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SLC’s Alonzo Kelly overcomes life’s obstacles
Director of Graduate Business will be the keynote presenter at HTR Media’s Business to Business Expo, which will be held at SLC on June 26
By Benjamin Wideman
Silver Lake College Director of Communications
MANITOWOC — Some people know him as a two-time, best-selling author and host of a live Internet radio show.
Others know him as the Director of Graduate Business at Silver Lake College and founder/CEO of Kelly Leadership Group.
But few people know the driving force behind Alonzo Kelly.
“I can’t tell you how many friends I had to bury growing up in Detroit,” said the 40-year-old married father of two children. “I didn’t live in the best neighborhoods, let’s just say. One of my goals was to just be alive when I was 18 years old.
“The first 11 years of my life were spent in nine different foster homes, moving from place to place. And I spent my first 35 years not knowing who my father was or what his name was. So it definitely wasn’t the most ideal upbringing.
“So, what motivates me each day? Where I’m from — that’s what pushes me. When you come from where I come from, you’ll do whatever it takes to never be put in that position again.”
Kelly, who has earned three master’s degrees and is nearing completion of a PhD, will give a keynote presentation titled “Transitioning from Leading Teams to Leading Leaders” at HTR Media’s Business to Business Expo. The inaugural event is scheduled for June 26 at the Franciscan Center for Music Education and Performance, located on the campus of Silver Lake College, 2406 S. Alverno Road, Manitowoc.
Kelly’s 90-minute seminar begins at 1 p.m. and is open to businesses taking part in the expo. The main event, which will showcase area businesses’ products and services, starts at 3 p.m. and is open to the public.
“We are looking forward to helping businesses connect with each other and learn proven strategies to implement leadership,” said Dale Mahloch, HTR Media advertising manager.
Kelly, a resident of Howard, has assisted nearly 800 businesses — ranging from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofit organizations — across the United States since forming Kelly Leadership Group in 2009. He said people attending the Business to Business Expo “can expect to hear how, as business owners and entrepreneurs, the success of our business is dependent upon our ability to effectively deliver through other people.”
When Kelly mentions “success,” he knows what he’s talking about.
Kelly has co-authored two best-selling books — “The Ultimate Success Guide: The World’s Leading Experts Reveal Their Secrets for Success in Business and In Life” and “Dare to Succeed: The World’s Leading Experts Reveal Their Secrets to Success in Business and in Life and Dare You to Succeed.”
Kelly credits his faith and his late grandmother, Catherine Kelly, for much of his personal and professional success.
When Catherine became his legal guardian, she did what she felt was best for her grandson and send him to St. Lawrence Seminary in Mt. Calvary, just northeast of Fond du Lac.
“I had paid my non-refundable deposit to a high school in Detroit, and my Boy Scout leader mentioned to my (grandmother) in passing, ‘There’s this boarding school in Wisconsin you might want to look into,’” he said. “It’s an all-boys school, a Catholic school, so she checked it out. Two weeks before school started, she was enrolling me and I was leaving Detroit and getting a ride to Wisconsin.
“Now, as a parent, I can only begin to appreciate how difficult and huge a sacrifice that must have been for her. Just think, you spend a decade fighting for someone to bring them home, and then you send them away because it’s what best for their future. She was an amazing woman.”
Kelly graduated from St. Lawrence Seminary before going on to earn his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Marian University in Fond du Lac. His first job out of college, Kelly worked for Lutheran Social Services in Oshkosh and designed the state’s first Teen Court Juvenile Correction Program.
Then, in the summer of 1997 while still in Oshkosh, he became the legal guardian of his then-12-year-old sister, who had been living in Detroit with their biological mother.
“I was only 22 at the time, but I was a little more mature than most people at that age because of what I’d been through already,” Kelly said. “I was just a single guy who loved his sister and wanted to help however I could.”
But, he added with a laugh, “Let’s just say, if you’re going to raise a child you should get some practice before jumping in with a 12-year-old girl who’s your sister. It’s not like I grew up with teenagers in my house or anything. Remember, I went to high school at an all-boys school.”
She ended up living with Kelly throughout her high school years in Oshkosh, and she now lives with their biological mother in Fond du Lac.
Kelly has gone on to work for a variety of companies, developing extensive leadership experience, particularly in the nonprofit, healthcare and financial industries.
Along the way, Kelly earned master’s degrees in public administration from UW-Oshkosh; human resources and labor relations from UW-Milwaukee; and business administration from Concordia. And he’s nearing completion of his PhD in multidisciplinary human services from Capella University.
Every step of the way, faith has been a part of Kelly’s journey.
“Service over self … servant leadership … those are the big things I’ve learned,” he said. “I learned from my (grandmother) that whatever it is I think I want for myself personally or professionally, I can achieve that by serving others. I can accomplish my goals a lot faster by serving others and not me.”
As for Kelly’s thoughts these days about Detroit, well, they might surprise some people.
“The city in general, it’s so easy to highlight the flaws,” Kelly said. “But Detroit is a beautiful city with a beautiful history and beautiful people. And I’m talking beyond the whole Motown.
“When you have a group of people who have no choice but to rely on one another to survive, that’s how you build a community; you have to rely on your neighborhood. That’s why I love Detroit. I still have a home in Detroit. I’m never going to give up on Detroit emotionally or physically. That’s the place that had a lot to do with making me the person I am today.”
For more information about the Business to Business Expo or to reserve a booth, please contact HTR Media’s Dale Mahloch at (920) 686-2124 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Alonzo Kelly, visit www.kellyleadershipgroup.com.