Virginia Tech has renamed the headquarters building of its Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science in honor of Hugh and Ethel Kelly in recognition of his pioneering work in telecommunications and her extraordinary philanthropic support.
Hugh Kelly, who died in 1989, earned his bachelor’s of electrical engineering in 1937 and a master’s degree in that subject a year later, worked at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories, and played important roles in groundbreaking projects, including the 1962 launch of the Telstar communications satellite, the first private venture in space.
Ethel Kelly, who died in 2012, generously supported Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering as a way of honoring her husband’s legacy.
“She was devoted to him, and he was devoted to Virginia Tech,” said Dennis Belcher, a friend of Ethel Kelly who served as her attorney and is a partner with the McGuireWoods firm.
Ethel Kelly’s estate provided $5 million to help cover the cost of the most recent of three buildings built for the institute. That building opened in 2011 and is on Washington Street. What is now Kelly Hall opened in 2009 and is on Stanger Street.
The institute, which is known by its initials ICTAS, supports and promotes cutting edge research at the intersection of engineering, the sciences (physical, life, and social), and the humanities.
“We believe creativity blooms at the boundaries between disciplines,” said ICTAS Director Roop Mahajan, who also holds the Lewis A. Hester Chair in Engineering. “These buildings promote a culture of collaboration where engineers and scientists and humanists come together to move beyond the predictable and incremental advances in current technologies to the transformative science and technology of the future.”
College of Engineering Dean Richard Benson, who also holds the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair of Engineering, said the growth of ICTAS is a major factor in the nearly threefold increase in research spending by his college since 2004. Donor support for capital projects such as the ICTAS building is tremendously important, he said, because “otherwise I have to move money into construction – money that could be used for other scholarly activities in the college – so this gift really helps us a lot.”
Benson added that, “Hugh Kelly was a great alumnus. How nice it is to have this building as a legacy. The building is going to be around for a very long time and fantastic work is going to be done in there so, time-and-again, the Kelly name is going to be mentioned. What a nice way to remember one of our most successful graduates.”
Ethel Kelly’s estate provided more than $6 million in all. Some of the funds will support the new Hugh and Ethel Kelly Lecture Series to be held at ICTAS. The Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has a professorship named for Hugh Kelly, which Ethel Kelly endowed during her lifetime.