Speakers and Conferences

2016-17 School Year

May 2017

Dr. Jim Goodnight, the founder and CEO of SAS, gave the keynote address at commencement on May 26. Goodnight and his wife, Ann, along with SAS co-founder John Sall and his wife, Ginger, founded Cary Academy in 1997. Goodnight served as chair of the CA board of directors for years and is still active on the board. Born in 1943 in Salisbury, Goodnight earned his bachelor's degree in applied mathematics and his master's in statistics from NCSU. He also earned his doctorate in statistics at NCSU, where he was a faculty member from 1972-76.

On May 15 as part of the NHS speakers series, chef Sam Monsour and nutritionist Ashley Bailey spoke to US students on how food is brought to CA, the behind-the-scenes work of what goes into planning and cooking meals, as well as how they try to reduce food waste. Bailey also spoke about being a nutritionist. Monsour is the head chef at Cary Academy’s dining hall and works for SAGE Dining. He grew up working in his parent’s restaurant. Bailey majored in nutrition and minored in fitness health. She implements 10-day challenges and also meets with a wide range of SAS employees to help them live a healthier life style.

APRIL 2017

On April 11 as part of the NHS speakers series, Crawford Leavoy spoke to US students on food through the perspective of a restaurant owner. He runs the Piedmont Restaurant located in Durham and also serves as the Durham Academy speech and debate coach.

CA hosted a beliefs and religions panel on April 4. The following faith representatives spoke on interfaith dialogue and how concerted work between different, established groups has led to heightened understanding, compassion and the bridging of barriers:

• Christianity: Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
• Islam: Shakil Ahmed, ameer of Cary Masjid
• Judaism: Eric Solomon and Jennifer Solomon, rabbis of Beth Meyer Synagogue
• Hinduism: Sudha Dev, temple member and youth program leader in Cary
• Buddhism: Elise Strevel, outreach coordinator and leader of Kadampa Center
•Ethical Humanism: Jan Broughton, former president of the Ethical Humanist Society of the Triangle.

March 2017

On March 20 the PTAA Cultural Arts Committee sponsored a visit to the seventh grade by author Kwame Alexander, a poet, educator and the New York Times bestselling author of 24 books. His titles include THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, the NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize.

Diversity speaker Rosetta Lee addressed employees March 1. Lee serves Seattle Girls’ School in dual roles. As a faculty member, she teaches subjects such as science, math, technology, art, ethics, model building and more. As a professional outreach specialist, she designs and delivers training for all constituencies of the school community, as well as the local and national educational and nonprofit sectors.


FebruARY 2017

More than 30 speakers, including a number of CA alumni, spoke to Upper School students on Feb. 24 as part of the Career Connections Program. Every other year, the US welcomes alumni, parent and community professionals to share insights with students on their career journeys. Uzma Rawn ('02), senior director of sponsorship sales at Major League Baseball, gave the keynote address. Click here to see the 24 different topics and the speakers who addressed them.

As part of the Charger Trails program, the 7th grade worked with two speakers on Feb. 21. The boys met with Dr. Matt Ezzell, assistant professor of sociology at James Madison University, and the girls worked with Dr. Sinikka Elliott, associate professor of sociology at NC State. Discussion topics ranged from self-talk and body image to how the media works for and against us in constructing image, identity and stereotypes.

Eva Vanek, admissions director for the experiential group Where There Be Dragons, spoke to US students Feb. 9 about summer travel programs.

January 2017

As part of the NHS speaker series, Dr. Fred Gould on Jan. 24 spoke to US students. Gould is an agricultural entomologist with NC State University, and he spoke on the topic of GMOs. He has experience in insect ecology and genetics, strategies for developing genetically engineered crops with pest resistance, evolution of resistance in crop pests, plant-insect interactions, and genetic pest management.

In honor of MLK Day, area actor and playwright Mike Wiley performed in two shows Jan. 13 in the theater, one for each school. In each show, he acted out Dar He, his one-man play about the murder of Emmett Till.


Nascif Abousalh-Neto from SAS Institute spoke to Upper School students on Dec. 8 about his journey into technology. He is a software developer working with the research and development group of the JMP division of SAS. He has 20 years of experience in the software industry and has been with SAS since 2004.

Dr. Daniel McClernon, above, spoke to the Advanced Biotechnology Class on Dec. 8. He is the founder and chief scientific officer of BioMONTR Labs, a company that focuses on state-of-the-art molecular diagnostic testing for such diseases as HIV and Hepatitis B/C. He spoke on bacterial antibiotic resistance.

November 2016

Cary Academy hosted its first TEDx conference, featuring 11 alumni and student speakers.


Dr. Oya Bermek of the UNC-Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center spoke to an ADV biotech class on human and other mammalian viruses such as HIV, Herpes Simplex I Virus (HSV), Human papillomavirus, Influenza Virus, etc. Bermek holds a B.A in chemistry from Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey, and she earned a B.S. at the University of Paris 6 and a Ph.D in biochemistry at the University of Paris 12. She did postdoctoral work with Dr. Catherine Joyce at Yale University before moving to UNC in 2012.

