University of Portland Regent Tim Morgan, Regents Chairman Thomas Arndorfer and  Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Elise Moentmann smile April 26 as they listen to Robert Kelly, who will take the post of U.P. president July 1. (Bob Kerns/Catholic Sentinel)
University of Portland Regent Tim Morgan, Regents Chairman Thomas Arndorfer and Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Elise Moentmann smile April 26 as they listen to Robert Kelly, who will take the post of U.P. president July 1. (Bob Kerns/Catholic Sentinel)

UPDATED WITH NEW PHOTOS APRIL 27, 7:48 AM

The University of Portland trustees have named Robert Kelly, a vice president from Loyola University in Baltimore, as 21st president of the North Portland Catholic college.

Kelly, who holds a doctorate in philosophy, becomes U.P.’s first president who is not a priest or brother from the Congregation of Holy Cross. He also is the first African American to lead UP in its 121-year history. He assumes office July 1.

Thomas Arndorfer, chairman of the board of regents, made the announcement April 26 outside U.P.’s Chapel of Christ the Teacher.

“Our goal was to embark upon a thorough, patient, prayerful, transparent, and focused search that attracted a deeply qualified and diverse field of respondents,” said Arndorfer. “We pursued with great passion and conviction the very best possible leader, and we are confident that we have found that person — a devout Catholic who will embrace and promote our Catholic identity and Holy Cross charism.”

Kelly is married to Bridget Turner Kelly, who holds a doctorate in education and teaches at the University of Maryland. They have two children.

Holy Cross Father Bill Lies, superior of the U.S. Province of Holy Cross, expressed his support of Kelly. “From the very beginnings of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Basil Moreau, our founder, welcomed all to join us in our mission of education — a work of Resurrection as he called it,” Father Lies said. “We are proud to welcome Dr. Kelly now as our first lay president, and commit to working closely with him for the continuing success of this wonderful institution.”

Kelly said he is grateful and joyful. “I am richly blessed to have the opportunity to serve and to lead UP — a truly extraordinary institution,” he said, adding that he is humbled to be U.P.’s first lay president.

“I come to this position after much discernment and prayer, and I do not take this responsibility lightly,” Kelly said. “I walk in the footsteps of so many wonderful Holy Cross priests and brothers who have preceded me in their service on the bluff. And I pledge to the congregation, and to all who call U.P. home, my commitment to ensuring that our Catholic, Holy Cross mission endures and thrives.”

UP Regent Tim Morgan led the national search.

“Dr. Kelly is a man of profound intellect, inspiring vision, and unmatched commitment to the transformative power of Catholic higher education,” said Morgan. “He is devoted to principles of shared governance; to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice; to broadening access to higher education; to building a great team of leaders and uniting them around a shared vision.”

Kelly holds a doctorate in philosophy, education policy, planning and administration from the University of Maryland; a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs administration from the University of Vermont; and a bachelor’s degree in arts and political science from Loyola University Maryland. The Pacific Northwest is already familiar territory for Kelly since he once served as vice president for student development and as adjunct professor of education at Seattle University.

Kelly succeeds Holy Cross Father Mark Poorman, who served for 10 years at U.P. — seven as its 20th president. Father Poorman returned to teaching, research, and pastoral duties at the University of Notre Dame. Since July 1, 2021, Herbert Medina has served as acting president and provost for the university, a responsibility for which Arndorfer expressed gratitude and appreciation.

“While many of us were busy shaping the future of UP, it was equally important that the present state of university operations and instruction remain on a positive, upward trajectory,” said Arndorfer.