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Securing America’s Future:

The Power of Liberal Arts Education

Edwin Keh

CEO, Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel
Whittier College (CA), Class of 1979

​Edwin Keh is the CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel, a public/private fund engaged in applied industrial research. He is also on the faculty of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches supply chain operations. Keh is the 2011 recipient of the Production and Operations Management Society’s Martin K. Starr Excellence in Production and Operations Management Practice Award. 

Until April 2010, Keh was SVP COO of Wal-Mart Global Procurement.  He managed offices in more than 20 countries and sourcing activities in more than 50 countries.  Apart from acting as the supply-chain spokesman on numerous occasions, Keh helped put together the 2008 Global CEO Summit on Sustainability in Beijing, China.

Prior to working at Wal-Mart, Keh managed a consulting group that has done work on supply chain, manufacturing, and product design for companies such HH Brown and Payless Shoes Australia. The practice also did work for nonprofit organizations and charities, which took him to Burma, Northern Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, and China, where he worked with schools, orphanages, tribal peoples, and people afflicted by leprosy.

Prior to graduate school, he worked for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as an editor and resettlement lobbyist.

Keh lives in Hong Kong with his wife, Claudia, who teaches at the HK Institute of Education. They have 3 sons.

​I have lived, worked, and travelled extensively in my working life.  My liberal arts educational experience is the competitive advantage that has allowed me to take on the various roles of specialist, manager, and leader over the years. 

I went to college as an international student with severe learning disabilities. Luckily, because of patient and caring professors in a small college environment, I was able eventually to excel in my studies, to develop a love for learning, and to experience a new world of possibilities. 

Because of patient and caring professors in a small college environment, I was able eventually to excel in my studies, to develop a love for learning, and to experience a new world of possibilities.

 
We live in dynamic times with turbulent market places, rapidly changing technologies, and unpredictable turns of events. It is important to be able to quickly take in the big picture, make sense of large quantities of data, formulate problem-solving strategies, and then communicate and execute them effectively.
 
A liberal arts education allows graduates to “learn to learn” continuously, to articulate powerfully, and to make useful contributions to the various endeavors graduates find themselves in. It “future-proofs” their careers.
 
Today as a business leader and academic, I look for young people who have these types of educational experiences. With a liberal arts experience as foundation, it is usually easier for them to fast track careers and take on multiple opportunities.
 
Students and parents making choices about where to go to college should look at college not as a continuation of high school, but as a place to gain knowledge independently, to be educated broadly, and to find deep life-long passions through diverse learning experiences. Small liberal arts schools tend to be the best places to achieve this.

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