CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The thing about the people Jean Snedegar profiles in her radio program, "Inspiring West Virginians," is if the show didn't exist, even Snedegar probably wouldn't know who these people are.
Odds are, you wouldn't either.
"We don't know all the West Virginians who've done incredible things," Snedegar said. "Often, it's others who recognize them long before we do."
The show, broadcast Thursdays at 9 p.m. on West Virginia Public Radio over the next month, tries to shed a little light on West Virginians who've accomplished remarkable things. They just aren't household names like Brad Paisley, Jennifer Garner or Randy Moss.
The genesis of the program, Snedegar said, largely comes from the show's sponsor, June Myles.
Snedegar, a broadcaster with three decades of experience who got her start in radio working for the BBC, was walking her dog near her home in Elkins when she passed by Myles. Myles, the president of Myles Lumber, vice chairman for the Davis & Elkins College Board of Trustees and the head of the Myles Family Foundation, was in the yard with her own dog. They began talking, first about their pets and then about West Virginia.
It was just a friendly encounter between two people who lived in the same neighborhood, but Myles told Snedegar, "You know, West Virginia is really good at celebrating our writers, musicians, artists, politicians and athletes, but we're not very good at celebrating our business people or our scientists."
The lumber executive and philanthropist thought Snedegar ought to do a show about that for West Virginia Public Radio, and the radio producer didn't disagree.
"I'd done a few things for them before, but I knew West Virginia Public Radio doesn't have the funds to do that."
They both knew it, so Myles told her she'd fund it. During the last three seasons, "Inspiring West Virginians" has showcased 12 men and women who've made their mark on the world of business or science. Among them: Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the recently confirmed director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Brad Smith, President and CEO of Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, Quicken and QuickBooks; and NASA engineer-turned author, Homer Hickam.
The fourth season begins Thursday and features an interview with mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. The 85-year-old Bluefield native was the subject of the 2001 film "A Beautiful Mind." The Oscar-winning drama, based loosely on the eponymous Pulitzer Prize nominated book by Sylvia Nasar, starred Russell Crowe as Nash. It dramatized the Nobel Laureate's brilliance and his long struggle with mental illness.
Nash rarely gives interviews.
"In fact, he never spoke to Nasar," Snedegar said. "When she wrote the book, she spoke with John Nash's wife and his sister, but she never spoke to him. He refused."
The producer said Nash wasn't an easy interview, though he was acutely aware that he could be difficult to talk to.