Dean Emeritus Frank N. Kelley Returns to Speak to Leadership in Akron


On Wednesday, August 16th, more than 30 Akron-community leaders stepped into the Goodyear Polymer Center to hear Dean Emeritus Frank N. Kelley give a lecture on the history of polymers in Akron.

Kelley was an alumnus of The University of Akron before coming on board as a faculty member, and served UA for 28 years before retiring as Dean of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering in 2007. Kelley remains a friend and consultant for many polymer-related companies in Akron.

The visitors were Signature Class 34 of Leadership Akron, a group of young professionals dedicated to inspiring leaders to collaborate, address challenges with creative solutions, and accomplish goals together to create a stronger community. Kelley is an alumnus of Leadership Akron as well, which made it all the more fitting that he be the one to teach them about the past and future of polymers.

The lecture took place in the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Auditorium at 1:00 in the afternoon. Kelley spoke of Akron’s success as a giant in rubber tire production and the decline of business in the 70s and 80s. He explained that the polymer industry saved the city thanks to the knowledgeable workforce that was left behind after the rubber companies vacated Akron. Now, there are hundreds of polymer-related companies in northeast Ohio.

“You could say that polymers are the stuff of life,” Kelley said during his lecture.

Once he had outlined the history of Akron’s jump from rubber to polymers, he talked about The University of Akron’s engagement in the polymer industry and how the Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering program climbed the ladder to become the number one polymer program in the nation. The talk also touched on new technologies, and wrapped up with an explanation of how the Chihuly sculpture in front of the Goodyear Building came into existence.

Kelley said that one of the most popular questions he receives is in regard to how he made the program so successful. The answer was simple: “You get the best possible faculty,” he said. “They’re the ones teaching the students and doing the research.”

Kelley also spoke of partnerships and how the college is funded thanks to the recognition its researchers receive. “It’s a constant effort not only to do the work, but to make sure it’s recognized,” he said.

All in all, Signature Class 34 of Leadership Akron walked away with a stronger knowledge of polymers, CPSPE, and their importance to the industry in Akron. We are grateful that Kelley continues to share valuable knowledge with those who are willing to learn. The value of the contributions he has made to UA and the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering will never be diminished.