School 13

Frederick Douglas Kelly Jr.

July 17, 1934 ~ March 21, 2022 (age 87) 87 Years Old


Madison - Frederick Douglas Kelly, Jr., born in El Monte, CA., on July 17, 1934, to parents Frederick D. Kelly and Faye Cochran Kelly, died on Monday, March 21, 2022, at Agrace Hospice Care in Madison, Wisconsin, with family by his side. 

Douglas attended primary and secondary school in Santa Ana and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from USC in 1956. In the fall of that year, he was selected to continue studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and served as a teaching assistant at a lycée in Versailles. While in France, Douglas met Borghild Rombach; they were married in 1957 and returned to the US, where Douglas obtained his Master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. There they had two sons, Stephen Kelly (1959) and David Kelly (1963). The marriage ended in divorce, though the two remained friends until her passing in 2015.

Douglas Kelly had an illustrious career as a medievalist, teaching for 43 years at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and as a scholar of the Middle Ages. As a professor, he received a number of honors, including Fellow of the Institute for Research in the Humanities, Romnes Fellow, Vilas Associate, Hilldale Award for the Humanities, and WARF Professor. Douglas was also listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Distinguished Professionals, and Who’s Who in the World (forthcoming). He was a senior fellow for the Netherland Institute for Advanced Study, among other honors. He loved language and spoke French, German, and Italian fluently. In addition to French and Italian, he taught Medieval Studies.

Along with his teaching, Douglas published many books and articles in his field of French Medieval literature and rhetoric, a number published after his retirement. Among them are Medieval Imagination: Rhetoric and the Poetry of Courtly Love; The Arts of Poetry and Prose; Medieval French Romance; Christine de Pizan’s Changing Opinion: A Quest for Certainty in the Midst of Chaos, and others, as well as many articles and reviews.

His greatest professional joy was assisting and inspiring young scholars in their careers; he opened their eyes to the influence of the medieval Arts of Poetry on literary texts, and his knowledge of Latin and French texts made him both an outstanding scholar and a brilliant and subtle reader. He did this with kindness and friendship., made them feel comfortable, and was truly interested in what they were doing.

Passing this knowledge on to others was his greatest passion. As one recipient of this influence said, “We are losing a monument to medieval studies.”

In 1981, Douglas married Sandra Ihle, a lecturer and also a medievalist; together they attended many conferences of The International Arthurian Society and the International Courtly Literature Society in France, Germany, Italy, and Great Britain. In later years, they went on a number of Greek trips with the Archeological Institute of America and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Douglas is survived by his wife, Sandra; stepson, Geoffrey Ihle; loving sons, Stephen (Linda), David (Tamea), and grandchildren, Alison, Bret, and Jaime. He is also survived by his brother Arthur Kelly (Judy) and sister-in-law, Judy Kelly. He was preceded in death by his brother Michael Bruce Kelly.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Douglas at THE UNIVERSITY OF MADISON MEMORIAL UNION in Tripp Commons, 800 Langdon Street, Madison on May 8, 2022, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

The family wishes to thank the amazing staff at Agrace Hospice Care for their kindness and care in Douglas’s final days. Their care of him was unparalleled.

Memorials in Douglas’s name can be made to Agrace Hospice Care Inc. or Doctors Without Borders.


Cress Funeral & Cremation Services

3610 Speedway Road

(608) 238-3434

To send flowers to the family, please visit our floral store.


Celebration of Life Gathering
May 8, 2022

1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Memorial Union-Tripp Commons
800 Langdon St Madison, WI 53706
Madison, Wisconsin 53706


Doctors Without Borders, USA
P.O. Box 5030, Hagerstown MD 21741
Tel: 1-888-392-0392

Agrace HospiceCare, Inc.
5395 East Cheryl Parkway, Fitchburg WI 53711
Tel: 1-608-276-4660


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