W. Wilder Knight II
W. Wilder Knight II is an attorney and producer, with extensive experience in television, film, advertising and entertainment finance. His ability to work across these fields makes him an invaluable advisor and creative partner.
Mr. Knight recently served as head legal counsel to the producers of the 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove. He was also associate producer of Mad Hot Ballroom, the seventh highest grossing documentary of all time. Mr. Knight has negotiated branding deals with Muhammad Ali, documentary film contracts with Brazilian soccer star Pele, and an actors agreement with Helen Mirren. As a practicing attorney he regularly represents international advertising agencies and feature films.
Catherine Gund, the founder of Aubin Pictures, is an Emmy Award-nominated producer, director, writer and organizer. Her media work focuses on arts and culture, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, the environment, and other social justice issues. Her films – which include A Touch of Greatness, Motherland Afghanistan, Making Grace, On Hostile Ground, and Hallelujah! – have screened around the world in festivals and theaters, on PBS, Discovery’s Planet Green, and the Sundance Channel, at community-based organizations, universities, and museums. Gund’s most recent project, What’s On Your Plate?, is a fun and provocative documentary about kids and food politics, accompanied by a curriculum, website and workbook for families.
Ronald W. English
Ronald W. English was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston from 1972-1993. Under his leadership, First Baptist became a Charter Member of the Religious Coalition for Community Renewal, establishing low income housing in downtown Charleston. English also founded the Black Heritage Cultural Series in Charleston, which was the first such project funded by the WV Arts and Humanities Council.
Prior to serving at First Baptist, English was Assistant Minister to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. Rev. English offered the prayer at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April, 1968 and has lectured and written on African- American history, particularly on the life and work of Dr. King. In 1990 English was invited by Bishop Desmond Tutu to South African on a delegation of African American leaders to aid in the transition to a new South Africa.
English has moderated and produced public affairs programs for commercial and public television and authored op-ed articles for local newspapers. Currently, he is a certified adult educator/trainer, consultant in Diversity Management, and lecturer at Wheeling Jesuit University.
John P. David
Dr. John P. David is Professor of Economics and Labor and Chair of the Department of Social Sciences and Public Administration at West Virginia University Institute of Technology. He also serves as Director of the Southern Appalachian Labor School, a non-profit community development organization engaged in youth development, housing, and social justice issues.
Dr. David has written extensively on economic issues and is a contributing columnist for the Charleston Gazette. Most recently, he co-authored with Jan Young “Mannington to Upper Big Branch: The Promise Betrayed” in Appalachian Heritage. He was selected as a recipient of the Honorary West Virginian Award by former Governor Bob Wise, recognized as a Runner-Up Professor of the Year Finalist by the Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia, and received the 2008 Martin Luther King, Jr. “Living the Dream” award from the West Virginia Holiday Commission. He received his Ph.D. from West Virginia University.
Celebrated author and treasure of the West Virginia arts community, Denise Giardina is an ordained Episcopal Church deacon, a community activist and a former candidate for the West Virginia state governorship.
Often labelled an Appalachian writer, or a historical novelist, Giardina describes herself as a theological writer, exploring fundamental issues of faith and belief through literary characters. She is the winner of the American Book Award and the Boston Book Review fiction prize, and the author of five novels.
Betty Dotson-Lewis is a West Virginia novelist and writer, whose work documents local and regional Appalachian culture and history. Her novels and articles capture the unique flavor of the mountains and people, through unedited stories rooted in oral history. Dotson-Lewis is the author of Appalachia; Spirit Triumphant (2004), Sago Mine Disaster; Appalachian Coalfield Stories (2007),The Sunny Side of Appalachia; Bluegrass from the Grassroots (2008), and the forthcoming novel Girl from Stretchneck Mountain. She is also a regular contributor to Daily Yonder: Keep it Rural Blog.
Dotson-Lewis has a strong connection to the history of Hawks Nest. A resident of Summerville, WV, she lives thirty miles from the site of the tunnel at Hawks Nest. Her house is located just over the knoll from the original Martha White Farm, home of the first graves. She has also been writing about the history of Hawks Nest for over ten years, in newspapers, blogs and novels.
Billy Joe Peyton
Billy Joe Peyton is a sixth generation West Virginian who received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in History from West Virginia University. Peyton has worked as a public historian at WSWP-TV, a local PBS affiliate in Beckley, West Virginia, and for the National Park Service in Mississippi and West Virginia before joining the faculty at West Virginia State University in 2002. He is Associate Professor of History and Chair of the History Department there. Billy Joe has numerous local and regional publications to his credit, including entries in the West Virginia Encyclopedia and West Virginia History journal, as well as a local history book titled Charleston Then and Now. He has also worked as writer and historian on several documentary films, including Ghosts of Green Bottom, winner of a 2005 Bronze Telly Award. Billy Joe maybe seen in The 50 States series that airs on the History Channel.
