Five leaders named to state business hall of fame

By The West Virginia Record | Nov 8, 2007






MORGANTOWN -- Five business and industry leaders with strong ties to West Virginia have been named to the 2007 West Virginia Business Hall of Fame.

They will be inducted during a public ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown. A 6:30 p.m. reception will precede the event.

Those being honored as top business leaders are:

* Phyllis H. Arnold, regional president, Branch Banking & Trust

* Charles H. James III, chairman and chief executive officer, C.H. James & Co.

* Douglas J. Leech, founder; chairman and CEO, Centra Bank Inc.

* Robert L. Shell Jr., chairman and CEO, Guyan International

* Gary G. White, president and CEO, International Resource Partners

The ceremony is a tribute to those who have demonstrated accomplishments in the world of business and who provide models for entrepreneurs and business people of the future.

"The state of West Virginia is fortunate to have individuals committed to improving the economic status for its people," said Stephen Sears, Milan Puskar Dean of the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics. "This year, we will induct five loyal and successful individuals into the hall of fame who have and will continue to serve as role models, not just for our business students, but for all West Virginians."

The West Virginia Business Hall of Fame was established in 2001 by the College of Business and Economics to publicly recognize extraordinary business leaders and to establish a record of their achievement.

Those inducted into the hall of fame must have established a record of distinction in their field and industry in the categories of national/international businesses, state-based enterprises or entrepreneurial and family businesses. They must also have connections to West Virginia, either by birth, residence, education or business presence.

Reservations for the Nov. 15 ceremony and reception are encouraged, but not required. Call 304-293-7807 to reserve seating.

For more information about the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame, visit

Here are brief biographies of this year's inductees:

* Phyllis Huff Arnold is state president of BB&T West Virginia and regional president of BB&T West Virginia Central Region.

She graduated with a degree in business administration from WVU and received an MBA from Marshall University. She also is a graduate from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University.

In 1979, then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller named her state banking commissioner. After four years in public service, she returned to banking at One Valley Bancorp as senior vice president, became executive vice president and was elected to the bank's board of directors. She became president and CEO in 1991, and with the merger of One Valley Bancorp and BB&T, she was elected to her current position.

Arnold serves on the boards of directors of Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation, Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, West Virginia Bankers Association, West Virginia Roundtable, West Virginia Venture Connection, Marshall University Foundation and the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia Inc.

She was featured in The State Journal's special edition, "Women in Business," in May 1994, selected as one of the winners in The State Journal's Who's Who in West Virginia Business in 1995 and chosen by the West Virginia Women's Commission to receive a 1996 Celebrate Women Award. In 1997, she was inducted into the Marshall University Business Hall of Fame.

* Charles H. James III is chairman and CEO of C.H. James & Co., one of the oldest and largest African-American-owned companies in the United States. The firm was established as a wholesale produce house by his great grandfather in 1883 in Charleston and evolved into a multimillion dollar wholesale food distributor.

In 1985, James joined the business and focused on government contracting. In 1992, C.H. James & Co. was named Company of the Year by Black Enterprise Magazine.

Today, the C.H. James companies generate annual revenues of more than $50 million and include its historical interests in produce distribution as well as investments in quick service restaurants. C.H. James Restaurant Holdings, the latest affiliate, was formed in 2004 and owns 43 quick service restaurants in Chicago in partnership with Goldman Sachs. The company is the largest African-American franchisee of Burger King Corp.

After attending WVU, James graduated from Morehouse College in 1981. He worked as a commercial lender at the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Co. before earning his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania in 1985.

He serves as a trustee at Morehouse College, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago Urban League and Steppenwolf Theater.

* Douglas J. Leech is founder, chairman, president and CEO of Centra Financial Holdings Inc. and Centra Bank Inc. in Morgantown, which was formed in 1999.

Centra, a billion-dollar company, has been identified as the fastest growing bank in West Virginia and has achieved a national ranking of third for growth and success of all banks started in the United States since 1999.

Leech was the former president and CEO of Huntington Banks West Virginia and prior to that executive vice president and CEO for One Valley Bank's Northern Division.

He began his career as a certified public accountant with Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co. in Pittsburgh in 1976 prior to entering the West Virginia banking industry in 1980.

Leech, an honors graduate of Pennsylvania State University, has held leadership positions in more than 30 organizations and has been recognized many times for his contributions and accomplishments. He is a past chairman of the WVU Board of Governors.

* Robert L. Shell Jr. is chairman and CEO of Guyan International, a privately held holding company whose Permco Division manufactures hydraulic products that serve mobile equipment in the mining, oil, timber, waste management, off-highway and heavy truck industries. Permco has facilities in the United States, Europe and China.

Shell also chairs Standard Leasing Co., CRW Real Estate LLC and PKY Properties Inc. He serves on various bank boards in Florida, Louisiana, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

He has been a board member of the United Way of the River Cities, Huntington Boys and Girls Club, Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation, United Huntington Industries, Marshall Artists Series and the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences.

Shell attended Marshall University and serves as chairman on the Marshall University Board of Governors. He has served on the board of the West Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges and the University of Charleston.

He was inducted into the Marshall University Business Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2004, the new Southwestern Regional Juvenile Justice Center in Barboursville was named after him.

* Gary G. White is president and CEO of International Resource Partners, a central Appalachian coal company that produces steam and metallurgical coal for domestic and international markets. Its initial assets were acquired from the mining division of International Industries Inc. in June where White had served as its president and CEO since 1992.

A graduate of Marshall University, White was West Virginia Coal Association's president and CEO from 1985-92 and a member and former chairman of the Marshall University Board of Governors. He is on the board of Community Trust Bank Bancorp Inc., West Virginia Media Holding LLC and Paragon Intellectual Properties LLC.

In addition, White is director and vice president of the Larry Joe Harless Community Center Foundation Inc. and a member of Gov. Joe Manchin's 21st Century Jobs Cabinet. He was also a member and past chairman of the West Virginia Business Roundtable.

White received the 2006 Distinguished Achievement Award from the West Virginia Education Alliance, 2004 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Marshall University Alumni Association and the City of Hope "Spirit of Life Award." He was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame at the Marshall University Elizabeth McDowell Lewis School of Business in 2003.

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