Kelso Speaker Series

Kelso Speaker Series

Thanks to the support of Betty & Bob Kelso, Saint Mary’s Hall is able to invite special guest speakers to campus each year to visit with our students.

The mission of the Betty & Bob Kelso Speaker Series is to provide our students with opportunities to learn from and interact with leaders from outside the SMH community. These speakers take the time to inspire, impact, and educate students in all three divisions of the school.

2019: Noah Galloway

U.S. Army Veteran, Amputee, and TV Celebrity

Just three months into his second tour of duty, Noah lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee in an Improvised Explosive Device attack. In his book, Living with No Excuses, Noah sheds light on his upbringing in rural Alabama, his military experience, and the battle he faced to overcome losing two limbs during Operation Iraqi Freedom. From reliving the early days of life to his acceptance of his "new normal" after losing his arm and leg in combat, Noah revealed his ambition to succeed against all odds.

Noah travels the country sharing his story, encouraging and motivating others to offer no excuses. Most recently, he led his team to victory on FOX's series, American Grit, where teams were tested with various military challenges. He also took third place in Season 20 of ABC's series, Dancing with the Stars.

Aron Ralston - 2018
2018: Aron Ralston

Author and Amputee

American outdoorsman, mechanical engineer, and motivational speaker Aron Ralston shared with Upper School students his gripping story of courage, perseverance, and the power of the human spirit when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. Ralston, an experienced climber, was canyoneering in a remote location in Utah when he became trapped between two boulders for more than five days. He freed himself by severing his own arm with a pocket-knife. 127 Hours, the major-motion-picture adaptation of his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, was nominated for six Oscars. He remains an avid outdoorsman and is an advocate for wilderness protection.

Chad Hennings - 2017
2017: Chad Hennings

U.S. Air Force Veteran and Former Dallas Cowboy

Three-time Super Bowl champion, former Dallas Cowboys player, and U.S. Air Force veteran Chad Hennings shared his personal story of postponing his entry into the National Football League to fulfill his obligation to the U.S. Air Force. His message to students focused on the importance of identity and the idea that your legacy is defined by the people you've been able to impact.

2016: RJ Mitte

Activist and Actor

Actor and equality activist RJ Mitte connected with Upper School students through his youth and honesty. Mitte, who suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy, shared stories about his physical struggles in childhood, how he overcame bullying, and other challenges. Mitte encouraged students to step up and be the first person to help if they see someone in need, saying, "If one person decides to try to help, others will follow." Mitte inspires young adults as the Youth Spokesperson for the National Disability Institute's Real Economic Impact Tour, and a celebrity ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy.

2015: Wes Moore

U.S. Army Veteran and Author

Bestselling author, Rhodes Scholar, and U.S. Army veteran, Wes Moore, is a vocal advocate for social justice who encourages audiences to take personal responsibility for their life decisions. In his presentation, Wes challenged Upper School students to consider who and what they will fight for now and in the future. His core message centered on how outcomes in life depend heavily on the expectations of those around us and the expectations we have for ourselves. Wes told the students, "It is dangerous not to have a goal or expectation for yourself. Expectations matter. We are a nation of self-fulfilling prophecies."

Chris Herren - 2014
2014: Chris Herren

Former NBA Player and Professional Speaker

Chris Herren is a former NBA player and recovering drug addict. During his presentation, Chris spoke candidly about his battle with addiction. He shared stories from his career as a professional basketball player, husband, and father who was constantly battling an addiction to heroin, prescription drugs, and cocaine. Chris let his presentation hinge on the message to "be you." He explained that as he looks back on the beginning of his addictions, he started using drugs because "being him wasn't enough." Chris encouraged students to think about why they would consider drugs or alcohol, and urged them to ask themselves, "Why isn't being you enough?"

2014: Rosalind Wiseman

Bullying Expert and Author

An internationally recognized expert and best-selling author on children, teens, parenting, bullying, social justice, and ethical leadership, Rosalind Wiseman works with tens of thousands of students, educators, parents, counselors, coaches, and administrators to create communities based on the belief that each person has a responsibility to treat themselves and others with dignity. During her visit to Saint Mary's Hall, she talked to parents, students, and faculty and staff about a variety of issues including bullying. One of the outstanding moments came when Rosalind said she wanted to teach everyone, "How to handle your business so the drama gets smaller, not bigger." She offered specific solutions on how to handle everyday conflict whether it is relationship-related, work-related, or bullying.

2013: Louis Zamperini

U.S. Air Force Veteran and Olympian

Though his dreams of competing in the 1936 Olympics were dashed, Louis Zamperini went on to become a decorated soldier, as a bombardier in World War II. Despite his plane crashing during a routine mission, Louis survived in a life raft for 47 days, drifting 2,000 miles into Japanese controlled waters. He also went on to endure life as a prisoner of war for two years in Japan. Yet, he survived.

His lessons of faith, love, and grit were impactful. Whether in school, work, or life, Louis encouraged students to remember that, “One moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”

Sadly, two years after visiting SMH, Louis passed away. However, his lessons, his experiences, and his message impacted the community. The book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, and subsequent movie by the same name (produced by Angelina Jolie), capture Louis' zest for life and fiery spirit … making this a rare and impactful opportunity for Saint Mary’s Hall students.

Tony Dungy - 2012
2012: Tony Dungy

Former NFL Coach and Author

Former NFL coach and New York Times bestselling author Tony Dungy delivered a message tailored specifically to Saint Mary's Hall Upper School students about the difficulties of making the right choices in today's society. He shared stories from his life as a parent, player, and coach to illustrate how seemingly inconsequential decisions could alter a person's life, positively or negatively, forever.

Aimee Mullins - 2011
2011: Aimee Mullins

Athlete, Model, and Amputee

Aimee Mullins was born without fibulas in both legs, and the doctors told her parents that she would never walk, run, or have a life of independence. By her  first birthday, both legs were amputated below the knee.

Once she accepted what had happened, Aimee began challenging herself to live life to the best of her ability. She competed at Georgetown University on the track team and in the 1996 Paralympics. She also became a runway model, and appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, W, Glamour, and Elle, and was named one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.”

Aimee encouraged students to take a look at their own lives and figure out if they were hiding behind their fear. She left students with this parting idea, “Learn to find the advantage of being different, and learn to find the opportunity in your adversity.”

Alan Williams - 2009
2009: Alan Williams

Author of Walk On

As a walk-on on Wake Forest University's basketball team, Alan Williams learned a lot about perseverance. He visited students at Saint Mary's Hall to discuss the importance of humility and determination.

Scott O'Grady
2008: Scott O'Grady

U.S. Air Force Veteran

A former United States Air Force fighter pilot, Scott O'Grady was shot down in Bosnia in 1995 while enforcing the NATO no-fly zone. He turned his experience of survival, preparation, and focus into a powerful message for our students: "In the most dire situations, you learn your own strength and discover what is truly important to you."

Michael McManus
2007: Michael McManus

DEA Agent

Michael McManus shared stories from his career as a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent. He spoke to students and parents about the true perils of illegal drugs, and offered candid insight to the industry of illegal drug sales.