Remembering Joan Kelleher '50: Beloved SMH Friend, Alumna, and Benefactor

Joan Negley Kelleher ’50, who remained a close and dear friend to Saint Mary’s Hall for decades, passed away on December 1. Joan’s legacy at SMH spans generations and her profound impact on our school and the broader San Antonio community will endure for years to come.

Joan Kelleher '50

Joan attended Saint Mary’s Hall at the French Place campus from Form 1 until her graduation in 1950. While at SMH, she was the Capers Captain, Sophomore Class President, Student Council Vice President, and a three-year all-star athlete and badminton doubles champion. After graduating, she attended Connecticut College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1954.

Her family’s history at SMH, which continues today, dates back more than 100 years to when her mother Roxana Gage Negley Catto graduated in 1922. Numerous members of Roxana’s family tree have attended Saint Mary’s Hall, including 12 immediate members of the Kelleher Family, and on three different campuses. For more than four generations, members of the Kelleher Family have served on the SMH Board of Trustees, including daughter Ruth Agather, who was Board Chair for two years, and son David, who recently completed his term. Joan and her husband Herb, founder of Southwest Airlines, served separately on the Board from 1967-1972, 1974-1978, and 1978-1981. Her family has dedicated themselves to the school through volunteer service, leadership, and financial support, contributing to the SMH Fund, Passport, the Ben McMurray Golf Tournament, and an endowment to support faculty salaries and student financial aid, among others. The Kelleher Family Pavilion was named in recognition of their support of the I AM Saint Mary’s Hall Campaign in 2011. Joan and her family have served as room moms, Lower School sports team coaches, and Girl Scout troop leaders. In 2015, the Kelleher Family received the school's most prestigious recognition, the Founders’ Day Award, for their unwavering service to Saint Mary’s Hall.

Kelleher Family at Founders' Day 2015

The Kellehers at Founders' Day:  Pictured top row (l to r) Mollie Kelleher '19, Margaret Kelleher '17, and Caroline Kelleher. Bottom row, (l to r): John Agather, Ruth Agather  '79, Joan Kelleher '50, Herb Kelleher, Kathleen Kelleher, David Kelleher, Julia Stacy '75, J. Michael Kelleher, and Lisa Kelleher.

“Our community grieves with the Kellehers on the passing of their matriarch, Joan. Mrs. Kelleher exemplified the values that Saint Mary’s Hall holds dear, and let our school motto, ‘Teach us delight in simple things,’ serve as a guiding principle in her life,” said SHM Board Chair Rick Reyna. “Mrs. Kelleher lived a life of commitment to her family, her community, and particularly to her alma mater. Her legacy will not only be her service and devotion to SMH, but the affection and commitment to Saint Mary’s Hall she fostered in her children, grandchildren, and scores of extended family members. Her love for Saint Mary’s Hall guided a family legacy of support for the mission and life of our school. Very simply, the Saint Mary’s Hall family is better because the Kelleher Family has been a part of it, and we mourn the loss of such a beloved and devoted alum, parent, grandparent, and friend.”

In addition to the Saint Mary’s Hall Board of Trustees, Joan served former Texas Governors Anne Richards and George W. Bush on the Texas Criminal Health Board, the Highland Hereford and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers’ Associations, Bats International, and the Executive Committee of the San Antonio Conservation Society. She was active with the Conservation Society of San Antonio for more than 40 years. A musician who played piano and guitar and spoke two languages, Joan was also a dedicated rancher and avid fisher.

Like her mother, who was named a Distinguished Alumna in 1985, Joan was awarded the honorable distinction in 2001. The award is presented to alumni whose contributions to Saint Mary's Hall and the greater community have set a standard of excellence.

Kelleher Family

The Kelleher Family

During the presentation of her Distinguished Alumni Award, Joan said in her inimitable way, “Had I not attended Saint Mary’s Hall and received a first-rate education, I would not have been admitted to Connecticut College. And I would not have met Herb Kelleher, and would not have brought him to Texas. And there would most likely have never been a Southwest Airlines. Herb, I guess Southwest owes it all to me and Saint Mary’s Hall!”

“From the moment I stepped on campus, Joan’s dedication to and support of the education of generations of SMH students was felt,” said Head of School Len Miller. “Her children and grandchildren’s impact, as well as her direct support and stewardship, have touched the lives of countless students. Joan’s legacy will forever be deeply rooted in the storied history of our school.”

Joan was an extraordinary friend of SMH and we are grateful for the deep connection she maintained with Saint Mary’s Hall throughout her life. Our school is a more special place because of her partnership and support. With a sincere and thankful heart, we extend our condolences to her family and mourn the loss of an incredible friend and champion of the community.