‘I Could Not Stop Smiling’: Emily Thompson Receives 2nd Annual ‘Kelly Devine Scholarship Award’


Kelly Devine taught English at New Canaan High School and—by all accounts—was a friend to most everyone she met. As a Norwalk teen, she excelled as an athlete as well as a scholar, and nurtured a passion for books and reading.

Kelly Devine

On April 7, 2016, she passed away suddenly, sending reverberations through the public schools and wider New Canaan community. Since then, those who knew Kelly Devine have established a series of remembrances, in the form of a memorial bench out front of the school, a dual New Canaan-Norwalk swim meet, an award for a NCHS senior and a mural with pictures and letters.

There’s also a Kelly Devine Scholarship Fund, created by her parents Jay and Cathy, that benefits a college-bound Norwalk High School senior each year. At an impromptu memorial in April, commemorating one year since their friend’s passing, New Canaan educators gathered and raised $400 for the fund.

The Kelly Devine bench stands outside the front entrance of New Canaan High School. Credit: Michael Dinan

The scholarship itself reflects who Kelly was and what she enjoyed, according to her father.

“Our daughter Kelly was an excellent swimmer—she was a Class LL State champion in the 50 free,” Jay Devine told NewCanaanite.com. “She was also a superb student, graduating from [Norwalk High School] fourth out of a class of 400. But above all, she was something of a literary scholar. She read everything she could get her hands on. We try to find someone who shares Kelly’s interests.”

This year, Emily Thompson of Norwalk High School was named the recipient of the 2nd annual Kelly Devine Scholarship.

Emma Thompson

“I was so honored and humbled when I found out that I had won the Kelly Devine Scholarship” Thompson told NewCanaanite.com in an email. “Knowing that she loved to read as much as I do made the award feel very personal and I was so glad to honor her memory. I could not stop smiling after receiving the award.”

Thompson, like Kelly Devine, has a passion for English and plans to major in journalism at Fordham University in the fall.

Posters on the walls of the New Canaan YMCA pool during the inaugural ‘Kelly Devine Dual’ meet between NCHS and Norwalk High School, on Oct. 23, 2016. Credit: Michael Dinan

“My favorite subject would be English,” she said. “I enjoy writing everything from narratives to thesis papers to speeches. Writing is such a great creative outlet and allows others to hear your voice. I love discovering new books and getting to discuss them with my classmates to gain new perspectives.”

At Norwalk High School, Thompson is involved in myriad activities ranging from the school’s yearbook and literary magazine to the National Honors Society and the Bears Beating Cancer Club.

Matthew Donaldson and David Ferm win the first-ever Kelly Devine Award at the NCHS Recognition Assembly, held May 25, 2016. Credit: Michael Dinan

She also helps out outside of school volunteering for local organizations and businesses.

“I volunteer at the New Canaan Nature Center and the Norwalk Public Library… Last year I volunteered for T.A.I.L.S, which helps spay and neuter strays in the Norwalk/Westport community. I am also a member of Norwalk’s Mayor’s Youth Council.”

Thompson said that she was especially happy about receiving the award after learning about the kind of person Kelly Devine was and how others looked up to and admired her.

“Hearing about what a fantastic and well-loved person/teacher she was made getting the award even more special,” she said.

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