Meet Our Chancellor

Chancellor Brendan Kelly, Ph.D.

Optimism, energy and a bold new vision for the future are hallmarks of Dr. Brendan B. Kelly’s leadership since he became chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate in March 2017.

Chancellor Kelly and his executive team have continued to position USC Upstate as one of the top regional comprehensive universities in the Southeast—one that continues to create life-changing opportunities for students and the communities of the Palmetto State’s Upstate region and beyond.

During Kelly’s tenure, USC Upstate has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as the No. 2 Top Public Regional University in the South, as the 12th best baccalaureate college in the nation by Washington Monthly magazine, and as a College of Distinction.

As the head of the largest regional comprehensive university in the USC system, Kelly has implemented Up Together: USC Upstate Strategic Plan 2018-2023. The plan outlines three priorities: Providing rigorous, career relevant and accessible education; enhancing the quality of life in Upstate South Carolina; and being a university of choice for faculty, staff, students, and the community. Kelly has led an academic reorganization that resulted in two new colleges, numerous initiatives to improve and expand the physical campus, including an extensive renovation of the Library, and a rebranding project that aims to express more clearly USC Upstate’s mission and culture. 


Prior to joining USC Upstate, Dr. Kelly was at the University of West Florida (UWF) where he led and managed the Division of University Advancement, which included the units of University Marketing and Communications, Alumni Relations, Development, Community Engagement, University of West Florida Historic Trust and WUWF Public Media. He also served as president of the UWF Foundation, Inc. where he was responsible for activities constituting effective and trustworthy stewardship of the UWF Foundation’s assets. Additionally, Kelly served as chief executive officer of the UWF Historic Trust, which is dedicated to collecting, preserving, interpreting and sharing the history of Northwest Florida. From 2000-2004, he served as Assistant Director of Forensics and Lecturer at Eastern Michigan University.


Ph.D. in rhetoric and political communication from Wayne State University. Bachelor’s degree in public relations and a master’s degree in communication from Eastern Michigan University.


UWF Distinguished Teaching Award, National Forensic Association (NFA) Hall of Fame inductee, NFA Eddie Myers Distinguished Service Award, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) Young Alumnus Award, EMU Forensics Hall of Fame inductee, University of West Florida Faculty Excellence Award in Student Affairs, recognized as a Patriotic Employer by the U.S. Department of Defense.

First Lady, Dr. Tressa Kelly
First Lady Dr. Tressa Kelly

Dr. Tressa Kelly leads a number of initiatives at USC Upstate. She is involved in programs to support the beautification of our campus and is an avid supporter of Upstate's athletics and arts programs.

Meet Our First Lady