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Updated: Feb 27, 2022

"Dr. Kelley's life illuminated and rekindled the lives of many youths through the zeal and fortitude she used in developing, managing Timbuktu Academy and Honors College programs at Southern University."

A Timbuktu Parent

About Dr. Ella Lee Kelley

Dr. Ella Lee Kelley, a trailblazer in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education was a nationally recognized educator and advocate for STEM education and research. She was an administrator, mentor, motivator and director, with a passion and dedication for STEM and students pursuing STEM degrees. The many lives that have been touched by this incredible woman is a testament of her ability to connect with all STEM scholars including Ph.D. students, Ph.D. /M.D. students and B.S. degree students. Throughout her more than 30 years with the Timbuktu Academy, she demonstrated a strong passion for pre-college students through her work with the pre-college summer programs—Getting Smatter at the Timbuktu Academy (GeSTA), Summer Science Institute at the Timbuktu Academy for Middle School - SSI-M, Challenge 2000 and Summer Science Institute (SSI).

Dr. Kelley was born October 05, 1948 in Monroe, LA to Mary Magdalene Elmore Kelley of Calhoun, LA and William Cicero Kelley of West Monroe, LA. She began to thrive academically at an early age; her gifts were encouraged by family, teachers, and the church family of Trenton Baptist Church, West Monroe. As the valedictorian of the Richardson High School Class of 1966, Dr. Kelley left home at 17 to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Northeast Louisiana University. She later went on to earn a Master's degree in Chemistry, from Southern University and A&M College, and a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biochemistry, from Louisiana State University, both in Baton Rouge, LA.

Dr. Kelley joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge in 1983. Throughout her more than three decades at Southern University, she served as Co-Director of the Timbuktu Academy (1990-2015) with her husband, Dr. Diola Bagayoko, since the Academy’s inception. She rose through the academic ranks to hold a number of administrative positions including chair of the Department of Chemistry, Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes Honors College.

In 2003, Dr. Kelley received the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (US- PAESMEM). During her tenure as professor of chemistry, she authored over a dozen refereed technical publications in biochemistry, teaching, mentoring, and learning strategies. She was also the co-principal investigator of the Louis Stokes Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation (LS-LAMP) and campus coordinator of the Southern University LS-LAMP program.

Posthumously, Dr. Kelley received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). She personally mentored (with some assistance from other colleagues) 47 chemistry undergraduate students at SUBR, 29 of whom have earned or are successfully pursuing graduate degrees, including 13, four (4) and one (1) holding the Ph.D. in Chemistry, the doctorate in medicine, and the jurist doctorate, respectively.

In addition to her professional successes, she was a committed wife, a proud mother of three to Dr. Namory Bagayoko, an orthopedic surgeon; Kelley Bagayoko Adams, an attorney; and William Bagayoko, a computer specialist; and grandmother of twins, Ella and Nawali Djibri.

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