Thematic Matrix Month 12 Features Brad D. Smith & Kermit McKeever



We define planning as the process of conceptualizing and organizing the steps and actions necessary to achieve a desired goal or outcome. A plan is defined as an intention or decision about what one is going to do.


Kermit McKeever

Kermit McKeever was a nature lover and conservation advocate who is considered the father of West Virginia’s modern state park system. A lifelong servant to the organization, McKeever used his planning expertise to create many of the Mountain State’s most beloved and popular state parks.

McKeever was born in Renick, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, in an area he referred to as “the mountain place.” He obtained a degree in education from Glenville State College and a degree in forestry from West Virginia University—the combination of these disciplines would serve McKeever well as he devoted his life to protecting wild places.

McKeever began his illustrious career in 1942 as superintendent of Lost River State Park, located in Hardy County near the town of Mathias. Aware of the tug-of-war battle between extractive industry and conservationists, McKeever knew that if the state park system was to grow and thrive, he and other managers would have to keep their fingers on the pulse of West Virginia state politics. McKeever relied on his formal education and expert planning skills as he paid attention to Charleston, calculating his moves to best secure the wild places he loved. He became superintendent of Marlinton’s Watoga State Park in 1944. Just four years later, McKeever became the figure head for the entire state park system and was able to embark on a flurry of activity that established many of West Virginia’s most famous and popular state parks.

During Governor William C. Marland’s term from 1953-57, McKeever planned Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, and Holly River State Park in Webster County. He planned Beckley’s Grandview State Park, boasting a stunning view of a massive horseshoe bend on the New River, during Governor Cecil P. Underwood’s first term in the late 1950s. McKeever closed out his park planning legacy in the 1960s during Governor William W. Barron’s term with the modern era resort parks: Hawks Nest State Park in Ansted, Pipestem Resort State Park in Pipestem, Canaan Valley State Park in Davis, Cacapon State Park in Berkeley Springs, and Twin Falls State Park in Mullens.

McKeever’s years of planning gave him the vision to see that creation of these parks brought about indirect returns through tourism and other mechanisms. McKeever stood in firm opposition to park entrance fees, stating, “Canaan… opened the door to millions of dollars in businesses, taxes, and employment. The parks have many times paid for themselves.”

McKeever’s planning skills spanned from the desk to the outdoors. According to an article by S. Johnson in the Sunday Gazette-Mail, “One late summer day in the 1950s, Kermit McKeever and others crawled on their hands and knees through thick rhododendron to reach the site of the present Blackwater Falls State Park lodge. In an article he wrote for Wonderful West Virginia magazine in 1978, McKeever recalled that wild blackberries were ripe and bears had been feeding on them.” That large lodge building still stands perched triumphantly on the rim of the Blackwater Canyon today as a testament to McKeever’s planning capabilities and contribution to the West Virginia state park system. McKeever continued to serve the outdoors until his retirement in 1978. He passed away in Charleston, West Virginia, and is honored by the McKeever Lodge at Pipestem Resort State Park.


Financial Health

A budget is a plan. It is a list of planned expenses and income. Living within a budget and having money left over each month to save for emergencies or future needs demonstrates that you’re in control of your finances. This brings about financial health, and even bigger, lifts the emotional and psychological burdens that can accompany money. Financial health includes knowing where your income comes from, being committed to analyzing what you spend your money on, organizing your financial records, and making tough planning and spending decisions with the people that your money is shared with.


Marshall University President Brad D. Smith Headshot

Brad D. Smith

Kenova, West Virginia native, Brad Smith, became CEO of Intuit, a leading software and web developer of accounting, financial and tax-preparation services at age 43. In those eleven years as CEO, Intuit stocks rose by 588%, and in 2017 Fortune magazine gave Intuit a ranking of 13th as one of the best companies to work for and 8th as companies with the best prospects for long-term growth. In an interview with the Huntington Quarterly, Brad attributes his success and the growth and financial success of Intuit to his West Virginian upbringing.

Brad grew up in Kenova, West Virginia with two brothers. His father worked for 26 years for Nestlé and then served as mayor. His mother still lives in the home that they family grew-up in. Brad attended one semester at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before deciding to earn his degree from Marshall University, graduating in 1986 with a bachelor’s in business administration with an emphasis in marketing. He later earned his master’s degree in management while working and taking night classes from Aquinas College in Michigan. Brad now serves as Marshall’s 38th President.

Brad mastered his first life lesson in high school – discipline. After two years of playing on the football team, he pursued martial arts and earned his black belt by his senior year. In teaching others the skill, he reflected that he realized, “it’s no longer about your own abilities; it’s about building the capacity in others.” This discovery inevitably influenced his leadership style, “I surround myself with people smarter than me, …I help those people understand that life is a team sport. If I have a philosophy, it’s this: A player that makes the team great is always better than simply a great player.”

In his move from West Point to Marshall, Brad claimed that it “helped me understand very early in life that you need to follow your heart.” And after a manager suggested that he take speech classes to rid him of his West Virginian accent, he realized that it is important to be authentic to who you are and that playing into our unique qualities can often be advantageous and draw good attention.

In his interview, Brad provided this advice to West Virginia, “Our topography broke the backs of pioneers, but not the people who settled here. We learned how to overcome adversity, but we have to become a different version of ourselves if we’re going to take our place in the future.” “Our schools and universities must focus on STEAM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and add an A for arts.” He offered this advice to students, “First, be true to yourself and focus on being the best you can be. Second, always speak the truth as you know it. If you have a point of view, don’t be afraid to share it. Third, stay focused on the outcome. Often success comes down to who’s willing to sign up for the hardest, gnarliest task and get results. And fourth, preserve the relationships around you. Life is a team sport.”

Brad consistently gives back to the house that built him through supporting charitable initiatives in West Virginia. Brad and his wife Alys have done so as co-founders of the Wing to Wing Foundation, which provides opportunities to Appalachian entrepreneurs to unleash their potential. Additionally, the two have launched the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (OEDC) and its remote workers program, Ascend WV.

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