UnitedHealth Group support helps V.P. give back at Arc

| September 23, 2010 | 1 Comment

John Kelly, vice president of the tax department at UnitedHealth Group in Minnetonka, has been part of the company’s effort to be more socially responsible. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

When John Kelly read in a 2006 Wall Street Journal article that UnitedHealth Group was one of several companies accused of not appropriately accounting for executive stock options, he was concerned.

“I did a lot of soul searching,” said Kelly, vice president of the company’s tax department since 2001. “My morale was going down, our stock price went down, people were saying a lot of bad things about us.”

He considered leaving the company. But after investigating the company’s actions, “I determined that it was accounting minutia that no one really understood,” Kelly said. “We  changed our programs, modified our systems, spent tons of money fixing the problem.”

UnitedHealth Group is a better company now, he said.

Creating a new culture

“We wanted to create a different image at UnitedHealth Group. We said, we’re going to become a very active, socially responsible company,” Kelly said.

Because of those changes, especially the encouragement and support of his volunteer work at Arc Greater Twin Cities, Kelly credited a portion of the Leading With Faith award to UnitedHealth Group.

Kim Keprios, Arc’s CEO, said in the nomination form: “John’s son, Jack, has autism, so he has a personal understanding of the challenges people face when they, or a loved one, have an intellectual or developmental disability. . . . John has taken on some of Arc’s most challenging volunteer leadership positions.”

Kelly said he is most proud of his accomplishments with Arc, not because they nominated him for the award, but because he took on the challenge of fundraising.

“I did something that was a little bit outside of my comfort zone and I got comfortable at it,” he said.

Kelly and his wife, Paula, spent three years as co-chairs of Arc’s annual gala, for which John recruited many sponsors. This year, he is leading Arc’s capital campaign.

“I learned a great lesson: Sometimes the Lord puts in front of you opportunities and challenges,” he said.

Kelly said he is certain that God also put his son Jack, 20, in his care “to make me a better person.”

“My son — who barely communicates with me, barely talks because of his disabilities . . . has been a way for me to access God in a different way than I ever could before,” Kelly said. “He clearly accelerated my move into doing things in the community . . . for people who are vulnerable, for the unborn. . . . He is my quiet mentor.”

Although the workplace is supposed to be secular, Kelly said his Catholic faith guides his decisions and actions. The first basic value he promotes is doing the right thing.

“If you are not seen that way, you are not leading with faith,” Kelly said. “Your faith should be intrinsic. It should be so much a part of you that you don’t think about it.”

The importance of leading with faith is that people know where you stand, he said. They see it by the way you live your life.

“What I won is recognition that I’m willing to stand up and live the faith that I preach, and that’s Catholic,” he said.


  • Title: Vice president-Tax Department, UnitedHealth Group
  • Parish: St. Joseph, West St. Paul
  • Spouse: Paula Kelly
  • Children: Jack, Bridget
  • Activities: Arc board, Wakota Life Care Center, Catholic Charities finance committee, Relay for Life team, sponsor for a child in Mexico and a seminarian from American Samoa, who is studying in Rome


Category: Leading With Faith