Kelly and classmates before Homecoming, Fall 1998

Kelly (Maxwell) Haer: Respectful Relationship Builder

Dr. Kelly (Maxwell) Haer, TFA Class of 2001, came to The First Academy in Middle School after her sister had a negative experience in the public school system. “I am very grateful for the overall positive experience of faith in the classroom,” Kelly shared. “I had a really solid group of friends, and I think that was definitely a defining, critical part of my middle and high school experience. I am extremely grateful for the Christian component of TFA; it was a very good foundation for continuing to grow my faith as my own in college.”

After graduating from The First Academy in 2001, Kelly went on to Furman University. When Furman did not have the major that she was interested in pursuing, she went on to create her own major in Furman’s Individual Curriculum Program in Nutrition. She was able to pull from her interests in biology, chemistry, and psychology – another brick in the foundation laid during her time as a TFA student.

Kelly and her family today

While at Furman, Kelly was involved in Campus Outreach, a prominent campus ministry. Through Campus Outreach, she was discipled and further encouraged to develop her spiritual gifts. The deepening of her faith journey led her to get her master’s degree in counseling from Covenant Theological Seminary. “My time in seminary truly set me up to have a Biblical worldview when it comes to life and relationships.” Kelly also holds a Ph.D. in family therapy from Saint Louis University.

The foundation that was built at TFA is now translating to how she lives life every day as a wife, mom to three boys, and Director of Pepperdine University’s Boone Center for the Family. “The faith foundation at The First Academy led me to the other faith experiences in my life which now impact me every day in my work and as a mom to help encourage healthy relationships.”

Kelly has helped develop Relationship IQ and the Relate Strong programs, which help Pepperdine’s students, as well as other students and adults, create a God-centered perspective regarding healthy relationships in every aspect of life. Her sources and insights have also touched schools, churches, and youth programs across the country.

“I get to live out a life teaching others how to live in the fruit of the spirit, how to extend grace, humility, and truth, and how to do those things well in the world we live in today – all things developed in me during my time at The First Academy.”

“Relationship-building is so important, but it all boils down to your walk with Christ. If you are able to do that well, you can then go on to be a servant leader, great communicator, and relationship builder. My time at TFA instilled that in me. The mission statement still rolls around in my head and is something I relate to in my life often.”