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Jan 18, 2014 06:26 AM EST

John Kelly Promises to Bring Back FAU’s Lost Reputation

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John W. Kelly, the 59-year-old vice president for economic development at Clemson University in South Carolina, has been unanimously chosen as the seventh president of Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

"I am privileged to have been selected as the next president of FAU," Kelly said in a statement.

On Friday, eight members of the Board of Trustees voted for Kelly while five of them nominated former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla. One trustee, who was in favour of Kelly, said that he brims with enthusiasm, while the other said that his Southern accent could prove advantageous when interacting with politicians in the state Capitol.

"Today marks a great day in the history of FAU," said Anthony Barbar, chair of FAU's Board of Trustees. "We are proud of our selection of Dr. Kelly as our leader, and we are confident that his vision will guide FAU to its next level of greatness."

One of the board members said that since Kelly is unfamiliar with Tallahassee, he needs to get things started, right away. "...He needs to shake hands, kiss babies, [and] get us money."

The school hasn't had a president for nearly a year. Mary Jane Saunders, the school's last president, was forced to resign following a series of controversies that plagued the school including the 'Jesus Stomping Incident' and naming rights agreement.

"There is no doubt the recent controversies have been significant and distracting to all members of the University community. The issues and the fiercely negative media coverage have forced me to reassess my position as the President of FAU. I must make choices that are the best for the University, me and my family," Saunders said in a statement.

Kelly said that he would like to heal broken relationships and attempt to make more friends and not lose them.

"This a new era, and I'm elated to be here," Kelly said. "I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I'm ready to go," Sun Shine Estate News reports.

Kelly said that he would accelerate the momentum established by his predecessors by improving FAU's academic standing and recruiting higher number of out-of-state students.

During his visits to FAU, Kelly said he was impressed with the Jupiter campus that is home to biotech researchers, Scripps Research Institute and the Max Planck Florida Institute.

"No one else in the country has that," Kelly said. "These are incredible assets that are somewhat hidden from a national audience. I think the Jupiter campus could be developed into a national model," Sun-Sentinel reports.

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