Special/Signature Issues » Executive Women in Business

2016 Executive Women in Business: Marilyn West

CEO, M.H. West & Co.



Enthusiastic, gracious and wicked smart are all things that come to mind when you meet Marilyn West for the first time. Her energy is infectious.

She holds a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Waynesburg University, where she’s a trustee. She came to Richmond after her brother suggested she meet a fraternity brother of his back in the late 1970s. Romance sparked and she married shortly thereafter. “Forty years later, here we are,” she says with a laugh.

Her first job was with the School of Continuing Education at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was a director for a program that integrated mental health with academics. She went on to hold multiple director roles within government services for years before starting her own company in 1991. West founded M.H. West & Co., an education and management consulting group that provides services to groups as varied as nonprofits and government agencies. That includes trends analysis, regulatory impact assessments and services in-between. Two projects she’s working on now are particularly exciting to West: succession planning for Senior Connections and a signature program called Young Entrepreneur Academy, working with an elementary school in Norfolk. She also writes Marilyn’s Monday Morning Message, a weekly column that covers insight on business topics with a side of life lessons, which can be found on her company’s website. “If there’s a legacy I can stand on, I hope people can grab hold of the fact that I was able to help others move along and organizations to grow,” she says.

Much of what fuels her life and work these days are lessons learned from her parents, especially her father. “He’d give us history lessons at the breakfast table each morning,” she says. “And he also said, as a female, to never sell myself short. He gave me a lot of courage. It’s carved forever in my head and my heart,” she adds. West also credits sports with giving her a lot of discipline and the opportunity to network with folks from varied backgrounds early on. She played tennis most of her life and was part of the Pittsburgh Women’s Tennis League. She had a recent injury, but is looking forward to getting back on the court.

In addition to her passion for tennis, the North Side resident loves playing bridge, fishing and spending time with her two grandchildren, who she says are “Harvard-ready.” She’s also a talented digital artist with a collection of about 350 pieces that she has shown at the SunTrust and United Network for Organ Sharing galleries.

West serves as chairwoman of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia board and on countless others including Virginia21, Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, Venture Richmond, Bon Secours Foundation, Bon Secours joint hospitals and the Valentine. She recently was part of a presidential search committee for Ferrum College. She also added Eucharistic minister at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to her ever-growing, jack-of-all trades list. ‘When you see there might be a gap somewhere, just step up and fill it.”