More than 1,000 people have graduated from the program, which is financially supported by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, corporations, local chamber organizations, businesses where the sessions are held, alumni and program tuition.
Farris grew up in rural western Pennsylvania with five siblings and two very hard-working and dedicated parents. She and her siblings are first-generation college graduates.
She became interested in business through her oldest sister who, according to Farris, is the most independent member of her family and was a buyer for a manufacturing company. That her sister had found her talents helped Farris find her own.
"I think I found my gift and honed in on it and keep moving in that direction. I love to be around people and to make a difference, and have others make a difference in my life. Marketing, client relations, and now what I'm doing just seem to all fit into what I like to do."
Sixty years ago, her mother worked in the office of a manufacturing plant before she got married. "You couldn't be a married woman and work in that company," Farris said.
Her mother and father were married when her mother worked at the plant. "Her boss dearly loved her and her work and kept it quiet for a while, but others found out and she eventually left the job."
Farris' father worked in a manufacturing plant as a foreman and superintendent. "He was very dedicated to what he did. He was very proud to take the family to the [annual company gathering]."
Farris smiled. "Our personalities are very similar. We both like to be around people and take charge."
She said, "Right before he passed away, he planned an event for the community and was one of the oldest members of the planning committee...He had a great work ethic. He taught us to give it our all."
In 1983, Farris married her husband, Joe, and came to Charleston. They have two sons who both attend West Virginia State University. "We try to instill in our kids how important respect is. Respect of time, people, yourself, property...Respect is a big piece of what I try to live by, too."
Another lesson Farris has learned and lives by is, "Don't make up your mind until you've experienced it."
She continued, "We've got a beautiful state and very good and caring people in our state. There's so much to see and to know before you make a decision. You can't talk about something unless you know it."
Farris believes that the important role that Leadership West Virginia plays is to give leaders in the state the opportunity to expand their knowledge and experiences so that they can be better equipped to make decisions in business, in their communities, in their careers, and in their personal lives.
Jen Wood Cunningham may be contacted at jenreneew...@gmail.com.