Dr. John Kelly
President of Florida Atlantic University
John Kelly was named the seventh president of Florida Atlantic University in January 2014, and quickly declared his intention to make FAU “America’s fastest-improving university.” The university has established a track record of relentless improvement under his transformational leadership, which includes doubling research expenditures, enrolling an all-time high number of National Merit Scholars, setting new records for private gifts to the FAU Foundation, increasing graduation and academic progress rates, and raising the profile of FAU’s athletics program. In 2020, for the first time in university history, FAU was ranked among the nation’s top public schools by U.S. News & World Report, landing at No. 140. In 2021, FAU moved up four spots to No. 136.
President Kelly began his academic career in 1982 as an assistant professor at Texas A&M University. Three years later, he went to Clemson, rising through the ranks to become professor and department head by 1991. He was named vice president for public service and agriculture in 1997 and vice president for economic development in 2010.
Active on the national level, President Kelly served on the boards of the Administrative Heads Section of the National Association of State Universities and Land-grant Colleges (now the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities) and the American Distance Education Consortium. His leadership excellence has been recognized with the South Florida Business Journal’s Ultimate CEO Award, Sun Sentinel’s Excalibur Award for Large Business Leader of the Year in Palm Beach County and the Clemson University Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award. He also was named one of Florida Trend’s “500 Most Influential Business Leaders.”
President Kelly was raised in South Carolina. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Clemson and both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. He is married to FAU First Lady Carolyn Kelly, and they are the parents of Carly and Stella.