Keilty ’83, Keilty ’86: VMI Values that Last a Lifetime

Kevin Keilty and Tim Keilty

Raised in a family of seven children, brothers Kevin Keilty ’83 (left), of Memphis, Tennesee, and Tim Keilty ’86, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, were the first of their family to attend the Institute.—Photos courtesy Keiltys.

Brothers Kevin Keilty ’83 and Tim Keilty ’86, who were the first of their relatives to attend the Institute, share a familial legacy of military service, work ethic, and generosity, and a common reason for choosing the Institute: According to their father, it was the only choice.

Looking back, Kevin and Tim found accord between their family’s values and the demands VMI placed on them that, in part, shaped them into the individuals they are now. Today, by creating a scholarship for cadet-athletes, the brothers want to impact VMI and the futures of hardworking cadets in a way they would get to witness in their lifetime.

Kevin, a retired U.S. Navy pilot of 21 years and Memphis, Tennessee, resident who is now the FedEx managing director of flight operations, flight technology, and regulatory compliance, was inspired to follow the path of his older brother, who was a Navy pilot. From their father, who served in the Navy during World War II, to their great uncle, who received a Navy Cross for airmanship in World War I, the Keilty brothers come from a long heritage of military service—a legacy they proudly note continues into the next generation with multiple family members, including their nieces and nephews, who all served or are presently serving.

The Keilty brothers first came across VMI when Kevin was looking for college ROTC programs to pursue the Navy. After visiting post, Kevin said his dad “had made a decision that it was a really good place for me; and I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m not so sure.’” And Tim’s story of his VMI enrollment is quite similar. Under the pretext of a family visit to see then-cadet Kevin, an unsuspecting Tim found their father had a few additional ideas about their trip to the Institute. “I found myself in Smith Hall interviewing … and two hours later being welcomed to VMI,” said Tim. “There are five boys and two girls in our family—and dad once made the statement that had he toured VMI when the first son went off to college, we would have had five graduates of VMI,” said Kevin with a laugh. For all their jests, their father’s strong impression that the Institute was right for his sons would prove true—not only because of Tim and Kevin’s success post-graduation but also because it emphasized the principles of hard work and leadership imbued in their family’s values.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, Kevin commissioned and began his 21-year career as a Navy pilot. Throughout his Navy career, Kevin served in many varied leadership roles, including as a flag aide and an assistant navigator of an aircraft carrier, a tour in the White House, and as a commanding officer/task force commander flying combat missions over Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Meanwhile, Tim, who is also the Class of 1986 president, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and commissioned into the U.S. Air Force. After eight yearstwo active and six inactive reserveTim transitioned into the construction industry, and in 1994, he was a founding partner of BridgeTek, a marketing, manufacturing, and pre-engineered bridge solutions company. After 11 years of growth and offices in 40 states, BridgeTek was acquired by Contech Engineered Solutions. Tim has served many leadership roles with Contech, including strategic markets vice president, area vice president, and he currently leads the Contech Structures commercial business in the Eastern United States from his home in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“By setting something up in perpetuity, we thought we could put our efforts together and have a bigger number that could bring more value and make that splash now.”

Tim Keilty ’86

Coming from a family of seven children with their dad working a government job, Tim and Kevin’s margins were tight when they attended the Institute, as they took out loans and worked jobs on post throughout their four years. Even still, both brothers managed to find time to play sports, with Tim playing baseball and Kevin playing water polo. The time management and prioritization skills required to meet daily academics, military training, sports, and work demands in their VMI experience remained with them in their careers. “The biggest takeaway I valued my whole career is trying to figure out what the priorities for the day are, and that carries over in how you grow in business and strategic planning,” said Tim. Leadership was their second major takeaway from VMI, especially the lessons of the Rat Line. Kevin said he learned the value of “taking care of your people” and leading from the belief that everyone is equal and deserves fair treatment.

Of course, to meet VMI’s demands and succeed in these skills at the Institute and beyond, a third merit was needed—work ethic—and, as Tim said, that was already “in the family DNA.” Their childhood observations of their hardworking parents and grandparents who overcame challenges and lived generously with little laid the groundwork for their cadetship and futures.

In creating their scholarship, Kevin and Tim wanted to uphold these lifelong values that connected them with the Institute and, after their own experience, to get the chance to ease the financial burden of college on cadet-athletes. Having seen their father’s generous gifts to schools after his passing in 2017, the brothers also decided they wanted to give back to VMI and see the fruits of their gifts during their lifetimes. Kevin and Tim’s participation in and love for VMI sports made an athletic scholarship a natural decision, especially since they know what is required of a cadet to manage all of the demands of the Institute, academics, and their sport. “I felt like being able to do this and just take—even if it’s not a lot per year per student—some burden off of them and their family financially was a great way to make an impact,” said Kevin.

While they had consistently been giving back to VMI through the Keydet Club, the brothers wanted to make a larger impact and see the positive impact in the present. “By setting something up in perpetuity, we thought we could put our efforts together and have a bigger number that could bring more value and make that splash now instead of when we’re 80,” said Tim. When Tim approached Kevin with the idea, he was in. “What really struck me was the ability to do something while I’m still alive and see it. I looked at what my dad did, and he was very generous [with] what he did, but he didn’t get to see what the end result was,” said Kevin.

In their support of VMI, the Keilty brothers sustain the values and legacy of a VMI education and those of their family. They have also enjoyed watching their VMI connection extend to their nephew, Jack Keilty ’10, a Navy Blue Angel, whose VMI journey has further tied their family’s heritage with the Institute. Reflecting on what keeps them connected to VMI, Kevin concluded, “It doesn’t matter whether you go back to the Institute every year, every 10 years, every 20 years, every 30 years … it’s a part of you. It is a part of me, a fond part of me, that has shaped who I am today.”

  • Mattie Montgomery

    Mattie Montgomery Assistant Editor

    The assistant editor assists the editor-in-chief in various tasks relating to the production of quarterly and monthly publications, as well as prepares written materials for publication. The assistant editor serves as liaison between class agents and chapter presidents and the Agencies’ publications, as well as provides backup photography for events.