Arthur Keith '84, managing director and general manager of the Statler Hotel, in the foyer of the hotel.

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After a career with some of the industry’s biggest names, Arthur Keith ’84 has come home to Upstate NY to lead the beloved hotel

By Lindsay Lennon

Arthur Keith ’84, general manager of the Statler Hotel, says he was initially attracted to the hospitality field in pursuit of “bright lights and big cities.” A native of Elmira, NY (about 35 miles from Ithaca), Keith has had a decades-long career in hotel management that has taken him from one metropolis to another—from multi-billion-dollar resorts in Las Vegas to a riverboat casino company in Kansas City, MO.

At 150 rooms, the boutique Statler—where he once interned as a student human resources manager—is decidedly smaller and less citified than the establishments Keith has run in the past. Nonetheless, he takes his job there just as seriously; if anything, given its function as a teaching hotel, the stakes are even higher.

Two men and a woman in a hotel kitchen talking to each other.
Checking in with the kitchen staff.

“One of my mantras is ‘Think big, act small, fail fast, and teach,’” says Keith, a former Big Red football player. “While I’ve never been a professor or taught a college class, my job is about coaching, and developing and inspiring leaders. What better place to be than Cornell?”

Keith oversees 180 regular employees of the hotel and its eateries—including “heart-of-the-house” staff like housekeepers, dishwashers, and the fine dining chefs at Taverna Banfi, the Statler’s gourmet Italian restaurant.

One of his greatest joys, he says, has been connecting with these employees, many of them first-generation Americans—and he especially loves when their kids become Cornell graduates.

One of my mantras is ‘Think big, act small, fail fast, and teach.'

So far as GM, Keith has implemented new time management and sales software; upgraded technology in the Statler’s restaurants and offices; overseen construction of a new porte-cochère boasting a sleek glass-and-steel canopy; and more.

(Up next: a renovation of the first-floor meeting space, followed by the lobby and Regent Lounge, the hotel’s popular and elegant bar.)

“I see him all around the hotel—in the kitchen, checking out the lobby, everywhere,” says Mary Tabacchi, Keith’s former advisor, now a professor emerita. “He’s a terrific, old-fashioned manager, in that sense.”

A man and two women fold red cloth napkins on a dining table
Helping to fold napkins for a dinner event.

Keith’s wide-ranging career includes working in sprawling mega-resorts, casino hotels, and convention facilities.

In Las Vegas, he oversaw hotel operations at the Venetian and the Rio, and served as GM for the Cosmopolitan and as president of the Stratosphere. 

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Keith also spent four years in Nashville as senior vice president for Gaylord Opryland Resort and worked in the massive Orlando market—including at a DoubleTree by Hilton at SeaWorld—for much of the 2010s.

“Arthur is a legend in the world of ‘big box’ hotels,” says Ted Teng ’79, a longtime leader in the hospitality industry and chair of the Cornell Hotel Society's hall of fame committee.

“Succeeding in this domain requires exceptional skills and unwavering self-discipline—both of which Arthur has demonstrated.”

In March 2020, just over a month into Keith’s tenure at the helm of the Statler, he faced a major hurdle when the COVID pandemic prompted the hotel’s closure—then, as part of the University’s reopening plan the following fall, it became a quarantine space for COVID-positive students.

He’s a terrific, old-fashioned manager.

Professor Emerita Mary Tabacchi

The staff rose to the occasion, Keith says—as housekeeping became more vital than ever and Taverna Banfi servers delivered food in full PPE.

“If you had a kid in college, and they were sick, wouldn’t you want someone to take care of them?” he remembers asking his workers, telling them: “I know you guys are wired for this.”

In addition to the full-time staff, some 300 part-time student workers help run the hotel during any given semester.

Arthur Keith at the front desk of the Statler Hotel
At the front desk toward the end of the fall 2023 semester.

Since 2003, about 300 of them have worked in management and leadership roles through the Statler’s Hotel Leadership Development Program, which also comprises networking events, seminars, and industry immersion trips.

(This year’s group will travel to Orlando; Keith oversaw previous trips to Nashville and Vegas.)

“With the churn of students on this campus, we get an energy insertion every fall semester,” Keith observes. “They’re eager, and they want to learn and connect with people. It boosts everyone. That energy is our special sauce.”

Top: Keith in the Statler lobby. All photos by Noël Heaney / Cornell University.

Published January 4, 2024


  1. Omeda, Class of 2006

    What a great person to feature here! Thank you very much for sharing this! Very powerful article and may there be many many years of prosperity in his life and to all he helps manage at the Statler & beyond!

  2. Gary W Bullis, Class of 1983

    Congrats Art! All the best from your former Big Red team mate.

  3. Anthony “T-Bone” Bonett, MD, Class of 1984

    BIG ART!!! Great read!!! Congrats!!! Keep moving it forward!!!

    Going strong, class of ‘84!!!

  4. Doug Pratt, Class of 1984

    Congratulations Art from an old teammate and classmate! Keep up the great work!

  5. Scott Sidman, Class of 1984

    Congrats on a stellar career to date, Art, and love that you’re back where it all began! Your former classmates and teammates are proud of all you’ve accomplished.

  6. Christopher M. Matsko, Class of 1997

    Good Good. Happy to see Keith @ Cornell

  7. Charles ONeill, Class of 1985

    Best boss and teacher I ever had! Great read Art and I’ll see you in the Fall.

  8. Benjamin Torrent

    a DIY job,career and you accomplished that, the best of congrats. Stay cool, you are still young, with a great future. your friend and first father in law.

  9. Ralph Scholz, Class of 1984

    Hey Art – great to see you back on the hill – what a great addition to the Statler.

  10. Mark Miller, Class of 1984

    Congrats on your great career Art and what a cool way to close it out back in Big Red land! See you at reunion! Mark Miller ‘84.

  11. Lyndon Gross, Class of 1986

    Congratulations Art, great work from a great teammate. I can’t wait to come back to Cornell and the Statler.

  12. Barbara

    you are a great leader! Reading this article brought back. Many great memories of working at the Statler!

  13. Karen Hunter-Lowery

    What an inspiration you continue to be! Sounds like the students/staff at the Statler have “Arthuritis”, just as we did when you were at the Gaylord Opryland Resort.

  14. Lorna Hanks-keith

    Proud of you Arthur! Blessed to be your wife and know how much Cornell, the Statler, Big-Red football and all the students and staff mean to you! Think big / act small / fail fast / teach!

  15. Obinna Onyenedum, Class of 2023

    Great article and the photos capture the essence perfectly! You are just missing his office that is full of inspiration. Good job summarizing the feeling of having this hotelier back at the Statler leading it into the next phase.

  16. Norm Faiola, Class of 1981

    Congratulations Art! All the best to you and the Statler team. I look forward to coming back to Cornell and experiencing the Statler again.

  17. Kate Thatcher Barnwell, Class of 1984

    Great story. Many thanks Art for bringing your world and wealth of experience back to where you started, the Statler! Your clarity of purpose in coaching and teaching is a gift for current and future Hotelies.

  18. Susan Call, Class of 1979

    Congratulations Art on an impacting and successful career. What goes around, comes around, albeit an bigger, more luxurious, and sophisticated boutique hotel compared to the 52-room inn where we worked together. Carol Lang would be so proud! Staff, students and guests are fortunate to have you at the helm.

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