Radford citizen awarded honorary degree by Radford University

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George Harvey Sr. (center) is honored at the Spring Commencement Ceremony at Radford University on May 6 by President Brian O. Hemphill (left) and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Joseph Scartelli.

A beloved member of the Radford community and Highlander family, George M. Harvey, Sr., was honored May 6 during the University’s spring 2017 Commencement Ceremony on Moffett Lawn.


Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., bestowed upon him an honorary Bachelor of Business Administration in recognition of his lifetime achievement in business and faithful service to his community.

“George is a great supporter of the University and a great friend. He is a true Virginia gentleman. Throughout his many business endeavors, he was engaging in innovation before people even thought of innovation. He is one of the great examples of someone ahead of his time. His success in business and his dedication to his community has made a positive impact on Radford University, the Radford community and the New River Valley,” said President Hemphill.

Bruce Cunningham, interim vice president for University Advancement, a Radford native and grandson of Radford University’s second president, David Wilbur Peters, Ph.D., remembers his father calling George M. Harvey, Sr., “Big H.” He said Harvey has been a role model and inspiration for him and so many others. “George has been so much a part of the community and Radford University. This honor is so fitting,” said Cunningham.

After serving in the U.S. Army and taking classes at the National Business College in Roanoke, George M. Harvey, Sr. has always been self-employed. He began his professional career owning a service station, then a used car dealership, gas distributorship and a new car business. With each business success, he would use his profits to invest in the next and even more successful business. His son, Brad Harvey, said that his father’s success came from the way he treated people. “Dad would say ‘always tell the truth, be honest and good things will come,’” said Brad Harvey.

In 1959, George M. Harvey, Sr., founded what we know today as Harvey’s Chevrolet. In 1989, TIME Magazine named Harvey a Quality Dealer Award finalist, and his selection was announced by TIME Magazine at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention in New Orleans on Jan. 28, 1989. He was only one of 10 dealers nationwide to be named a finalist for his outstanding business performance and exceptional community service.

Current Radford University Board of Visitors member Mary Ann Hovis ’65, who joined Harvey’s family in a breakfast ceremony honoring Harvey before the Commencement ceremony, remembers when her family began a car dealership in Marion. Harvey served with her father and brothers on the New River Valley Dealers Association board. Harvey’s connections across the region were varied and used to make a difference for those around him.

In addition to working hard and being a successful businessman, Harvey is dedicated to his community. He has held positions on boards of directors in the areas of healthcare, banking, education and community organizations. During Radford University President Donald Dedmon’s tenure, Harvey served as the second president of the Radford University Foundation Board of Directors.

Spring 2017 Commencement Day was an appropriate day for Radford University to celebrate one of the region’s most outstanding citizens. “George Harvey, Sr. is recognized today for his commitment to his community, his accomplished career, his role in the economic prosperity of this region and what he does every day to make the New River Valley a wonderful place to live and work. I know you serve as a role model for so many people and hope that the graduates here today will also be inspired by your success,” said Joe Scartelli, Ph.D., Radford University interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

George M. Harvey, Jr. was in the audience to see his father receive his honorary degree. “Dad has worked extremely hard his whole life for business and the community, and this is well deserved,” he said.

Ken Harvey is also proud of his father and what he has accomplished. “He has worked very hard during his life. He’s worked hard in business and has been generous with his time in the community. I’m happy for him to be able to be honored because of what he’s achieved in his lifetime,” said Ken.

“I have always been really proud of him. I think he’s wonderful,” said Harvey’s wife Juanita. Harvey’s daughter Pamela Minter was also at the ceremony to celebrate with her father.

When George M. Harvey, Sr. accepted the degree from President Hemphill, he humbly told the audience of graduates and their families “this is not my day, this is your day, the day that you are graduating. You’re getting your degree and you’re in your 20s. I’m getting mine when I’m 89!,” said Harvey. He said to the crowd of 1,800 graduates and their families that “the most important part of Radford University is the students. Radford University is here to give our students a quality education at a reasonable price,” said Harvey.

“I just want Radford University to grow and prosper. That’s my goal. With Dr. Hemphill’s ability, energy and willingness to work – I believe we can accomplish that,” said Harvey.

Commencement days are nothing new for Harvey. He has five children and 15 grandchildren, and “I’ve been to a few of them over the years, but this is the first one that I’ve been to for myself,” he said after the Commencement ceremony. “It was a great event. To have my children and grandchildren here with me made it even more special,” said Harvey.

— Submitted Mary Hardbarger