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Don Kelly, BSCE 1965, MSCE 1967
Inducted in 2022

Don Kelly, BSCE 1965, MSCE 1967

With over 40 years of experience in engineering transportation design and development, Don Kelly is an outstanding public servant to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1965 and stayed to complete his master’s degree in 1967.

After graduating from UK, Kelly started working for the Kentucky Department of Transportation. In 1980, he left to work at Murray State University as associate professor of engineering technology. During his six years at Murray, he also held the positions of interim vice president for university relations, assistant to the president for budget and legislative affairs, director of rural development and executive director of the MSU Foundation. 

Kelly was then recruited to be the deputy secretary of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet in 1986. He was the liaison to the Governor’s Council on Science and Technology and a member of the Council on State Initiatives in Applied Research. After two years, he left the public sector to become vice president of Schimpeler-Corradino Associates, where he worked on the Los Angeles metro rail system. In 1990, Kelly returned to Kentucky to be the program manager for the UK Transportation Center.

Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones appointed Kelly secretary of transportation in 1991. In this position, he was chairman of the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials Advanced Transportation Systems, chairman of the ADVANTAGE I-75 Policy Committee, chairman of the ITS America Advanced Rural Transportation Systems Committee, vice chairman of the Research and Technology Coordinating Committee and a member of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board. Under Kelly’s leadership, the state seat belt law for Kentucky was passed. In 1995, the American Public Works Association named him one of the Top Ten Public Works Leaders in North America.

After four years as secretary of transportation, the longest anyone had held the position at the time, Kelly returned to the private sector as vice president for Jordan, Jones and Goulding, an Atlanta-based engineering firm. In 2007, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry asked Kelly to be commissioner of public works and development for Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

Kelly has always been passionate about being involved in his community. He has been chairman of the Perryville Preservation Association, a member of the American Public Works Association and a member of the UK Department of Civil Engineering Advisory Committee. He also volunteered as project construction manager for Tates Creek Presbyterian Church’s $4.1 million project to build a new sanctuary, an unpaid job that took one full year.

Kelly lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife, Janice. They have three married children and nine grandchildren.