President Kelly gives first State of the University Address

In the past year, Florida Atlantic University saw its name in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Dr. John Kelly, the university’s new president, aims to change that.

Kelly’s State of the University address, held Thursday morning in the Carole and Barry Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium, highlighted his ideas to propel a positive and lasting image of FAU in order to achieve national recognition.

“What if we became the fastest improving university in the country?” Kelly asked the crowd of students, teachers, administrators, and general public. “Do you believe we can do it?”

Kelly came to FAU from Clemson University in South Carolina where he watched his school become nationally prominent through academics and athletics. He used his experience with Clemson as the basis for his plans for the future at FAU.

With over 30,000 students attending its six campuses, FAU has been heavily penalized with state funding for failing to have students graduate on time. In response, FAU recently announced plans to raise the GPA requirement for applicants. Kelly also announced another plan to reduce the number of students admitted in future classes, which was implemented with the 2014 incoming freshman class.

“In 2014, the average GPA of the incoming freshman class was 3.8. We should continue to improve that every year,” said Kelly.

In addition to Kelly’s address, the program also featured a moment of silence for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and a performance of “God Bless America” from FAU Police Captain Larry Ervin — who served with the NYPD on that day.

Carly Jo Jackson , an FAU student who was featured on this season of  “America’s Got Talent,” also performed a soulful rendition of “Here Comes the Sun.”

Research opportunities for faculty and students and their recent successes were a major theme of Kelly’s address, as they went along with his ideas of making FAU nationally known. In the 50 years since FAU opened, Kelly noted how far the university has come and turns his head toward future achievements.

“I would like to see FAU become known as one of America’s great universities,” Kelly stated.

Athletics are also an important part of Kelly’s plans to move forward, as 19 of FAU’s 21 intercollegiate teams are part of the NCAA. FAU has around 450 student athletes who are working to set the model for all those who play sports while attending college.

“There is a strong synergy between academics and athletes,” Kelly noted.

Perhaps Kelly’s greatest dream is to see the city of Boca Raton develop its connection with FAU and become a “college town” much like Gainesville and Tallahassee did with their respective schools. He makes it clear what image he wants people to have when they hear the words “Boca Raton.”

“Forget Jerry Seinfeld,” Kelly said.

[Alexandra Vanerven contributed to the reporting of this story.]