Eamon Michael Kelly, former Executive Director and current Professor of International Development and Technology Transfer at the Payson Center of Tulane University, was the first social scientist to be elected Chairman of the Board of the National Science Foundation. Kelly is the President Emeritus of Tulane University having served as its president for seventeen years. During his tenure, Tulane was noted not only for its academic and financial growth but also for having the highest percentage of African American students of any major private research university in the United States. He is the former Chairman of the Association of American Universities comprised of the sixty leading research universities in the United States and Canada. Kelly is the original Chairman of the Satellite Working Group, which established the first nation wide private satellite system in the United States, for the benefit of the Public Broadcasting Service; a by-product was the creation of the National Captioning Institute providing closed captioning for the hard of hearing. His current teaching, research and service interests focus on sustainable human development and organizational leadership and management in the developing world. His recent project management responsibilities include being Principal Investigator on a contract with UNAIDS as the primary technical consultant on its Global Monitoring and Evaluation projects, and a USAID funded project establishing an Academy for Leadership in Disaster Management. He is also the principal investigator on a Uganda Trust Fund contract, funded principally by the MacArthur Foundation, to provide technical assistance to camp residents for community development in Northern Uganda.
Kelly was born in New York City and attended Columbia University from 1960 to 1965, where he earned the master and Ph.D. degrees in economics. Following graduation from Columbia, he joined the Penn State faculty at University Park, Pennsylvania.
In 1968, Kelly was appointed to U.S. government service by the President serving as Director of Policy Formulation with the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. He was later named Special Assistant to the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, where he participated in planning and initiating the federal government’s first minority economic development program. Kelly joined the Ford Foundation in 1969 and served as Officer-in-Charge for the Office of Social Development, the Foundation’s largest domestic and civil rights division. In 1975, he was named Officer-in-Charge of a $50 million social investment portfolio where, among other projects, he developed the nation’s first private domestic satellite system; a by-product of this project was the creation of the National Captioning Institute to provide closed captioning for the hard of hearing. A few examples of other noteworthy investments include the Nature Conservancy, MS Magazine and Essence Magazine.
In 1977, Kelly served as a special consultant to the U.S. House of Representatives where he participated in drafting legislation that provided a $1.7 billion guarantee to prevent the insolvency of New York City. Later that year, he was appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. In that position, he successfully directed a government-wide investigation of the Teamster’s $1.4 billion Central States Pension Fund and led negotiations resulting in the Fund being transferred to private management. After leaving the Labor Department, Kelly returned, at the request of the Secretary of Labor, to direct efforts that ended a nationwide coal strike.
In 1981, he was chosen to serve as the 13th president of Tulane University. In July 1998, Kelly retired as president of the university. During his tenure as President, he was credited with leading Tulane into an unprecedented period of growth; Tulane increased its endowment sevenfold; the quality of the faculty and student body reached new heights; and the campus underwent dramatic changes with the construction of several new buildings and the renovation of many others. Currently, Kelly, whose areas of specialized interest are international urban and rural development and the role of science and technology in international development, holds the rank of professor in the departments of Economics, Latin American Studies, International Health and Development, Sociology, and the Payson Center for International Development.
Kelly is active on the boards of many professional, philanthropic, civic, and corporate organizations. He is currently Chair of the U. S. China Center for Energy and the Environment, the Geneva based International Centre for Migration and Health and the International Foundation for Education and Self Help (created and developed by the Reverend Leon H. Sullivan). In 1995, he was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the National Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation. In 1998, Kelly was elected chairman of the National Science Board and re-elected in 2000. During his tenure, he initiated and supervised a five volume study establishing a conceptual framework for U. S. science policy for the 21st century; one volume focused for the first time on the role of U.S. science in the developing world. His term expired in May, 2002. He had been named earlier by the President to the National Security Education Board, which addressed the future national security and economic competitiveness of the U. S. by increasing our national capacity to deal effectively with foreign cultures and languages through scholarships, fellowships and grants.
Most recently he was appointed by President Obama and the US Congress to the Board of The National Center for Advanced Research on Information and Digital Technologies. He was elected Chair at the first meeting of the Board. The purpose of the Center is to undertake research and development on education at all levels, emphasizing learning theory and the application of technology.