Kitty Kelley Funds Rollin Fellowship and Hosts Event

Longtime BIO member and BIO Board member Kitty Kelley has donated $50,000 to the organization. The generous donation will fund two annual Rollin Fellowships of $5,000 each for the next five years. The Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship, given to writers of exceptional biographies in progress about African American subjects, was first awarded in 2021 to Rachel L. Swarns for a multigenerational biography of an enslaved Black family torn apart by the 1838 slave sale that saved Georgetown University from financial ruin. This year, the award was bestowed upon Marion Orr for his proposed biography of former U.S. congressman Charles Diggs Jr. 

The Rollin Fellowship aims to remediate the disproportionate scarcity of, and even suppression of, Black lives and voices in the broad catalog of published biography. This fellowship reflects not only BIO’s commitment to supporting working biographers but to encouraging diversity in the field. Kelley’s donation will enable the amount of the award to increase from $2,000 to $5,000 and will double the number of recipients of the award over the next five years. Of her donation, Kelley said: “By supporting the Rollin Fellowship, I hope to bring in more young and diverse members to BIO. I hope that all Rollin recipients—and everyone who receives a BIO grant or fellowship—will pay it forward by reaching out to their colleagues and classmates.” 

In addition to her personal donation, Kelley has worked diligently with BIO’s Development Committee to raise additional funds for the organization through The Biographer’s Circle, a select group of donors who host fundraising events for BIO in their homes. On May 25, Kelley oversaw the first Biographer’s Circle Event held since the pandemic hit, at the home of Steve Rubin, consulting editor for Simon & Schuster, in Manhattan. The event raised nearly $10,000 for BIO.  

Kathleen Stone, the chair of BIO’s Development Committee, said of the event, “The spirit was warm and welcoming, typical of a BIO event, and it was a successful fundraiser. Kitty Kelley was the moving force behind the event and we owe her tremendous thanks. Thank you, Kitty, for everything from creative conception to flawless execution. We very much appreciate how generously you share your energy and talents with BIO and all of us.”  

Photo by Philip Bermingham