Decorative top bar

Mary Kelly Persyn

Mary Kelly Persyn

Hanna Institute Director

In November 2016, Mary Kelly was named director of the Hanna Institute.

Throughout Mary Kelly’s volunteer activities and career, she has increasingly focused on the well-being of children and youth, with special attention to children of color and children living in poverty. While at the University of Washington in Seattle, Mary Kelly earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in English literature and became a college instructor where she taught in the Educational Opportunity Program for first-generation college students.  Following her move back to California she joined the faculty at Eastside College Prep in Palo Alto and also tutored underserved children.

Seeing first-hand the disparities and service challenges faced by families, she realized that care systems needed to change, and she had the potential to affect greater systemic change as a lawyer.  Mary Kelly attended Columbia Law School, where she earned a Juris Doctor degree, founded a national moot court competition, led the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual as editor-in-chief, and participated in the Harvard Civil Rights Project.  Other notable achievements include working in judicial law for the Honorable John T. Noonan, Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Most recently, Mary Kelly was principal and founder of Persyn Law & Policy, where she practiced appellate and civil rights law. She has published articles on literature, criminal law, cybersecurity and child trauma.

Throughout her career, Mary Kelly has been deeply devoted to community work and service. For 12 years, she has served the American Constitution Society in a variety of roles, including as a national Next Generation Leader and a board member at Columbia Law School in Boston and San Francisco. She is a six-year veteran of the Women United steering committee of the United Way of the Bay Area. More recently, she joined the Board of Directors of the Center for Youth Wellness and the Statewide Steering Committee of the California Coalition to Counter Childhood Adversity. Since 2012, Mary Kelly has curated and led a yearly speaker series on equity and access as a partnership of the American Constitution Society and the United Way of the Bay Area.