Suzanne Higgins Published

Global Science and Business Leaders Featured In Inspiring West Virginians Radio Documentary


Inspiring West Virginians tells the stories of West Virginians who are exceptional leaders in science and business. We visit them where they are, learn about what they do, hear stories of their childhoods and the influence of a West Virginia upbringing.  Added to that are the perspectives of friends, relatives and colleagues.  

Coming from small towns or modest means, they’ve all overcome hardships and hurdles on their way to the top of their fields.

These individuals credit their Mountain State upbringing and the values they were taught here as factors in their achievements. In return, they’re giving back to their home state in various ways.

Producer/Host Jean Snedegar of Elkins has profiled more than 2 dozen of these innovators from West Virginia throughout the course of the series, beginning in 2010. She’s traveled from Washington State to Washington, D.C., down country roads in McDowell County to a farm in Berkeley County.

“West Virginia has produced an amazing array of world-class scientists, engineers and business people, and their stories are part of the rich tapestry of this state,” said Snedegar. “I hope their journeys inspire people from all walks of life, but especially students who may say to themselves, ‘If that person can do it, so can I!’”

Featured in the upcoming December 28 broadcast:

Keren Brown Wilson, 66, an entrepreneur and world pioneer of the assisted living movement. Wilson is a McDowell County native and coal miner’s daughter. After becoming a professor of gerontology at Portland State University, she opened the first assisted living facility in Portland, then developed assisted living facilities throughout the United States.  


Credit Jean Snedegar
Keren Brown Wilson of McDowell County, founder of assisted living model of elder care.

Keren Brown Wilson now heads a foundation – named after her mother, Jessie F Richardson – aimed at providing better care for under-served elders in the United States and abroad. 

Rod Van Meter, 49, from Mingo County, a computer engineer who works at the forefront of the next generation of computing worldwide.  A quantum computer and network architect, Van Meter recently published the world’s first book on Quantum Networking, the basis for the future of the internet.  


Credit Jean Snedegar
Rod Van Meter of Mingo County is a quantum computer network architect.

Rod Van Meter is also an associate professor at Keio University’s Shonan Fujisawa Campus in the city of Fujisawa, Japan. 

Brian Anderson, 37, the Director of West Virginia University’s Energy Institute.  The Roane County native is a world authority in geothermal energy and gas hydrates, a champion of sustainable energy, and a tireless advocate for making West Virginia’s fossil energy resources – coal, oil and gas – both productive and environmentally sustainable. 


Credit Jean Snedegar
Brian Anderson of Roane County is a world authority on geothermal energy and gas hydrates.

In 2013 Brian Anderson was the winner of the President’s Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the only person from West Virginia to receive that honor. 

Marilyn Johnson, 62, leads the International Women’s Forum in Washington, DC, an organization of more than 6000 top women leaders around the world.  A native of Kanawha Valley, Marilyn spent 35 years as an executive for IBM – rising to Vice-President of Market Development – making her one of the top African-American female leaders in the IT industry. 


Credit Jean Snedegar
Marilyn Johnson, a native of Kanawha County, also serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including the National Council of Negro Women in Washington, DC. 

A graduate of Marshall University, Marilyn Johnson led a group responsible for developing IBM’s strategy for, and marketing to, businesses owned or operated by Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and women around the world. 

Executive Producer Suzanne Higgins of West Virginia Public Broadcasting is Senior Producer for Inspiring West Virginians.

-The series is made possible by the generous support of the Myles Family Foundation – inspiring West Virginians to soar. 

In December 2014, we featured four incredibly inspiration leaders in the Season 5 one-hour radio documentary. Click the player below to listen to the program. 

This West Virginia Public Radio series is produced and presented by Jean Snedegar, an independent producer based in Elkins, and Suzanne Higgins, Executive Producer for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Myles Family Foundation Logo

The series is made possible by the generous support of the Myles Family Foundation – inspiring West Virginians to soar.