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RK Kelley, former Orlando Philharmonic president, joins board of Dr. Phillips Charities

RK Kelley, former Orlando Philharmonic president, joins board of Dr. Phillips Charities
RK Kelley (right, pictured with then-executive director Chris Barton) spoke at the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra's 25th-anniversary gala in May 2018 at the Hilton Orlando. (Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra / Courtesy photo)

RK Kelley, a past president of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, has joined the board of directors of Dr. Phillips Charities, one of Orlando’s best-known philanthropic organizations.

Kelley, who said she was both “honored and humbled,” shared the news Wednesday on social media.

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“Thank you, Dr. Phillips Charities, for this tremendous privilege to join you in service to our great and growing community,” Kelley posted on Facebook. “Like so many, I’ve long admired this organization’s broad vision, insistence on excellence, and of course, great generosity.”

The appointment brings together two key players in the ongoing debate over rental costs for local arts groups in the new Steinmetz Hall, opening next year at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

The center was named for 20th-century citrus magnate Philip Phillips after a donation of $25 million from Dr. Phillips Charities, but the philanthropy’s president resigned from the arts center’s board last month. In his resignation letter, Kenneth Robinson blasted the center’s management.

Robinson said disputes over the naming-rights agreement, as well as concerns about treatment of local arts organizations and the center’s financial viability, had “immeasurably damaged the relationship between Dr. Phillips Charities and the Dr. Phillips Center.”

However, the naming-rights contract allows the charitable organization to be represented on the arts center’s board of directors and executive committee — the leadership roles from which Robinson resigned.

RK Kelley, a past president of the Orlando Philharmonic board of directors, has been named to the board of Dr. Phillips Charities.
RK Kelley, a past president of the Orlando Philharmonic board of directors, has been named to the board of Dr. Phillips Charities. (Courtesy photo)

In his resignation letter, Robinson spelled out: “In accordance with our agreement, we reserve the right to appoint another person to serve on both committees at any point in time as we deem appropriate.”

On Wednesday, Kelley said she hadn’t been involved in any discussions about taking a position at the arts center, calling such speculation “premature.” Her tenure on the charitable organization’s board doesn’t take effect until Sept. 1. Robinson said he had no plans to fill the vacancy on the arts-center board at the present time.

Still a board member of the Philharmonic, Kelley has been part of the negotiating team for the orchestra as it seeks to find common ground with the arts center on renting Steinmetz Hall — negotiations that are also continuing with Orlando Ballet and Opera Orlando.

Kelley’s arts experience goes beyond the orchestra; she spent decades as a Walt Disney World executive in entertainment, costuming and worldwide strategies and standards. She still works on special projects for Disney.

“Over the years, I was involved in a lot of master planning,” Kelley said. “So I love what Dr. Phillips Charities is thinking about the community.”

She’s excited to explore social issues with the philanthropy’s board, she said — “How can we consider the challenges that come with all this rapid growth?” — but retains a soft spot for her area of expertise.

“Everybody knows my passion is the arts,” she said.

Kelley's credentials help round out the skill sets of Dr. Phillips Charities leaders, Robinson said.

"We strive to have a balanced board," he said. "She is a leader in the arts field."

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In its official statement announcing the appointment, Dr. Phillips Charities praised Kelley’s combination of strategic acumen and support of nonprofits.

“Her business experience combined with her strong commitment to philanthropy are what inspired us to extend an invitation to join our board of directors,” the organization wrote.

Dr. Phillips Charities has made more than $180 million in grants, pledges and other investments in Central Florida since the establishment of one of its components, the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation, in 1953.

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