Interest in the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel is personal for Billy Joe, because his father’s family lived and worked in Gauley Bridge during its construction. An uncle, Arthur Peyton, worked as an engineer on the project and testified before the House Subcommittee on the inadequacies of
tunnel ventilation. His testimony is immortalized in The Book of the Dead by Muriel Rukeyser.
Mildred T. Holt
Mildred Holt is a community leader and dedicated advocate for environmental, health and safety protections. Her track record of grassroots organizing and knowledge of environmental and chemical hazards are extensive. For over thirty years she has served as director of many civic and professional organizations, including the National Institute for Chemical Studies and the West Virginia Commission on Children and Youth. She is a charter member of People Concerned about MIC (methyl isocynanate) founded in 1985, and a life-long member of the NAACP.
A retired teacher and director of personnel and professional certification in the Kanawha County schools, Holt has received many awards for her environmental justice activism, including the Hazo W. Carter Presidential Award and the Russell H. Wehrle Memorial Award.
Gerald Markowitz is Distinguished Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. As a historian and scholar he specializes in Public Health and American Social History, with a specific attention to the history of silicosis, and the role of industry in the development of public health and labor standards. He is the co-author of Deadly Dust, Silicosis and the Struggle for Workers’ Health, Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, and The Plague on All Our Houses: Lead Poisoning and the Conundrum of Public Health. Dr. Markowitz is the recipient of numerous grants from private and federal agencies, including the Milbank Memorial Fund, National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation. He received his doctorate from the Department of History of the University of Wisconsin.
David Rosner is a professor, scholar and prolific writer in the fields of public health, industrial pollution, worker safety, and sociomedical science and history. He is the co-author of Deadly Dust, Silicosis and the Struggle for Workers’ Health, Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, and The Plague on All Our Houses: Lead Poisoning and the Conundrum of Public Health. Dr. Rosner is Ronald H. Lauterstein Professor of Sociomedical Science and History at Columbia University and Co-Director of the Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, he has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Investigator Award, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and a Josiah Macy Fellow.
Martin G. Cherniack
Dr. Cherniack is the author of the foremost history of the Hawks Nest disaster, The Hawk’s Nest Incident: America’s Worst Industrial Accident, and a leading scholar of workplace safety and work related injuries.
As a physician and professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Dr. Cherniack is co-director of the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workforce, and director of the Ergonomic Technology Center. He received his medical degree from Stanford University and a Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley.
Charlotte and George Neilan
Charlotte Neilan is publisher of The Nicholas Chronicle in Summersville, WV. Together with her husband, George, she is leading the effort to build a memorial to all Hawks Nest workers who died prematurely from working in the tunnel. George and Charlotte are also the organizers of an extensive ‘clean up’ of the gravesites of unidentified tunnel workers whose remains were found near Summersville Lake in 2008. They are planning a dedication ceremony to honor the lives of those lost and to consecrate the soil where the bodies are buried. A graduate of Yale and George Washington Law School, George is a residential land developer in Charleston and retired patent attorney. Charlotte is a graduate of the University of Charleston, and worked as a RN prior to her newspaper career.
Carl Agsten, Jr.
Carl Agsten Jr. is widely known in the Kanawha Valley for his charitable work. He and his wife, the Rev. Leslie Clay, are community and faith leaders, with years of experience in social justice organizing and grassroots fundraising. Currently they live in Nicaragua, where they work with the Nicaraguan Council of Protestant Churches, an organization that promotes peace and strengthens leadership in the poorest rural communities of Nicaragua.
Agten has a background in historic preservation and commercial construction. During his time at the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office, Agsten advised communities on how to preserve their heritage using the National Register of Historic Places. He was also a construction specifications writer for ZMM, Architects & Engineers for twelve years and worked as a project manager and vice-president of Agsten Construction.
Cameron Wood has worked in private equity investment for over a decade. As a Principal at Kline, Hawkes & Co. he is responsible for seeking out new investment opportunities, with a special focus on media and Internet. Wood also has extensive experience advising nonprofit and media companies on their business and investment strategies.
Prior to working in finance Wood was a New York based freelance producer, director and creative developer for film and television. He has worked on numerous award winning documentaries, news, special events, and game shows.