September 2016

On Sept. 20 as part of the NHS speakers series, Josephine Scott Dorsett spoke to US students about her research on the challenges surrounding wasteful food and water. She is the founder/CEO of OrgAMI LLC, a Raleigh-based company that makes residential and commercial kitchens more environmentally sound through appliances that de-water and package food residuals. She is a Certified Autodesk Clean Tech Designer, a member of the Industrial Design Society of America and holds a US Composting Operators Training Certification. Dorsett holds a B.A. in peace, war and defense from UNC and a master’s of science in industrial design from NC State.


2015-16 School Year


MAY 2016



Anita Brown-Graham, the director of the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at North Carolina State University, delivered the graduation address May 22. In 2013, the White House named Brown-Graham a Champion of Change. The Triangle Business Journal named Brown-Graham a 2014 Woman in Business for her policy leadership in North Carolina. Brown-Graham joined IEI as its director in 2007. She leads the organization in its work to increase North Carolina’s capacity for economic development and prosperity. Before coming to IEI, Brown-Graham spent 13 years on the faculty of UNC’s School of Government.

MS Speaker

Author Maya Van Wagenen, writer of Popular, visited the Middle School on May 9. She presented to the entire Middle School from 8 to 9 am, then offered two small group sessions later in the day.

APRIL 2016


Dr. Louis Friedman is co-founder of The Planetary Society and the Planetary Society Executive Director Emeritus. He serves as co-leader of the Asteroid Redirect Mission program for the Keck Institute for Space Studies at Caltech and is completing a book that examines the future of human spaceflight from Mars to the stars. He spent 10 years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and five at AVCO Space Systems Division. His projects included Mariner-Venus-Mercury, the Grand Tour (Voyager), Venus Orbital Imaging Radar (Magellan), Halley Comet Rendezvous-Solar Sail, and the Mars Program. He earned his Ph.D. from the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at M.I.T. in 1971.


MARCH 2016


Dr. Yalda T. Uhls is a child psychological researcher. In addition to her consulting and other work, Uhls works with Common Sense Media, a national non-profit, as its Director of Creative Community Partnerships and also does research with UCLA. Uhls’s research focuses on how older and newer media impacts the social behavior of preadolescents. Notable awards include UCLA’s Psychology In Action Award and the Society for Research in Child Development’s Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation. Prior to her academic career, Uhls spent more than fifteen years as a senior entertainment executive and producer at studios such as Sony and MGM and consulted for Google.



Dr. Eddie Moore Jr. has achieved success in the world of academia, business, diversity and community service. In 1996, he started America & MOORE, LLC to provide comprehensive diversity and cultural competency trainings and workshops for K-12 schools, community organizations, businesses, colleges and universities all across the world. Moore has presented at national and international conferences focusing on issues of diversity, youth, community, education, cultural competency, leadership, white privilege and other forms of oppression. Moore is a personal diversity consultant and public speaker. He spoke to the US on Jan. 15 on the issues of race and cultural competency.

Stephen Senter is an environmental protection specialist with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He is the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) lead for implementing the Clean Power Plan in EPA Regions 1, 2, 3, and 5. He also serves on the Environmental Affairs Board for the city of Durham and Durham County. A Lees-McRae College alum, Senter holds a master’s of public administration in environmental science and policy and environmental policy studies from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Senter spoke to the Upper School as part of the NHS speaker series on Jan. 5, 2016.

November 2015


As part of the school's day-long Celebration of Creativity and Innovation, the following speakers will present to parents, grandparents, employees, and upper school students:


  • Cailey Follet – Cary Academy Class of 2011 (via Skype): Calling all Superheroes
  • Emma Zayas (10): Declamation: We’re all hiding something. Let’s find the courage to open up, by Ash Becham
  • Evan Ehrhardt (10): Declamation: Sleepwalk with Me, by Mike Birbiglia

Analyze This

  • Julia Gong (11): Original Oratory: Undefined
  • Amy Abernethy, MD, PhD – Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Flatiron Health: Mashing up technology, data and medicine to improve health
  • Laira Roth – Cary Academy Class of 2005 (via Skype): #CallingInSick
  • Eric Kofman – Cary Academy Class of 2010 (via Skype): Startup life at the intersection of genetics and software

For the People

  • Emma Ehrhardt (12): Original Oratory: Blurred Lines
  • Anita Brown-Graham – Director, Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University: When a State Catches the Innovation Fever
  • Harold Weinbrecht – Mayor, Town of Cary: Keeping A City Relevant
  • Bharat Modi (12): Extemporaneous speech

Growing Pains

  • Davis Barrow (8): Every Entrepreneur Needs a Team
  • Tara Aida -- Cary Academy Class of 2012 (via Skype): Building a Startup as a Student
  • Katherine Peele and Chris Roberts – LS3P Architects: How Space Fosters Creativity

Library: The Scientific Mind

  • Stuart Hunt (12): Neuro-Evolution
  • Laura Mersini-Houghton, PhD – Theoretical physicist and associate professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Before the Big Bang
  • Joselyn Todd, PhD – Instructional Technology Director, Cary Academy: The Perfect Blend



Community Speaker Series

Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D. speaking on "Power and Privilege"

Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D., former associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, is also the founder of the National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity). The SEED Project helps teachers create their own year-long, school-based seminars on making school climates, K-12 curricula, and teaching methods more gender fair and multi-culturally equitable. Dr. McIntosh currently leads the expansion of the SEED Project, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Dr. McIntosh directs the Gender, Race, and Inclusive Education Project, which provides workshops on privilege systems, feelings of fraudulence, and diversifying workplaces, curricula, and teaching methods. Dr. McIntosh has taught English, American Studies, and Women's Studies at the Brearley School, Harvard University, Trinity College (Washington, D.C.), Durham University (England), and Wellesley College.

