Todd Kelsey: 2020 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient

// Electrical & Computer Engineering

Photo of Todd KelseyTodd Kelsey (BSEE ’87, MSEE ’89)
President and CEO, Plexus Corp.

Todd is an exemplary leader of a Wisconsin‐based global company who demonstrates commitment to creating new technologies and products that build a better world.

How did you choose to attend UW-Madison?

The choice to attend UW-Madison was an easy one for two reasons. First, the unique culture of the university resonated with me and aligned with my personality. Second, I view UW-Madison as the best engineering school in the state, and one of the best in the country. I knew it was a university that would not only give me an excellent education and prepare me for the workforce, but also allow me to build relationships with diverse people from all over the world.

What classes made the biggest impact on you here?

I really enjoyed the computer engineering courses, whether hardware or software, as I was always more oriented toward the digital side of electrical engineering. I found the digital microprocessor lab very valuable and practical, given we created a real product from concept. Also, the testing course was instrumental as that’s the course that led to my master’s work with Professor Saluja. Lastly, just for fun as an undergrad, I took history of science courses where we were taught about Einstein and other scientists of the past, and the issues they needed to work through.

What are some of your fondest memories from your time at UW-Madison?

The sports teams were nothing like what I see today, whether it be football or basketball. However, a couple of games do stand out. One of my fondest memories includes a time when Ohio State came, and I believe they were No. 2 in the nation. The game was played in the rain and we had a third-team tailback starting who, unbelievably, ran for well over 200 yards to ultimately beat Ohio State. Likely my worst memory was the last game I went to as a student. Our team was absolutely atrocious. Michigan came in and they had 35 points at halftime. At that point, I decided it was time to leave.

Who has played the greatest role in your career achievements?

Certainly my dad; he was a self-made man. He wasn’t college-educated, but did really well for himself and taught me so much about working hard, being practical and treating people with respect. These are lessons I find incredibly important and think of daily. In my professional career, I had numerous leaders who were instrumental in helping me develop in more of the technical aspects. Professor Saluja taught me to have confidence in my abilities. My predecessor at Plexus helped me develop my ability to lead.

What advice would you give students today?

One thing that has significantly changed from when I graduated is the globalization of companies and the need for multidisciplinary collaboration. It’s a lot more important today than it ever was to be able to work across cultures and across disciplines. It’s important that students are given the opportunity to develop interdisciplinary competencies prior to beginning their career.

Any hobbies?

For many years, I was a baseball coach for my kids as they were growing up and still enjoy watching the sport today. I also enjoy boating, which my family got into after our daughter graduated high school. Outside of those hobbies, I’m passionate about archery, bike riding and physical fitness. I also enjoy catching a Badger, Brewer or Packer game.

Any family members you’d like to mention?

My entire family is a Badger family—all Wisconsin graduates. I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Kelly, who also graduated from UW-Madison as an occupational therapist. We have three children: Andrew, Alex and Annalise, who are all professionals with UW-Madison undergraduate degrees. We just had our first grandchild, Henry. We are looking forward to the day he is also a Badger.

Author: Staff