Honorary Chair

Senator John D. RockefellerSenator Jay Rockefeller has proudly served the people of West Virginia for over 40 years. In 1964, Rockefeller first came to West Virginia as a 27-year-old VISTA volunteer serving in the small mining community of Emmons. West Virginia has been his home ever since. Working with the residents of Emmons to improve the community through projects such as building a community center and library, constructing a park, and lobbying the county school board to run a bus to Emmons, changed Jay Rockefeller’s life forever.

In both his tenure as Governor and United States Senator, Rockefeller has been known as a passionate fighter for West Virginia – for better health care, better education, and better jobs. Rockefeller understands that good-paying jobs and a thriving economy are keys to West Virginia’s future.

Recognizing the need to promote West Virginia as a growing business environment, Rockefeller joined a group of West Virginia business leaders in 1993 to create the Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation. As part of his economic strategy, Rockefeller has led numerous Foundation-sponsored Project Harvest trade missions. These trade missions have introduced West Virginia businesses to Japan and Taiwan, opening up markets for West Virginia products. Through the Foundation, he continues to play an instrumental role in attracting investment in and jobs for West Virginia today.

As part of his economic development vision, Rockefeller worked for 15 years to attract Toyota Motor Manufacturing to West Virginia. His patience and determination with Toyota paid off in 1996, when the company announced its plans to build an engine plant in Buffalo, Putnam County. In addition to Toyota, Rockefeller successfully brought international companies that include Wheeling-Nisshin Steel to the Northern Panhandle, NGK Sparkplugs to Pocatalico, Sino Swearingen Aircraft to Martinsburg, Nippon Thermostat to Putnam County, KS of West Virginia to Jackson County, and Okuno to Wayne County.

In the United States Senate, Rockefeller is the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He also serves as Chairman of the Healthcare Subcommittee on Finance and as Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Rockefeller also serves on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Rockefeller was born on June 18, 1937. He graduated from Harvard University in 1961 with a B.A. in Far Eastern Languages and History, after having spent three years studying Japanese at International Christian University in Tokyo. After college, Rockefeller worked for the Peace Corps in Washington DC, where he served as the operations director for their largest overseas program in the Philippines. He continued his public service in 1964-65 as a VISTA volunteer in Emmons, West Virginia. He was then elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1966, and to the office of West Virginia Secretary of State in 1968. Following his term as Secretary of State, he served as President of West Virginia Wesleyan College from 1973 to 1976.

The people of West Virginia then elected him to be Governor in 1976 and re-elected him in 1980. In 1984, he was elected to the United States Senate, and re-elected in 1990, 1996 and 2002.Since 1967, Rockefeller has been married to Sharon Percy Rockefeller with whom he has four children: John, Valerie, Charles, and Justin. Jay and Sharon are also the proud grandparents of four granddaughters and two grandsons.