occidental College. She worked for several years in alumni relations at Occidental, a job that would lead her to Claremont and to her future husband, George I. McKelvey III, one of the founding administrators of Harvey Mudd College. While working for Occidental, she drove George to a meeting and the two began dating. They were married in 1959 and began their lives together in Claremont.

The McKelveys became active immediately with The Claremont Colleges, including the fledgling Harvey Mudd College and the Rembrandt Club of Pomona College. George was Harvey Mudd College’s first vice president for development, helping to plan and create its strong financial foundation. Mrs. McKelvey loved to cook and entertain. Her role as the wife of a college administrator played directly into these talents as she hosted innumerable lunches, teas, dinners, and many other events for HMC faculty, students, trustees, donors, friends and family. Her house was always open to out-of-town friends to drop by. Over the years, the McKelveys played host to a number of HMC graduates and many others.

Mrs. McKelvey participated with more than three dozen volunteer support groups during her lifetime, including the Foothill Philharmonic Committee of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Affiliates and the Encore Committee of the L.A. Philharmonic Affiliates. She was a member of the Claremont Chorale for more than 30 years and served as its president from 1987 to 1989.

The McKelveys’ generosity extended to philanthropy as well, as both understood the importance of volunteers and fundraisers to an organization. The Velma E. and George I. McKelvey Endowed Scholarship was started with a sizeable gift from Mr. William M. Keck II in honor of the couple. Several trustees made donations to this scholarship, and Mrs. McKelvey continued to support it throughout her lifetime. The scholarship was first awarded in 1990–1991 and has supported 19 students in their pursuit of a STEM education.

In honor of their significant contributions to the betterment of students and alumni, the Alumni Association of Harvey Mudd College named George and Velma Honorary Alumni in 1990.

George preceded Mrs. McKelvey in death, in 1998.

She is survived by her son George, daughter-in-law Lynn, and granddaughter Brooke of West Linn, Oregon; and by her brother-in-law, Robert McKelvey of Sea Girt, New Jersey.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at Claremont Presbyterian Church, 1111 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont, with a reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mrs. McKelvey’s honor to the Los Angeles Philharmonic or to Harvey Mudd College’s Velma V. and George I. McKelvey Endowed Scholarship Fund.