Kelly Center Banner

The History Behind the "Kelly Center" Name

Many people ask us, "Why is your center called the Kelly Center?" The official answer is that it is named for George Kelly, a famous psychologist who worked here many years ago. However, to better understand the history of the Kelly Center's name, read the article below from the University Leader published in 1999. While there have been many changes at the university since that time, the article still provides a solid historical record for a major time period in the Kelly Center's history.

Kelly among 60 most eminent personality psychologists

Source: Elliott, Brandie. "Kelly among 60 most eminent personality psychologists." University Leader [Hays, KS] 24 June 1999: Page 4. Print

According to a 1997 study, the 60 most eminent personality psychologists of the field, based on citations in current leading personality textbooks, have been identified. Famous psychologists such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Rogers, Albert Bandura, B.F. Skinner and Fort Hays State University's George Kelly, former associate professor of psychology, were identified as five highly ranked psychologists.

When Kelly came to FHSU, then called Fort Hays Kansas State College, he brought with him a varied educational background. After three years at Friends University, Kelly earned a bachelor's degree from Park College in Kansas City, Mo. In 1928, he received a master's degree in sociology from the University of Kansas. He also received a second bachelor's degree, this time in education, from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1930. After returning to the U.S., he became a graduate student in psychology at the University of Iowa, receiving his doctorate of psychology. Kelly came to FHSU in 1931, when the college was just 29 years old.

According to a press release, one of Kelly's major contributions was the founding of a psychological clinic. "The clinic was established to provide evaluation and therapy for psychology disorders, vocational counseling, speech therapy, academic counseling and skill training for both adults and children," stated the press release.

According to Robert Markley, interim chair of the department of psychology, Kelly set up a traveling clinic while at FHSU. "He traveled to different towns and spent the day doing psychological testing and counseling."

According to the press release, during his time at FHSU, "Kelly developed courses in and taught abnormal and clinical psychology, testing, statistics and experimental design."

Markley said, "While at Fort Hays, Kelly developed the fixed role therapy, which is short term therapy. It works rapidly--you have people in and out without having them go through five years of therapy."

In 1932, Kelly founded the Psychological Service Center. The services included evaluation and therapy for psychological disorders, vocational counseling, speech therapy, academic counseling and skill training, treating both adults and children.

Kelly remained at Fort Hays Kansas State College until 1943, when he joined the Navy during World War II.

According to a Personal Construct Psychology website (, "Kelly entered the Navy as an aviation psychologist and was placed in charge of the program of training of local civilian pilots."

Although he never returned to Fort Hays, Kelly was appointed associate professor at the University of Maryland in 1945. The following year, he was appointed professor and director of clinical psychology at Ohio State University, where he remained for 20 years. While there, Kelly was "devoted to the organizing and administration of the graduate program in clinical psychology," according to the Personal Construct Psychology website. "In a few short years, he succeeded in leading this program into the front rank of graduate training programs in the United States. He managed to achieve an atmosphere in which clinical interest and perceptiveness were combined with firm commitment to the methods and standards of science in a blend that was, unfortunately, rarely found in other similar programs."

In the meantime, Kelly was writing the book that eventually made up his major contribution to the psychology of personality, and was to make him known to psychologists in all parts of the world. Published in 1955, "The Psychology of Personal Constructs" gained "immediate recognition as a unique and major development in the study of personality," according to the website.

Markely said, "The 'Psychology of Personal Construct' became a major book in the area of personality in psychology. It's still cited and used extensively."

Following professorship at the University of Maryland, Kelly was appointed to the Riklis Chair of Behavioral Science at Brandeis University in 1965. He died in 1967.

"Kelly refused to have his form of psychology categorized," Markley said. "It was called everything from cognitive, behavioral and psychodynamic. It doesn't fit into any one category."

In 1982, on the Psychological Service Center's 50th anniversary, the clinic, now called the Kelly Center, was renamed in the honor of its founder. Kelly's wife, Gladys, accepted the recognition in his name.



Back to top