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.
His life was the subject of the 1998 best-selling biography, A Beautiful Mind, and the 2001 Hollywood film (which won the Best Picture Oscar) of the same name. Other contributors to the Nash profile are Nash’s sister, Martha Nash Legg; Cliff Hawley, Professor of Economics at West Virginia University; Steve Shreve (a native of Greenbrier County) and Dejan Slepcev, both mathematicians at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Also in this season:
Diane Lewis, founder and CEO of Action Facilities Management, a security and facilities company based in Morgantown. Her company, which started in 2001 with one employee (her 17-year-old son!) now employs more than 300 people in nine states. Lewis, a native of the Adamston neighborhood in Clarksburg, is currently the Small Business Person of the Year in West Virginia. Lewis also serves on the Board of Governors of West Virginia University and is a leader in the Teaming to Win events for small businesses in West Virginia.
She and her husband Kenny Jackson run a non-profit organization, Members of Diversity, which helps youngsters from minority groups to develop the skills they need to find jobs. Also contributing to the profile are Lewis’ sister, Donna Jean Forge, Brad Calandrelli, Director of Facilities at the High Tech Consortium in Fairmont and James Clements, President of West Virginia University.
Rodney Bartgis, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia and one of the region’s most respected scientists in field biology and ecology. Since he was a child in Berkeley County, Bartgis has discovered dozens of rare plant species in West Virginia, and many naturalists agree that he knows more about the natural history of West Virginia than anyone alive. To help protect the state’s amazing biodiversity, Bartgis, along with colleagues at The Nature Conservancy and others, has helped to conserve some of West Virginia’s most unique wild places – in the New River Gorge, Canaan Valley, the Smoke Hole Canyon, Cranberry Glades, Panther Knob and Pike Knob, among many others.
Other contributors to his profile include Bartgis’ father, Bob Bartgis; Elizabeth Byers, plant ecologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and the team of men who have been hiking the Mountain State with Bartgis for more than 35 years.
Linda Powers, a bio-engineer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, builds instruments that use light to look for life in extreme environments – from microbes in hospital operating rooms, to microbes in remote deserts to life on Mars. She is considered the top person in the world in this field, with many of her projects funded by the Department of Defense and NASA. She is the Thomas R Brown Distinguished Professor of Bio-Engineering at the University of Arizona, and is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Powers, a native of Beckley, is a former winner of the West Virginia State Science Fair and the national Westinghouse Science Talent Search (now funded by Intel) sometimes referred to as "the nation's oldest and most prestigious" science competition. Powers placed among the top five science students in the nation.
Other contributors to her profile include colleague and bio-engineer Walter Ellis; scientist and engineer Lois Wardell, and former Woodrow Wilson High School classmate, Kathy Smith Simmons.
Inspiring West Virginians,the West Virginia Public Radio series which profiles leading scientists, engineers and business people from the Mountain State, is produced and presented by Jean Snedegar, an independent producer based in Elkins. Suzanne Higgins is the Senior Producer for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
The series is made possible by the generous support of the Myles Family Foundation – inspiring West Virginians to soar.