Jean Snedegar

Independent Producer based in Elkins, West Virginia

Jean Snedegar got her start in radio at age 13.  As an 8th grader she helped produce school programs for WDNE in Elkins, but didn’t start her professional career in radio until she was nearly 30 and living in England.

For more than 20 years she worked as a freelance reporter on BBC Radio’s national speech network – Radio 4, and their international radio network, the BBC World Service – at the time one of the few North American voices on the BBC. 

But after more than 25 years in London, she started to hanker for the mountains of West Virginia.  In 2002 she returned to her home state.  Though she sometimes misses the excitement of walking into Broadcasting House in London, she is grateful every day when she looks out her office window overlooking Elkins.

Since 2010 Jean has been producing Inspiring West Virginians, profiles of West Virginians who are global leaders in the sciences and in business.

Ways to Connect

Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Jean Snedegar

Meet Hinton-native Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services in Washington.  Previously she was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Burwell is the past President of Global Development at the Bill & Linda Gates Foundation in Seattle, the world's largest charitable organization. At the Foundation Mathews Burwell was responsible for giving away $750 billion a year to help some of the world's poorest people have access to better agricultural techniques, financial services and clean water and sanitation.

Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit
Brad Smith

Hear why co-workers of Brad Smith, President & CEO of the global financial software giant, Intuit, say he's the best ambassador West Virginia could ever have.

With Marshall memorabilia in abundance in his office, this Wayne County native boldly declares that everyone in the company knows about his alma mater, Marshall University, and his hometown, Kenova, West Virginia.

M.I.T. professor John Ochsendorf
Jean Snedegar

Elkins-native John Ochsendorf, 36, is a professor of structural engineering and architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  At 26 – eight years after he graduated from Elkins High School – he became one of the youngest professors ever appointed at the world’s top technical university.

Dr. Geoffrey Cousins
Jean Snedegar

Dr. Geoffrey Cousins, 42, is one of West Virginia’s most innovative heart surgeons and a pioneer of robotic-assisted heart surgery in the United States.  He lives with his wife and four children in Charleston and practices cardio-thoracic surgery at the Charleston Area Medical Center. 

Verna Gibson, first woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company
Jean Snedegar

Verna LeMasters Gibson, a native of Elkview in Kanawha County, broke the ultimate corporate “glass ceiling” in 1985 when she became the first woman CEO to earn the top spot at a Fortune 500 company, The Limited Stores.  She ran The Limited for six years and during that time it became the nation’s first billion dollar specialty retailing chain. 

Mark Williams, "Mr. Fuel Cell"
Jean Snedegar

Randolph County native Mark Williams is a visionary engineer and scientist who was the first person to see the commercial potential of fuel cells to run everything from heart pacemakers to power plants. 

Judy Sheppard, a dynamic West Virginia entrepreneur
Jean Snedegar

  Judy Sheppard is currently West Virginia’s most honored businesswoman and entrepreneur.  In 2011 she was named the state’s Small Business Person of the Year as well as Distinguished West Virginian of the Year.  Sheppard is founder, president and CEO of Professional Services of America, Inc, a multi-million dollar business based in Parkersburg.   With more than 200 employees, PSA, as it’s known, provides services for some of America’s largest corporations – DuPont, GE, Pepsico, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mylan Pharmaceuticals and others – as well as 32 government agencies.

Dr. Lewis Cantley opened up entirely new fields in cell biology and cancer treatment.
Jean Snedegar

Back in 1985 Dr. Lewis Cantley, a native of Big Chimney in Kanawha County, discovered an enzyme called PI3-Kinase.  At the time his scientific colleagues thought he couldn’t be right.  How could a chemist discover something so fundamental to biology?

Kim Weaver - Global Pioneer in X-ray Astronomy
Jean Snedegar

When Kim Weaver looked up at the stars from her father’s campground in Monongalia County, she was inspired to find out what was out there.  By her early 20s, this WVU graduate had already discovered a galaxy.  She was also among the first scientists in the world to study Black Holes, using an X-ray telescope built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.  Her discoveries helped to launch whole new fields of astronomy.

Homer Hickam - Rocket Boy, NASA aerospace engineer, writer
Jean Snedegar

McDowell County native Homer Hickam, Jr. is best known for his book Rocket Boys, the story of how six teenagers in a 1950s West Virginia coal company town went on to win the National Science Fair in 1960.   One night in October 1957, Hickam’s life changed forever when the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 – the world’s first artificial earth satellite – flew over his hometown of Coalwood.

“I knew at that moment that somehow, some way, I wanted to be involved in this movement into space.”

The fourth series of Inspiring West Virginians  features one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, John Forbes Nash, Jr, a 1994 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Nash grew up in Bluefield, West Virginia, and the town still holds an importance for him. Now 84, John Nash is currently a Senior Research Mathematician at Princeton University in New Jersey. 

 

Inspiring West Virginian, bio-engineer Linda Powers
Jean Snedegar

Bio-safety-level-2 laboratories in the Bio5 Building at the University of Arizona Medical School is where Linda Powers has designed and built several impressive and important scientific instruments.

“Here we handle microbes that can make you sick, but generally not kill you,” said Powers on a recent tour.

But the 64-year-old Beckley native, now the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Professor of Bio-Engineering at the University of Arizona, does handle microbes that can kill you.

Rodney Bartgis 2013 Inspiring West Virginain
Jean Snedegar

Fifty-four-year-old Rodney Bartgis, state director of the West Virginia Nature Conservancy, stood atop Cave Mountain in Pendleton County, an elevation of 2,777 feet.

“It almost looks like the Rocky Mountains,” said Bartgis. “This is the biggest uplift of limestone in the eastern mountains of the United States, and a lot of the rare plants and animals in this canyon are associated with this limestone,” he said. 

Diane Lewis, Morgantown AFM
Jean Snedegar

Action Facilities Management – or AFM – overlooks I-79 near Morgantown and employs more than 300 people in nine states. 

“In Fairmont we work for the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation and we do the security, maintenance and janitorial for all these facilities here,” said founder, president and CEO Diane Lewis. “It’s one of our commercial clients.”   

John Nash
Jean Snedegar

Editor's note: Nobel-prize winning mathematician John Nash and his wife were killed in a traffic accident May 23, 2015. This profile from 2013 is part of our series, "Inspiring West Virginians."

Seventy-eight year old Royal Stokes was born in Washington, DC, grew up alongside the Chesapeake Bay, but now calls the mountains of West Virginia home.

  Following a distinguished academic career, Stokes hosted his own jazz program on public radio and wrote about jazz for The Washington Post.  He's written three books about jazz. His third book, entitled "Growing Up with Jazz" has just been released in paperback.  

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