Megan Selmon Kelly ’03 has represented our nation for more than 16 years as a member of the State Department’s Foreign Service.
A skilled diplomat, Kelly currently serves as the acting deputy chief of mission in the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad & Tobago, a post she has held for the past year. Kelly resides in Port of Spain with her diplomat husband, Keith (they married in 2013), and four children, three girls (Ava, Layne and Hannah), and one boy, (Grant), ranging in age from 3 to 7.
“I work with our acting ambassador to set our vision, plan, and to be good stewards of our resources,” says Kelly, who heads a team of 55 U.S. employees and 150 local staff members from Trinidad & Tobago. “The best part of my job is getting to know the staff and watching them take issues and run with them.”
Kelly earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity in 2003 in international studies. She then went on to Princeton University to receive a master’s in 2005 in public policy. However, Kelly, coming from a bi-racial family, knew at an early age she wanted to help people from different backgrounds connect to each other and make a difference in people’s lives.
Her dad, Dewey Selmon, is African American, while her mom, Kathryn, is Caucasian. The couple resides in Norman, Oklahoma.
“I was looking at how our family worked,” Kelly says, “and I wanted to help people with different backgrounds come together, value each other, connect, and see how much they shared in common.”
Kelly began formulating plans to become a Foreign Service Officer while she was a senior at Norman High School. While writing a senior thesis, she met the late Ed Perkins, who became the first African American ambassador to South Africa, among several other notable accomplishments.
“He told me stories about visiting Nelson Mandela on Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned),” Kelly says. “Mandela told him ‘we get a little stronger and closer to the freedom we seek, each time you visit me on this island.’ Perkins really sold me on the idea of the State Department back then.”
Kelly has held a variety of Foreign Service positions in Pakistan, Colombia, Afghanistan, and two tours at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, where she met her future husband. The versatile Kelly was also a special assistant to former Secretary of State John Kerry. She was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, teaching classes in diplomacy and the trans-Atlantic security relationship, while recruiting students interested in international relationships.
One of her more challenging assignments was serving as a political and military detentions officer with the Department of Defense in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2010.
“I worked on a joint task force under a Navy admiral,” Kelly explains. “The war was raging. Our mission was to detain insurgents, such as Taliban or ISIS fighters caught trying to set roadside bombs. At the same time, we also knew that upholding human rights and treating people with dignity, including detainees, was important.
“While running a large detention center, we also ensured that those detained had access to medical care, to high quality food (they ate the same food as U.S. soldiers guarding them), and could see families or elders when possible. We made sure the American principles of fair treatment and human rights were honored.”
Along the way, Kelly co-founded the Shine Foundation, which provides development assistance to post-conflict countries in West Africa, starting with inaugural projects in Liberia.
Back to Kelly’s family, which is definitely athletic in nature.
Her dad, Dewey, was a star football linebacker at the University of Oklahoma and later played for the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the former San Diego Chargers. Lee Roy Selmon, her late uncle, also an Oklahoma alum, was an All-American and played for Tampa Bay for nine seasons. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the NFL’s Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kelly’s oldest uncle, Lucius, was an All-American for the Sooners and later coached at Oklahoma, Michigan State, and for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL.
Kelly’s sisters were standout college basketball players, with Shannon competing for Oklahoma, and Lauren playing for Baylor University. Their brother, Zach, played football at Wake Forest University, and is now the deputy athletics director at Oklahoma.
So, with that background, it was only natural that Kelly would become a standout student-athlete at Trinity.
In 2003, Tiger women’s basketball, led by Head Coach Becky Geyer, won the NCAA Division III National Championship. Kelly was selected for the All-Tournament Team. She also earned All-America accolades in 2002 and 2003. Currently, Kelly is ranked second in Trinity’s career field-goal percentage (58.3%), sixth in rebounds (683), and tenth in total points (1,329) from 1999 to 2003.
Kelly and her NCAA champion teammates were inducted into the Trinity University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013. She became a Hall of Fame member in her own right in a 2017 ceremony.
“Coach Geyer instilled a positive mindset in us,” Kelly says. “We had the mindset that if we worked hard and together, we could accomplish things. If she believed it, then, heck, we believed it too! What’s special about this particular team is that we were equals. There was no one who was a standout star. That team taught me so much about life in general.”
Kelly was also a member of Trinity’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Her advice to current Trinity students?
“Have fun, the years go by too quickly,” Kelly concludes. “Work hard; hard work beats natural talent any day. And, always keep your goal in mind. Consider what you want your future to look like and set a path, with concrete goals, to get there. Most importantly, value the team around you. We all need help at different points in life, so love and serve others around you. Success is always a team effort: on the court and in life.”
Kelly can be reached by email at email@example.com.