B.A., Thomas Aquinas College, 1988; M.M.S., University of Notre Dame, 1990; Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 1994; Research Assistant, Jacques Maritain Center, 1989, 1991–1994; Teaching Assistant, University of Notre Dame, 1990–1993; Bradley Fellow, University of Notre Dame, 1989–1994; Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College, 1994–; Registrar, Thomas Aquinas College, 1999–2000; Assistant Dean, Thomas Aquinas College, 1999–2003; Dean, Thomas Aquinas College, 2009-2017; Member, Board of Governors, 2010-present, secretary 2018-present.
When 20-year-old Brian Kelly attended his sophomore philosophy class at Thomas Aquinas College in 1985, he never imagined that his tutor would one day be the College’s president and that he would one day be its dean. Twenty-five years later, however, Dr. Michael F. McLean, then a young member of the teaching faculty and in 2009 the newly appointed president, named Dr. Kelly to succeed him as dean of the College.
After graduating from the College in 1988, Dr. Kelly earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in medieval studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he studied under renowned Catholic philosopher Ralph McInerny, an emeritus member of the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors. During that time, Dr. Kelly worked as a research assistant at Dr. McInerny’s Jacques Maritain Center and as a teaching assistant. He also was awarded a prestigious Bradley Fellowship.
Upon completing his graduate work, Dr. Kelly returned to his alma mater as a member of the teaching faculty. “Coming back to the College was a kind of a natural fulfillment of what I saw as important,” he recalls. “It was important to learn the truth.”
His homecoming was also something of a dream come true. “I always saw the position of a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College as the best job in America because you get to pursue the truth in a way that is very fulfilling to the soul, with good people, and with people who already have a sense as to where the truth lies,” he says. “And I thought it was a way that I could make a difference in the world — one student at a time.”
Over the course of his years at the College, Dr. Kelly has served as assistant dean for student affairs, has taught in the Great Books Summer Program for high school students, and has served on a number of faculty committees, including the admissions and instruction committees. He held the position of dean from 2009 to 2017, at which point he stepped aside in order to return to teaching full-time.
Dr. Kelly grew up in Indiana and Illinois along with 13 older siblings, including his brother Rev. Brendan Kelly (’85), now a priest in the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb. It was while a student at the College that Dr. Kelly first met his wife, Karen (Stuart ’88) — a classmate in Dr. McLean’s sophomore philosophy section. The couple have six children and live in Santa Paula.
“Why We Study ...”
In 2010 Dr. Kelly began a series of presentations to the Board of Governors about why the curriculum includes particular authors and subjects. Links to those talks are presented below:
- Defending Damascene
- Reckoning with Rousseau
... and other “Bad Guys”
- Why We Study Mathematics
- The Gods in the Kitchen
Why We Study Jean Henri Fabre
- The Poet of Catholic Liberal Education
Why We Study Dante Alighieri
- A Great Apostle for Philosophy
Why We Study Plato
- The Way of Health and Hope and Love
Why We Study Dostoevsky
- Our Patron, Mentor, Muse, and Master
Why We Study St. Thomas Aquinas
- The Church as a Source of Wisdom
Why We Study Papal Encyclicals
- The Weird and Wonderful Midwife
Why We Study Kierkegaard
- Wagering Eternity
Why We Study Blaise Pascal
- The Beauty, Majesty, and Awe of God’s Revelation
Why — and How — We Study Sacred Scripture
- Illuminating God’s Handiwork:
Why We Study William Harvey
- Don Quixote and the Glory of the Life to Come
Why We Study Cervantes
- Why We Study Jane Austen’s Emma
Why We Study Jane Austen’s Emma
- Doctor of Grace
Why We Study St. Augustine
- The Father of Orthodoxy
Why We Study St. Athanasius