MORGANTOWN —The West Virginia Business Hall of Fame will posthumously honor coal industry billionaire and philanthropist Chris Cline and three other state business leaders who have led widespread growth.

The 2019 Hall of Fame class are Bill Bayless, chief executive officer of American Campus Communities Inc.; Judy K. Sheppard, chief executive officer of Professional Services of America Inc.; and Leo A. Vecellio, Jr., chairman, president and CEO of Vecellio Group Inc.

“Bill Bayless, Judy Sheppard, Leo Vecellio and Chris Cline have made substantial impacts in their own respective business sectors, each getting their first involvement in business right here in West Virginia,” said W. Marston “Marty” Becker, chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee. “Bill, Judy, Leo and Chris have positively influenced West Virginia and are all wonderful role models for the next generation of business leaders in our state.”

Cline launched his career in the coal industry in 1980 at age 22. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father before him, he began working as an underground coal miner in southern West Virginia. Working proactively with union and union-free operations, Cline’s successes attracted the notice of major coal companies who engaged him to provide contract mining services for their own mines. In 1990, he formed his own energy development group, the Cline Group, and through his front-line experience in each of these disciplines, his approach to mine development and the strength of his workforce and management team, he was able to capitalize on opportunities others missed. The Cline Group was soon recognized across the industry as a reliable coal supplier, an excellent lessee and a desired employer committed to the health and safety of its miners — characteristics that continue to drive its success today.

Cline was killed in a helicopter crash over the Fourth of July weekend; he was previously nominated in 2013 but was unable to attend the induction ceremony.

Bayless was a co-founder in 1993 of the Austin, Texas, company American Campus Communities, the nation’s largest developer, owner and manager of high-quality student housing with more than 133,000 students calling an American Campus community home. In 2004, Bayless led the student housing industry to a new plateau when American Campus Communities became the first publicly traded student housing company in the nation. Known for his contagious enthusiasm and true passion for student success, he is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on student housing and has been featured in Fortune Magazine, NYSE Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and has appeared on CNBC. In 2017, he was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the category of real estate, construction and lodging. Bayless graduated in 1986 from the then-WVU College of Business and Economics. He is married to his WVU college sweetheart, Jamie, and they have two children and three grandchildren.

Sheppard leads Professional Services of America, a human resources company she founded in Parkersburg in 1989. Since then, the company has grown into a global leader in human resources and business management. Sheppard has overseen all operations of her company and its commitment to delivering quality services. She is the designer of innovative human resource programs and services for large private-sector companies and government agencies, including 30 federal government agencies as past and present clients. Sheppard serves as a U.S. ambassador for the West Virginia Division of the Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council, West Virginia Area Roundtable, Wood County Development Authority, Women Impacting Public Policy and works with the Euro-American Women’s Council and Certified Women’s Business Enterprise. Her awards include the Ernest & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (2003); Minority Entrepreneur of the Year (in 2004); Small Business of the Year (2005); SBA Women in Business Champion (2006); and SBA Small Business Person of the Year (2011).

Vecellio is chairman, president and CEO of Vecellio Group Inc. The fourth-generation, family-owned and -operated business was founded in 1938 as a West Virginia road construction company by his father, grandfather and uncle. Today, Vecellio Group Inc. has substantial heavy/highway, mining and petroleum operations throughout the southeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. In 1973, Vecellio joined Vecellio & Grogan with construction and engineering degrees from Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, along with four years of international construction management experience as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. He has participated at all levels of industry leadership, culminating in his service as chairman of American Road & Transportation Builders Association in 2007-08. He is a founder of Floridians for Better Transportation and of West Virginia’s Flexible Pavements Council and is active in the state’s Contractors Association. Vecellio and his wife, Kathryn, have two sons, who joined the company in 2002 as the fourth generation of family-owned leadership.

The West Virginia Business Hall of Fame will honor the inductees at an evening ceremony and reception Aug. 27 at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs. The event will kick off the 2019 West Virginia Business Summit and Annual Meeting.

Launched in 2001 by West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics, the Business Hall of Fame honors those who illustrate extraordinary leadership and have demonstrated commitment to their community. To date, 67 individuals from a variety of business sectors and from various parts of the country and world have been inducted.

In addition to attendees of the West Virginia Business Summit and Annual Meeting, the public is also welcome to attend this free event.

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