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Alumni who inspire: Keith Harvey

Keith Harvey

Alumni Who Inspire! program features WVU Statler College alumnus Keith Harvey.

The Alumni Who Inspire! program recognizes Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and West Virginia University alumni for their dedication to their professions. 

Q&A conversation with Keith Harvey


"It is with great excitement and pride that today we recognize WVU Statler College alumnus Keith Harvey as part of the Alumni Who Inspire! program," said Cerasela Zoica Dinu, associate dean for student, faculty and staff engagement and coordinator of the program.

Harvey holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from WVU and is currently president and chief executive officer at Kaiser Aluminum. He is active with the College as a Visiting Committee member and is a loyal supporter of the College and WVU.

“It is wonderful to reconnect with you; thank you for your time and your willingness to share your story with our students,” Dinu said. “Let’s get started.”


Q: Why did you choose WVU and industrial engineering?

A: I was born and raised in Southern West Virginia (Beckley), so I was always going to go to WVU. I had 500 high school classmates I graduated with … many of whom also attended WVU. My roommate/best friend was going into mining engineering … and since my family had always worked in the coal industry, I decided to try my hand in that area as well; however, I ended up switching my major to industrial engineering and found my calling.


Q: Tell us about your professional journey to today …

A: My academic experience gave me perspective on a variety of career choices that were intriguing and fitting for me; I joined Kaiser in 1981 as an industrial engineer at the company’s rolling mill in West Virginia. I had a variety of roles over 42 years — plant engineer, field engineer, R&D (applications), design engineer (auto), sales, marketing, product manager, VP commercial, EVP/COO, and CEO. I moved 10 times in my career (some lateral, other promotions). I held increasingly responsible positions in engineering and sales at several Kaiser locations and was named a vice president in 1994. From June 2014 to December 2015, I served as executive vice president – fabricated products then as president and chief operating officer from December 2015 until I was appointed to my current position of president and CEO in July 2020.

Q: Who helped to get you where you are?

A: My mentors. I’ve had mentors in college (Dr. Jack Byrd, Dr. Donald L. Gochenour) and in every role I’ve had professionally. In every position I’ve ever held, I worked to discover who the really smart people were, and I learned from them. My mentor at Kaiser, Jack Hockema, was someone I worked with for over 25 years. My mentors helped teach me many skills and guided me in running businesses, they taught me “the art of the deal,” how to always plan for the worst so that the worst doesn’t bury you and to drive forward using the data to successfully execute a well-defined, long-term strategy.


Q: What advice would you give to students looking to pursue an engineering career?

  1. Be comfortable with putting yourself in an uncomfortable position: Every job I’ve had taught me something new and helped me later in life in making bigger decisions for both me personally and for Kaiser Aluminum. For instance, working in the mines during summer breaks provided the necessary income for college but also taught me that I DIDN’T want to work as a mining engineer in that field going forward. Bagging groceries, welding aluminum, developing business plans, buying, and closing businesses, etc. taught me how to handle adversity and how to function in many different roles and environments.
  2. Take care of the now and let tomorrow take care of itself: I have never asked for a promotion, nor did I ever receive one without succeeding in the role I was in currently. It is important to take the time to build your portfolio of experiences and learnings to help you succeed in future roles … you can make mistakes that aren’t fatal.
  3. Be humble and park your ego at the door: Titles are nice, and organizations need them but don’t put an inordinate amount of reliance on them. No one is successful without a number of others having your back or contributing to help achieve positive results. Listen when others speak, when you’re doing all the talking, you’re not learning. EVERYTHING is about the team; individual effort is required but most things of importance are resolved with others.

Success or failure can be measured by a variety of metrics but does not come from one instance or circumstance but from the culmination of ALL things. Find something you enjoy, something that challenges you, is rewarding, and provides you with a sense of accomplishment.


Q: Why do you support our Statler College students and our community?

A: I’ve embraced my heritage and background fully. It has had a very positive effect on my career and taught me about the legacy I wish to leave behind. As I close in on the end of mine, I find helping others achieve success brings me great satisfaction and so I’m focusing on becoming more of a mentor to others to help them fulfill their goals in life. I give back to inspire because WVU gave me more than I can ever repay; I’m extremely grateful for my upbringing in southern WV and to WVU for the initial preparation for taking on a career that was never planned and never expected and was far from boring.



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135