The University of Portland Names Robert Kelly as Its Twenty-First President

Robert Kelly has been appointed the twenty-first president of the University of Portland in Oregon. When he takes office in August, Dr. Kelly will be the first layperson and the first African American to hold the position in the 121-year history of the educational institution.

The University of Portland, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, enrolls about 3,600 undergraduate students and more than 400 graduate students, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education. African Americans make up just 2 percent of the undergraduate student body.

“It is with tremendous excitement, deep humility, abiding gratitude, and profound joy that I stand before you as president-elect of the University of Portland,” said Dr. Kelly when his appointment was announced to the campus community. “I come to this position after much discernment and prayer, and I do not take this responsibility lightly. I walk in the footsteps of so many wonderful Holy Cross priests and brothers who have preceded me in their service. And I pledge to the Congregation, and to all who call UP home, my commitment to ensuring that our Catholic, Holy Cross mission endures and thrives.”

Dr. Kelly is the former chief of staff to the president of Union College in Schenectady, New York. He also served as vice president for student development and adjunct professor of education at Seattle University.

Dr. Kelly holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Loyola University Maryland. He earned a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs administration from the University of Vermont and a Ph.D. in education policy, planning, and administration from the University of Maryland.


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