I have had the pleasure of working with Patrick Kelly on a several state-level projects focused on accelerating Kentucky’s educational progress and achieving state goals. Patrick’s analytic skills his and deep understanding of the national and state-level higher education policy environment is extraordinary. He can always be counted on for a measured, data-driven response to any question or problem posed. He is a strong writer, a great advisor, and passionate education advocate, particularly on behalf of students from historically unrepresented and low-income backgrounds.
I was Patrick’s direct supervisor for several years when I was President of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and he was a Senior Associate at that organization. During that time, I came to very much appreciate Patrick’s talents. Chief among those talents were his abilities to “find” data that could be made relevant to the task at hand and to translate those data into information relevant to policy decisions under consideration. More important he has a knack for finding ways to present this information in ways that are easily grasped and hard to forget. In short, he’s very good at not only doing the analyses that creates useful information but at communicating that information to lay audiences and policymakers.
Another of Patrick’s talents that was particularly beneficial to others was his ability to recognize talent in others. Under his leadership the analytic staff capacity of the organization was greatly enhanced.
Patrick has throughout his career had a knack for taking complex data and issues and distilling them down to a level of understanding and high-utility for policy makers. His attention to detail, high-levels of inquiry, and strong data science skills have created an expertise of value anywhere you find educational, economic, and demographic policy puzzles. In all cases, his success is based upon positioning accurate data and research to inform good decision making.
Patrick’s creative use of data and analysis can help stakeholders in a region or state come together on a common “why” for greater education and workforce collaboration. His work on Measuring UP: The State-by-State Report Card for Higher Education influenced the work of states for over a decade. His gentle manner of facilitation helps elevate the voices and lived experiences of students, workers, colleges and community and business leaders.
I have known Patrick J. Kelly for more than forty years, and several personality traits have predominated our relationship: first, his high-energy, got-to-move-forward drive has never waned. He learned it from getting up at 5:00 am for swim practice 6 days-a-week, or some internal, natural clock that propelled him to win a national swimming championship? Regardless, he wasn’t sleeping in. He never has and never will. Secondly, his trustworthiness can never been questioned. Whatever comes under his purview will be protected and nurtured like it was his own. When he has your back, you are more than well protected. Through thick and thin he never wavers on any justly deserved loyalty.
Another cornerstone characteristic is his positive outlook on life. Through anything life could throw at you (or him), his natural instinct is to emphasize hope for the present in creating the future, no matter what the past has presented. Finally, his commitment to listening is unquestioned. He’s just not sitting there waiting on his turn to converse: he is actively hearing what you are saying, processing your words and then thoughtfully responding to move the conversation toward its most useful and healthiest conclusion.