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Dr. Brendan Kelly, President at West Georgia, Selected by Arkansas State University System Trustees as Next President

(Arkansas State University Media Release)

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas State University System Board of Trustees Wednesday in a special meeting selected Dr. Brendan Kelly, president of the University of West Georgia since 2020, to become the third president of the ASU System.

Following an executive session, the board unanimously voted to approve Kelly to succeed Dr. Chuck Welch, who left the system in January after nearly 13 years to become president and CEO of the American Association of State Colleges & Universities (AASCU) in Washington, D.C.

Kelly’s start date has not been finalized but will be no later than Oct. 1. Dr. Robin Myers will continue to serve as interim system president until that time.

The Board of Trustees worked with Academic Search to identify candidates for the position during the past two months. Trustee Price Gardner of Little Rock, who chaired the search on behalf of the board, said 23 applications were received and many additional candidates expressed interest in the position.

“We are excited to welcome Brendan Kelly as our new System president,” Gardner said. “We believe Dr. Kelly’s experience and outstanding record of achievement throughout his career will continue the growth and development of our System and lead us in addressing the everchanging challenges facing higher education and our focus on student success. He has been described as a visionary, talented communicator and a person with the ability to elevate the reputation of the institution and further its mission. Our board looks forward to the opportunity to work with him.”

Prior to joining UWG, Kelly was chancellor at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg and Greenville from 2017-2020 and was appointed as interim president of the University of South Carolina in 2019. He was vice president of university advancement and president of the UWF Foundation, Inc., at the University of West Florida in Pensacola from 2013-2017, where he led a successful $50 million capital campaign. His teaching career spanned 13 years in Florida and Michigan in communication arts.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to lead the ASU System because it represents one of a handful of roles in the United States in which one has the ability to influence and shape higher education throughout an entire state,” Kelly said. “Additionally, I am grateful to each member of the ASU Board of Trustees for their faith in me to offer leadership to a university system that has the capacity to provide access to high quality, higher education to the vast majority of Arkansans and many more beyond the state borders. This is an opportunity to support the economic evolution of the state at large.”

His focus at UWG has been innovative programming both inside and outside the classroom with an emphasis on creating valuable life and career outcomes for students, with a commitment to launch and advance student careers upon graduation. He serves on the board of directors of multiple regional and state economic development entities, as well as the Atlanta Regional Higher Education Consortium.

While leading and implementing the “Becoming UWG Strategic Plan,” Kelly has led UWG to record-breaking fund-raising efforts, including the largest gift in institutional history, and oversaw an enrollment resurgence. The UWG campuses in Carrollton, Newnan and Douglasville have a combined 12,769 students. Its spring enrollment was 11.4% higher than last year, while its graduate enrollment surged 41%. UWG recently completed a move in athletics from the NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference to the Division I Atlantic Sun Conference.

Kelly is a member of the AASCU board of directors and was named “One of the Most Influential Georgians” by Georgia Trend magazine and James Magazine. He was active with the National Forensic Association and debate competitions for many years and was honored as a Hall of Fame inductee and with the Eddie Myers Distinguished Service Award.

He received a Bachelor of Science degree in public relations and a Master of Arts degree in communication at Eastern Michigan University and his Doctor of Philosophy in communication at Wayne State University.

Kelly and his wife, Dr. Tressa Kelly, have three children – Bree Luckey (married to Drew Luckey), Liam and Kieran.

Kelly will be formally introduced at the Board of Trustees’ regularly scheduled meeting Thursday at 10 a.m. at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. The meeting may be viewed via Zoom at https://astatecall.zoom.us/j/97406304284.

Gardner said a five-year contract will be developed. His annual salary will be $450,000, and he will reside in the system residence in Little Rock.

The Arkansas State University System, based in Little Rock, serves almost 35,000 students annually on campuses in Arkansas and Queretaro, Mexico, and globally online. The System includes Arkansas State University, a four-year Carnegie R2 research institution in Jonesboro with degree centers at ASU-Beebe, ASU-Mountain Home and ASU Mid-South in West Memphis. Arkansas State University Campus Queretaro opened in September 2017. The system’s two-year college institutions include ASU-Beebe, with additional campuses in Heber Springs and Searcy and an instructional site at Little Rock Air Force Base; ASU-Newport, with additional campuses in Jonesboro and Marked Tree; ASU-Mountain HomeASU Mid-South in West Memphis; and ASU Three Rivers in Malvern. Henderson State University in Arkadelphia became the system’s second four-year institution member in February 2021.

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