Brian Kelly ’83 Named 2012 Commencement Speaker
“Brian has remained closely connected with Assumption and has proudly articulated how his Catholic liberal arts education and the strong sense of community at Assumption have served as a great foundation for his successful career,” said Assumption College President Francesco Cesareo. “He is passionate about how Assumption College uniquely combines both intellectual and spiritual development that supports and encourages each student, and I expect that our graduating seniors and audience members will find inspiration from his life story and experiences.”
A 1983 graduate of Assumption College, Kelly is a veteran of 21 seasons as a head football coach in the collegiate setting. He is heading into his third season as the head football coach at Notre Dame, the 29th in their storied history, and he has guided the Fighting Irish to 16 wins and two bowl games over the last two seasons. Kelly became the first Notre Dame head coach to win a bowl game in his first season with the Fighting Irish. Currently the fifth-winningest active coach in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), his 110 victories as head coach since 2001 are more than all but two active FBS head coaches – Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and Mack Brown of Texas.
Born in Everett, Mass., and raised in Chelsea, Mass., Kelly attended St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, Mass. A four-year star linebacker for the Assumption College club football team, and captain of the squad in 1981 and 1982, the Assumption teams in those years finished 8-3 and 7-1-1. After graduating from Assumption with a bachelor's degree in political science, he served the College as linebacker coach and defensive coordinator (as well as softball coach) from 1983 to 1986.
Kelly has long praised the value of an Assumption College education and its role in his spiritual and intellectual development, which “allowed me to grow as a human being,” he said. “I am a proud graduate of Assumption College. I greatly value the education I received there as well as what the College taught me about commitment to service. I am delighted to return to my alma mater to address the graduating class of 2012.”
He joined Michigan’s Grand Valley State University staff in 1987 as a graduate assistant and defensive backs coach. There, Kelly became the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator in 1989 and took over, at age 28, as head coach in 1991. Kelly compiled a 118-35-2 record (.767) in 13 seasons as head coach of the Lakers, highlighted by NCAA Division II national championships in 2002 and 2003. In 2009, he was inducted into the Grand Valley State Athletics Hall of Fame, and in 2011 Grand Valley State renamed its Laker Turf Building the Kelly Family Sports Center. The Kelly Family Sports Center is a 138,000-square-foot building that houses a regulation football field and a six-lane, 300-meter track.
After coaching three seasons at Central Michigan where Kelly helped the Chippewas win the Mid-American Conference title in 2006, Kelly spent three seasons at the University of Cincinnati from 2007 to 2009. Kelly led the Bearcats to a 34-6 record (.850) and two straight outright BIG EAST Conference titles that earned BCS appearances in 2008 (FedEx Orange Bowl) and 2009 (Allstate Sugar Bowl). He became the first BIG EAST football coach to win the conference’s coach of the year honor three years in a row and Kelly’s 12-0 squad in 2009 helped him earn ESPN/Home Depot National Coach of the Year Award. At the time he accepted the position at Notre Dame, he qualified as the winningest active BIG EAST football coach as well as the only league coach with more than 150 wins.
The parents of three children, Kelly and his wife Paqui host annual events to benefit the Kelly Cares Foundation, established to support organizations, initiatives and programs that align with the goals and values of their family. Paqui, a two-time breast cancer survivor, and Brian have their charity focus on three main areas: personal involvement, with emphasis on breast cancer research, prevention, education and awareness; education and institutional advancement; and community involvement in selected initiatives and projects.
In June 2010, Brian and Paqui made a $250,000 gift to the University of Notre Dame in support of endeavors in research, academics and community engagement. The gift directly supports three Notre Dame initiatives: cancer research, the Hesburgh Libraries and the Robinson Community Learning Center.