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Professor Kelly Ready for New Life

May 1, 1998

Mary Ann Travis

Just call him professor. Eamon M. Kelly is looking forward to stepping down as president of Tulane on July 1, and he's especially relishing the prospect of answering to the title of professor. Kelly will serve as the ranking faculty member of Tulane's new Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer.

And he will do so as the first holder of the Margaret W. and Eamon M. Kelly Distinguished Chair in International Development, an honor announced last month. Yet "professor" is not the only new title Kelly will be getting used to. He's also been named a senior fellow for the Aspen Institute, a private think-tank in Washington, D.C.

And, in line with his work with the Payson Center and the Aspen Institute, Kelly will be working closely with the Inter-American Development Bank, whose headquarters are also in Washington. The Inter-American Development Bank is an international financial institution that supports economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Kelly will also continue to serve on the board of the National Science Foundation.

All these activities overlap, Kelly said. "It's sustainable human development and information technology combined." Kelly will teach at the Payson Center's Washington campus before returning to the New Orleans campus in September 1999.

Through the Payson Center, directed by William Bertrand, Wisner Professor of Public Health, professor of sociology and outgoing vice president for institutional planning, research and innovation, Tulane offers a multidisciplinary master's degree and a PhD in applied development. The program includes training in the management and implementation of global development projects based on information technologies.

Many developing countries, said Kelly, are clamoring for the new technologies to support their emerging market economies as well as to address social and health crises, including tracking and predicting famines and deadly virus outbreaks. Seed money to launch the Payson Center came from Doris and Martin Payson. Martin Payson is a member of the Tulane Board of Administrators.

"Both programs [the master's and the PhD] have a heavy emphasis on technology," said Kelly. "We want the students not only to matriculate with a master's degree and a PhD, but we also want them to be on the cutting edge of the use of information technology, not just literate in information technology, but really facile and able to develop their own software programs."

Kelly himself will be working on a variety of different projects in the field of international development and technology transfer. "I will probably focus most heavily in Latin America," he said. Kelly will do research in the area of reforming institutions in the developing world, concentrating on government agencies and not-for-profit institutions and how they respond in a changing environment.

Another project of Kelly's will be to expand software programs in sustainable human development, with the goal to put an entire master's program in that field on CD-ROM. He'll also be looking into the broader applicability of information technology to undergraduate and graduate education in the developing world.

A goal-driven man, Kelly is happy that Tulane has achieved most of the goals he set out for the university when he became president in 1981, including attracting outstanding and diverse students and faculty, fulfilling the mission of a research university, rebuilding the campus and increasing the financial assets of the university to more than a billion dollars.

Kelly said while he's received much of the credit for these accomplishments, "it's really a large group of people working together" that made these successes possible. Kelly does have a few regrets. He would have liked the endowment to have grown more, and he wishes faculty salaries had reached the first quintile of national rankings during his tenure. But the achievement he hopes he will be remembered for--what will be the lasting hallmark of his administration--is the increase in diversity in the university.
"We've come a long way, until now we have the largest percentage of African-American students of any private research university in the country--and of most public research universities," Kelly said. Kelly said the faculty needs more diversity in both race and gender, "but I think we're starting to move in the right direction."

Kelly is proud of the unique partnership that Tulane has with Xavier University. Xavier, whose student body is predominately African-American, has embarked with Tulane on several joint projects, including the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Week for Peace, the Center for Bioenvironmental Research and the public housing initiative for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Tulane's business, engineering and graduate schools also jointly offer degrees with Xavier.

Such activities and others show, said Kelly, "We are not simply living off the community. We are in the community, making a contribution to its success." In June, Kelly and his wife, Margaret, will be moving out of the president's house, the site of countless teas and parties, to their own home, a mile or so away from campus. Will he miss the endless entertaining? No, not at all. "It's going to be a very different world," said Kelly, "pushing ideas as opposed to pushing paper and people."

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