About the series

A generous fund from the Hugh and Ethel Kelly Gift allowed the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the College of Engineering to establish this distinguished speaker series in 2013. The inaugural lecture, presented by Nobel Laureate Steven Chu, was attended by over one thousand members of the Virginia Tech community.

The series honors the Kellys' love for Virginia Tech by providing an opportunity for students, faculty, and the community to interact with visionary leaders. The lectures are a dynamic forum for new knowledge and a catalyst for future research.

About the Kellys

Hugh Kelly was a double alumnus of Virginia Tech, earning a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1937 and a master's degree a year later. Kelly worked as an engineer at AT&T’s famed Bell Laboratories, where he played important roles in groundbreaking projects including the 1962 launch of the Telstar communications satellite, the first private venture in space; he died in 1989. Ethel Kelly, who died in 2012, generously supported Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering as a way of honoring her husband’s legacy.


Past speakers


Steven Chu
Nobel laureate
Former U.S. Secretary of Energy

How to Create a Bell Labs 2.0 in Today's Realities
October 11, 2013



Wayne Clough
Secretary Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution 
Climate Change: Engineering reality into the debate 
October 2, 2015


Eric Betzig
Nobel laureate
Imaging Life at High Spatiotemporal Resolution
April 19, 2016


David Leigh
Magic of Molecular Machines 
September 30, 2016

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin
Presidential Historian &
Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Leadership in Turbulent Times
March 3, 2020