The Suffolk University community will celebrate President Marisa Kelly and the transformative impact of the University she leads during inauguration ceremonies on Friday, Oct. 12, in historic Converse Hall, 88 Tremont Street, Boston.
Among the dignitaries speaking at Kelly’s inauguration will be Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, Massachusetts House Speaker and Suffolk University Law School alumnus Robert DeLeo and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Elspeth Cypher, a Suffolk Law alumna.
Kelly, Suffolk’s 11th president, is propelling the University forward through a focus on academic quality, experiential learning, global reach, diversity and inclusion, reputation, advancement and enrollment—all of which she sees as contributing to an outstanding student experience.
Kelly has led Suffolk University since 2016, initially as acting president. She was named permanent president in March 2018. Her accomplishments include adopting innovative curriculum and shattering fundraising goals. She is firmly committed to Suffolk’s longstanding commitment to creating pathways of opportunity, and her leadership instills confidence in students, faculty and staff.
“Suffolk University is fortunate to have President Marisa Kelly leading it forward,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Robert C. Lamb, Jr. “Since her arrival in 2014, she has been an agent for change. Never wavering from her number one priority, student success, she has continued to push innovative, thoughtful strategies into practice to meet the growing challenge of providing a global education to today’s students. With Marisa Kelly as president, Suffolk will remain true to its core mission and succeed while meeting the demands of a constantly changing environment.”
A celebratory weekend
The inauguration will be the anchor for Suffolk’s annual Alumni and Family Weekend, which brings students, faculty, staff, alumni and families together to enjoy activities—both educational and entertaining—that take full advantage of Suffolk’s urban campus. The weekend’s events will include a Ford Hall Forum on the state of democracies, a fun run, a tour of historic Beacon Hill and much more.
The University will dedicate its Tremont Street residence hall in honor of Michael S. Smith and Larry E. Smith on Friday morning. The brothers studied business at Suffolk, founded a succession of highly successful insurance businesses, and have been generous in their support of the University’s athletics programs and facilities and scholarships. Larry Smith was elected to the Suffolk Board of Trustees in 2016. A naming celebration for the Michael S. Smith ’61 & Larry E. Smith ’65 Residence Hall will take place at 11:30 a.m. at 150 Tremont St.
Faculty and longtime members of the University staff wearing full academic regalia will process in solidarity with the president, joined by representatives of colleges and universities from throughout the region. The academic procession from Suffolk’s Sargent Hall to the Tremont Temple precedes the inauguration ceremony, which begins at 3 p.m.
Kelly will give a significant presidential address about Suffolk’s core commitments and her vision for the University’s future. In addition to public officials, representatives of University alumni, trustees, faculty, students and staff will offer remarks and greetings.
Suffolk's a cappella groups will perform during the inauguration, and the community will continue the celebration with student performances, exhibits and international food stations in Sargent Hall following the ceremony.
With her firm commitment to Suffolk’s root mission of creating access and opportunity, Kelly embraces the University as an engine of social mobility that has been identified among the top 25 percent of higher education institutions nationally that move students from the bottom 40 percent of the income bracket to the top 40 percent.
“Creating and sustaining a vision for a university is no easy task, but in two years President Kelly has been able to push forward a vision rooted in Suffolk’s historical mission of access and opportunity,” said Acting Provost Sebastián Royo. “Marisa can see beyond the ambiguity and challenges of today’s higher education context and has developed an empowering vision for Suffolk. Her commitment to access, opportunity, inclusion and diversity stand out, and her passion for our students shines through in everything that she does. She is also a person of tremendous integrity. Suffolk is very fortunate to have her as the leader who will chart the University’s course to a promising future.”
At a time of changing demographics, Suffolk is seeing positive enrollment trends under Kelly’s leadership. More than 7,500 undergraduate, graduate and law students attend the University, and the undergraduate student body is comprised of nearly 36 percent first-generation students and 22 percent international students.
The president’s focus on financial management, local and international partnerships, and academic excellence are yielding positive trends for the University and enhancing the educational environment.
“The University is in good hands, with an influx of dynamic new faculty members joining our large body of seasoned and dedicated teacher/scholars,” said Economics Professor Jonathan Haughton, chair of the University’s Faculty Senate. “The University also has a great heart, welcoming with open arms a remarkably varied and talented corps of students from here and around the globe. Marisa Kelly is eminently suited to the wonderful challenge of continuing to build on these strengths.”
About President Kelly
Kelly joined Suffolk University as senior vice president for academic affairs and provost in August 2014, with responsibility for working collaboratively to ensure the quality of the educational experience for students at all levels, in and outside of the classroom. In that role Kelly distinguished herself on the senior leadership team and demonstrated her commitment to experiential learning and the development of interdisciplinary educational opportunities.
Kelly has a distinguished record of collaborative academic leadership. Before joining Suffolk she served as provost at Ithaca College, dean and McQuinn Distinguished Chair of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of St. Thomas, Minn., and faculty member and administrator at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.
She holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Kansas, an MA in Political Theory from San Francisco State University and a BA in Government from California State University at Sacramento.