The Gift of a Lifetime – L. Michael and Karen C. Kelly

Michael and Karen Kelly have no shortage of funding priorities, including college expenses for two daughters, various local and national charities and the building and renovation of a 384-acre farm where, working with numerous local and national rescue groups, they have fostered over 150 dogs to date, caring for them at their own expense and helping find them homes across the country.

Yet, their love of forests and love of history culminated in their making “the gift of a lifetime” to the Forest History Society’s Building on History capital campaign. From his first Associate Member gift sixteen years ago, Michael’s interest and involvement have grown over the years, including ten years of leadership on the FHS Board of Directors.

Michael is the Chairman of the Board of Forest Investment Associates, a timberland investment management organization managing nearly 3 million acres of forestland for institutional and private investors in the U. S. and South America. He has a BS in Forestry from Auburn University and an MBA from the University of South Alabama. In addition to his service on the FHS Board, Michael serves on the National Alliance of Forest Owners Board of Directors, the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Alumni Advisory Council and the Auburn University Research Advisory Board. Michael is a Registered Forester, a Certified Forester and a Fellow of the Society of American Foresters and current Chair of the Southeastern Society of American Foresters. Karen is a former executive in the telephone and communications industry and CPA and holds a BS in Accounting from the University of South Alabama and an MBA from Louisiana State University Shreveport. Since becoming an “empty nester,” Karen has devoted all of her time and energy to the dog rescue operation at the Kelly’s Off Leash Farm in rural Georgia.

What inspired you to make your gift?

The Forest History Society has an impressive collection and an outstanding staff with a great reputation for service, innovation and creativity in managing and making materials available to researchers and other users while also increasing the general knowledge of forest history through publications and social media. The only limiting factor is the outdated facility, which is too small and antiquated to continue to accommodate FHS and its mission. Construction of an expanded and modern facility is essential to the continued success of FHS, and we are highly motivated to see that happen. So, we’re “pulling out all the stops” to make this campaign a success and ensure a great future for FHS as it grows.

What advice do you have for foresters beginning their careers?

Get involved! Branch out from your “paying job” by becoming an active member of the Society of American Foresters, state forestry associations, other industry associations and, of course, the Forest History Society! The people you’ll meet, the things you’ll learn and the connections you’ll make will serve you for a lifetime and maximize your enjoyment of the wonderful profession of forestry.