2014-15 School Year

May 2015


Commencement Address

Astronaut Chris Cassidy delivered the featured address at the CA graduation ceremony for the Class of 2015 on May 22. Capt. Cassidy served as a US Navy SEAL and was awarded two Bronze Stars for his service in Afghanistan. NASA selected him for astronaut training in May 2004. During his career with NASA he completed six space walks. In 2013, he spent 166 days at the International Space Station, launching with two Russian cosmonauts and conducting hundreds of research experiments. Cassidy graduated from the US Naval Academy with a degree in mathematics and from MIT with a master's in ocean engineering.



PTAA Speaker

Dr. Don Azevedo spoke to the PTAA on Eight Factors for Creating a Life Vision with Your Teen. Azevedo addressed the challenges that come with discussing career options with a teen and suggested a strategy for helping the parent and teen gather information to help form a life vision. Azevedo, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Tennessee, has 25 years of experience as a clinician and consultant. Watch this PTAA Event: youtu.be/L299rtFkhdg



National Honor Society Speaker

Lori G. Christian is a district court judge for the 10th Judicial District, serving Wake County of North Carolina. She spoke to the Upper School on disparities in the NC justice system during the school's MLK celebration on Jan. 16. She graduated the UNC School of Law in 1994 and also holds a degree from Georgia Tech in industrial engineering.


Community Speaker Series

Tony Wagner spoke to the community Dec. 15 on the topic of creating innovators. He serves as an expert-in-residence at Harvard University's new Innovation Lab. Prior to this appointment, Wagner was the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, and the founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for more than a decade. For 12 years he worked in education as a high school teacher, K-8 principal, university professor in teacher education, and founding executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility.

Professional Development Series

On Dec. 2, Cary Academy hosted an NCAIS workshop – The Perfect Blend – about online and blended learning. The following outside speakers participated:

  • Dr. Glenn Kleiman is the executive director of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and a professor at NC State University College of Education.
  • Dana Smith is director of educational technology at Greensboro Day School in Greensboro.
  • Kathleen Christopher is the academic computing coordinator and staff development coordinator at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh.
  • Rhonda Zayas-Palmer is the Lower School librarian at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh.
  • Karl Schaefer is the digital learning coordinator for the Durham Academy Middle School.
  • Claire Bennett is the Math Lab director and online learning mentor on the CFA campus.
  • Jim Dachos is director of Educational Partnerships for VHS.
  • John Englander is director of curriculum and instruction for VHS.
  • Amy Michalowski is director of academic affairs at VHS and is responsible for determining the feasibility of new educational program initiatives and acquiring resources for successful completion of such initiatives.
  • Barbra Thoeming is the Learning Community Manager at D2L Ltd.



Student Speaker Series

On Nov. 5 author Deborah Wiles spoke to the Middle School about her work. She is the author of two picture books, ONE WIDE SKY and FREEDOM SUMMER, and four middle-grade novels: LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS (a 2005 National Book Award Finalist), THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS, and COUNTDOWN, book one of The Sixties Trilogy. Book two, REVOLUTION, was published in 2014 and is a National Book Award Finalist. Her work has received the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award, the PEN/Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award.


October 2014

Student and Parent Speaker Series

On Oct. 30, Dr. Matt Ezzell and Dr. Millie Maxwell spoke to the 7th and 8th grade students about media literacy and body image. Dr. Matt Ezzell is an assistant professor of sociology at James Madison University. Dr. Millie Maxwell is a nationally certified counselor (NCC) and licensed professional counselor (LPC) in North Carolina. Student-Run Conference

Student-Run Conference
On Oct. 16-17, the student-run STEP (Shifting the Educational Paradigm) Club held an educational conference on campus for area educators and students. The flowing outside speakers participated:

  • John Lee, Ph. D., Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum Instruction at North Carolina State University
  • Meghan Manfra, Ph. D., Assistant Professor of Social Studies and Education at North Carolina State University
  • Linda McDonough, Director of Just Right Academy, Inc.
  • Denise Morton, Ed. D., Director of Outreach at The Hill Center
  • Angie Scioli, Leesville Road High School Educator and founder of Red4EdNC
  • Keith Sawyer, Ph. D., Morgan Distinguished Professor in Education Innovations at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill
  • Hiller Spires, Ph. D., Senior Research Fellow at the Friday Institute
  • Trip Stallings, Ph. D., Director of Policy Research at the Friday Institute
  • Dana Thompson Dorsey, Ph. D., Assistant Professor at the School of Education at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.


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