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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

John E. Kelly, III ’78G, ’80PhD, D.H.L. (Hon.)

Senior Vice President, Cognitive Solutions and Research, IBM Corporation

Active Trustee: 2010 - current

John E. Kelly, III ’78G, ’80PhD, D.H.L. (Hon.)

John E. Kelly III serves as senior vice president of Cognitive Solutions & Research at International Business Machines Corp. Kelly was most recently senior vice president and director of IBM Research, only the tenth person to hold that position over the past seven decades

Under Kelly, IBM Research expanded its global footprint by adding four new labs (including IBM’s first in Africa, South America, and Australia), creating a network of approximately 3,000 scientists and technical employees across 12 laboratories in 10 countries.

During his tenure, IBM maintained and extended what is now 25 straight years of patent leadership. Most notably, Kelly and his team were responsible for advancing the science of cognitive computing through his support for Watson, the groundbreaking system that defeated two standing Jeopardy world champions in 2011. Prior to that, he was senior vice president of technology and intellectual property, responsible for technical and innovation strategies at IBM.

As IBM senior vice president, cognitive solutions and research, Kelly is focused on the company’s investments in several of the fastest-growing and most strategic parts of the information technology market. His portfolio includes IBM Analytics, IBM Commerce, IBM Security, and IBM Watson, as well as IBM Research and the company’s Intellectual Property team. He will also oversee the development of future units devoted to serving clients in specific industries, beginning with IBM Healthcare later this year.

Kelly joined IBM in 1980. Between 1980 and 1990, he held numerous management and technical positions related to the development and manufacturing of IBM’s advanced semiconductor technologies. In 1990, he was named director of IBM’s Semiconductor Research and Development Center. Between 1994 and 2000, he held several VP and GM positions across IBM. In 2000, he was named senior vice president and group executive the Technology Group at IBM, where he was responsible for developing, manufacturing, and marketing microelectronics and storage technologies, products, and services.

He received a B.S. in physics from Union College in 1976. He received an M.S degree in physics from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1978 and his doctorate in materials engineering from Rensselaer in 1980. He has also received three Honorary Doctorates.

Kelly is a member of the National Academy of Engineers; on the Board of Governors of The IBM Academy of Technology; a board member and former chairman of the Semiconductor Industry Association; a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Union College.

He has received numerous technical and business leadership awards, including the Semiconductor Industry’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award; the NAE’s prestigious Arthur M. Bueche Award; and the IEEE’s Robert N. Noyce Medal for global leadership.

Updated March 2018

John E. Kelly, III ’78G, ’80PhD, D.H.L. (Hon.)