CNU Welcomes Its 6th University President

Former Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Rear Admiral William G. Kelly


On Thursday, Feb. 2, CNU announced that Rear Admiral William G. Kelly will become the 6th university president. This comes after a year of meetings and discussions held by the Presidential Search Committee following former President Paul Trible’s retirement announcement on Sept. 24, 2021.

Interim President Adelia Thompson said in a statement to The Captain’s Log, “I’m so grateful to our board of visitors and to our search committee for the thoughtful and caring manner in which they approached this incredibly important search for this marvelous place and they brought us the next great leader. We are grateful and proud to welcome Admiral Kelly and his wife Angie and their family into our Christopher Newport family, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of us on his watch. As Paul Trible said – our best days lie ahead of us!”

Kelly comes to CNU after 36 years in the Coast Guard, including serving as the 42nd Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut since 2019. 

Kelly grew up in Yonkers, New York. He graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1987 and attended Florida State University where he received a Master’s in Instructional Systems Design. He also taught as an adjunct professor for Florida State University’s graduate program.

According to the United States Coast Guard website, Kelly worked as the Assistant Commandant for Human Resources at the Coast Guard Headquarters. During this time, he was in charge of their Diversity and Inclusion plan. He also managed the first study in women’s retention issues that the Service had conducted in more than 25 years. 

As Superintendent, Kelly led the U.S. Coast Guard to become the first Federal Service Academy to implement a new transgender policy.

Kelly has been married to his wife Angie for almost 35 years and they have two sons and a 9-month-old grandson. Angie’s career has focused on childhood development and she does volunteer work for military families. 

In a news release, Rector Lindsey Carney Smith said, “President Select William Kelly exemplifies a life of distinguished service. His dedication to the principles of

scholarship, a life of purpose, and to student success makes him the perfect

compassionate leader for Christopher Newport as the University begins its next


Trible, now Chancellor of CNU, stated in the news release, “Admiral Kelly is an inspired choice. His life of public service embodies the principles of leadership, honor and service that define the Christopher Newport experience and I am confident that CNU’s best days lie


In an interview with The Captain’s Log shortly after the announcement was made, Kelly shared what attracted him to CNU, “Sure, it’s a beautiful campus, right? We know that. It’s got beautiful dorms, it’s got great athletic teams. But there seems to be a very real sense of respect and caring on this campus. My sense is that the students here truly want to be part of this institution. They enjoy being here. And so that’s something that attracted us.”

He continued, “We love to interact with students, as I said in my remarks today, the students are the sprinkles on top of life. You are the best part of CNU. If I’m having a bad day or there is something tough going on, I say to myself, ‘come on, spend some time with the students. They’re going to lift you up.’ The students are really what attracted us to this university.”

When asked how he plans to foster a connection with students, Kelly emphasized his focus on “listening and learning” and being “fully engaged.” He noted that he and Angie plan to attend sporting and arts events, and that he has already listened to all the CNU on The Lawn Podcast episodes.

“Main thing that I want students to know is, students are what matters most. I am fully committed to ensuring each and every student that comes on this campus and walks The Great Lawn has an opportunity to be successful. Regardless of their race or gender, their ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or religious affiliation, everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed,” said Kelly.

Kelly will step into this new role on July 1 after Thompson finishes her run as Interim President.