John E. Kelly, III ’78G, ’80PhD, D.H.L. (Hon.)
Dr. John E. Kelly III has nearly four decades of experience innovating and leading in the Information Technology (IT) industry.
During this time, he has played numerous significant technical and business roles driving IBM's leadership in technologies ranging from semiconductors to supercomputers to Artificial Intelligence (AI) cognitive systems. As a champion of IBM's technical community, he has kept IBM as the leader in U.S. patents for the last 26 consecutive years.
In his current role as Executive Vice President, Dr. Kelly is responsible for helping to guide IBM's global technical and business success. He is focused on overseeing IBM's enterprise wide Intellectual Property, Security and Privacy, academic, industrial, and government partnerships, as well as its technical community. He is also currently responsible for leading the company's Watson Health unit.
Previously, Dr. Kelly served as senior vice president, Cognitive Solutions and IBM Research, where he oversaw IBM's (AI) Watson platform, portfolio and investments. Under his leadership, IBM expanded the specialization of IBM Watson into various industries and domains including health, security, analytics, Internet of Things (IOT), and financial services. He was also responsible for IBM Research and the company’s Intellectual Property.
Prior to this, beginning in July 2007, Dr. Kelly served as senior vice president and director of IBM Research - only the tenth person to hold that position over the past seven decades. Under Dr. 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.
Most notably, Dr. Kelly and his team were responsible for advancing the science of AI and cognitive computing through his support for Watson, the groundbreaking system that defeated two standing Jeopardy! world champions in 2011. This demonstration awoke the world to the potential of AI.
Dr. Kelly joined IBM in 1980. Between 1980 and 2007, he held numerous management and technical positions related to the development and manufacturing of IBM’s most advanced semiconductor and system technologies.
Dr. Kelly received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Union College in 1976. He received a Master of Science degree in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1978 and his Doctorate in materials engineering from RPI in 1980. He has also received three honorary Doctoral degrees.
Dr. Kelly is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Academy of Sciences, the IBM Academy of Technology, and a member of the Board and former Chairman of the Semiconductor Industry Association. He also is Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Union College and a member of RPI’s Board of Trustees.
Dr. Kelly has received numerous technical and business leadership awards, including the Semiconductor Industry’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award. He has been recognized with the IEEE’s top award for R&D management, the Frederik Philips Award, as well as the IEEE’s own Robert N. Noyce Award.
In October 2013, he received the National Academy of Engineering’s Arthur M. Bueche Award for his leadership in driving U.S. semiconductor technology excellence through broad government, university, and corporate collaboration. Most recently, he received RPI's Lifetime Achievement Award.
John has published numerous technical papers and the book Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing.