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Board of Directors

Executive Committee

Dr. John Smarrelli

Chair

Christian Brothers University

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Ms. Jamie Woodson

Vice Chair

SCORE

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Dr. Randy Lowry

Past Chair

Lipscomb University

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Dr. Claude Pressnell, Jr.

Secretary

TICUA

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Dr. John Smarrelli

John Smarrelli Jr., is a native of Syracuse, NY, and assumed the Presidency of CBU in July 2009 coming from Syracuse’s Le Moyne College where he served as special assistant to the president, as interim president from 2007-2008, and as provost. Prior to his work at Le Moyne he was dean of the College of Arts and Science at Loyola University in Chicago, IL.

A biochemist by training, Dr. Smarrelli has retained his faculty status in his discipline while holding administrative positions. He earned his doctorate and master's degrees from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and has conducted postdoctoral work in biology at the University of Virginia. Over the years in his role as professor of biology, Dr. Smarrelli has received numerous awards for teaching, has published articles in scientific journals, obtained funding for his research on gene structure from the National Science Foundation, and authored textbooks as well as multiple College Board publications regarding the Advanced Placement Program.

Since arriving in Memphis in 2009, Dr. Smarrelli has begun programs in Nursing, Cybersecurity, Graduate accounting, and Physician Assistant Studies at CBU. Dr. Smarrelli is an active member of the Memphis community focusing on economic development and social services including involvement with Memphis schools, former member of the Transition Planning Commission, Catholic Charities (Board Chair 2014-15), economic development groups, and serving on the boards of St. Mary’s University of MN, the Rotary Club of Memphis, The Economic Club of Memphis, Chair of the Salvation Army, Memphis Talent Dividend, Teacher Effectiveness Initiative Advisory Board, Gulfsouth Conference (Chair 2014-16), Chair of Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Chair of Crosstown High School Board and President/Chair of New Day Schools, Inc. Dr. Smarrelli is a member of numerous local, regional and national university associations. John and his wife, Eloise, have three adult children and attend Holy Spirit Church.

Dr. John Smarrelli is the 22nd president of Christian Brothers University as well as the University’s first permanent lay president.

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Ms. Jamie Woodson

Jamie Woodson has been at the forefront of Tennessee’s work to raise student achievement for more than 20 years. As a policymaker in the Tennessee General Assembly she was instrumental in Tennessee’s elevation to national prominence in education reform. More recently, as Executive Chairman and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), she has led collaboration on education policy and practice, work that has supported Tennessee’s success as the fastest-improving state in the nation in K-12 student achievement.

Before joining SCORE in 2011, Woodson served in both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly. During her 12 years in the legislature, where she was chairman of the Education Committee and Speaker Pro Tempore, she spearheaded efforts to identify and support effective teaching, raise academic expectations for Tennessee students, turn around low-performing schools, and support student-focused innovation.

At SCORE, Woodson sets the strategic vision for the organization, leads SCORE’s executive team, and builds and strengthens SCORE’s partnerships with leaders in education in Tennessee and across the nation. Founded in 2009 by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, SCORE is a nonpartisan, nonprofit education organization that drives collaboration to support K-12 education in Tennessee and is a national model for state-based policy advocacy, technical assistance, and collective impact.

Woodson also supports student-focused education policy and practice by serving on the boards of the PIE (Policy Innovators in Education) Network and the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA). She is an alumna of the Pahara-Aspen Institute in Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education, the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows, Leadership Tennessee, and the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership.

In addition to her work in education, Woodson serves on the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Tennessee Business Roundtable.

Woodson holds her B.A. and J.D. from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She and her husband Bill live on a farm in Middle Tennessee.

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Dr. Randy Lowry

Bio coming soon

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Dr. Claude Pressnell, Jr.

Dr. Claude Pressnell, Jr., a native of Kansas, has spent over 30 years in higher education administration. He began his career at Southwest Baptist University in Missouri as an admission recruiter; within a year advanced to the position of Senior Director of Admissions and Student Development.

He holds a doctorate in higher education administration/educational leadership from Vanderbilt University. While attending Vanderbilt he served as the Director of Financial Assistance and Assistant Professor of Religion at Belmont University. In 1995 he served as the Founding Executive Director of the Institute for Family Studies in Colorado. Pressnell soon returned to Tennessee to become the Executive Director of the Tennessee Foundation for Independent Colleges and since 2000 has served as President of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association.

In 2003 the United States Senate appointed Pressnell to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance where he served as Vice Chair from 2007 until his second and final term expired in 2008. In 2007, he testified before Congress on higher education policy issues. The Committee serves as an independent source of advice and counsel to the United States Congress and the Secretary of Education on student aid issues and higher education policy.

In June of 2011, Pressnell was selected for a Fulbright Senior Specialist grant to develop the student financing policy for the Government of the Maldives. The policy and funding mechanisms were adopted by the Maldivian Parliament in 2012.

In August of 2013, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam appointed Pressnell as a Commissioner representing the state’s interests on the Education Commission of the States.

In 2014 Pressnell was appointed by four US Senators to serve on a committee to recommend a pathway to reduce the federal regulatory burden on higher education in the United States.

In 2016 Pressnell was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a six year term to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. NACIQI provides recommendations regarding accrediting agencies that monitor the academic quality of postsecondary institutions and educational programs for federal purposes.

In 2017 Pressnell was approached by US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to consider being appointed by President Donald Trump as the US Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education. This post serves as the United States chief higher education policy officer. After careful consideration, Pressnell respectfully declined the offer in order to remain in Tennessee and continue his work with TICUA.

Pressnell serves on numerous international, national, and state level boards. He also has served as an international advisor on higher education reform to foreign governments in the Middle East, South Asia, the Balkan region of Europe and South America.

Dr. Bill Greer

Treasurer

Milligan College

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Dr. Bill Greer

Dr. William B. Greer was named the 15th president of Milligan College in 2011 following the retirement of Dr. Don Jeanes. During Dr. Greer’s presidency, Milligan has experienced record enrollment and unprecedented donor support. In 2017, the college completed the largest fundraising initiative in its 150-year history, raising nearly $42 million to build new student housing, renovate existing facilities, and develop new programs. Under his leadership, the college’s academic structure was reorganized into five distinct schools, allowing for continued growth and innovation to meet the needs of students and the demands of the marketplace. Undergraduate programs have expanded to include mechanical and electrical engineering, computer science, social work, among others. Graduate programs now include counseling and physician assistant studies, as well as Education Specialist and Doctor of Education degrees. He helped facilitate the integration of Emmanuel Christian Seminary into Milligan’s School of Bible and Ministry in 2015, adding four new graduate-level programs including a Doctor of Ministry degree.

Dr. Greer previously served as Milligan’s vice president for institutional advancement and continues to teach occasionally as the J. Henry Kegley Professor of Economics and Business. Previously, he served as a member of the college’s business faculty and area chair, as well as founding director of the college’s esteemed MBA program. Dr. Greer has served on numerous corporate and community boards. Currently, he is a member of the board of directors of Bank of Tennessee, the Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association.

A Mountain City native, Dr. Greer is a 1985 Milligan graduate and earned an MBA from East Tennessee State University. He also holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Tennessee–Knoxville. He and his wife, Edwina, live in Johnson City and have two sons and a granddaughter.

Members at Large

Class of 2019

Dr. Harley Knowles

Tennessee Wesleyan University

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Mr. Walter Butler

Bethel University

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Ms. Paige Kisber

Hospital Alliance of Tennessee

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Ms. Renata Soto

Conexión Americas

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Dr. Harley Knowles

Dr. Harley Knowles became the twenty-first president of Tennessee Wesleyan College in July 2011. A native New Englander, Knowles earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Maine at Orono and a doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Knowles served for four years as vice president for institutional advancement at the University of New England in Maine, which operates campuses in Biddeford and Portland, Maine. His responsibilities there included fundraising, alumni programming and government and community relations.

Prior to joining UNE, Knowles spent 16 years in various capacities at Shenandoah University in Virginia. Knowles also served as vice president for student affairs at Shenandoah, overseeing the student life program and spearheading a project that achieved substantial gains in student retention.

Aside from his 20 years of executive leadership, Knowles’ 30-year higher education career has included work in student affairs at the College of William and Mary and the University of Maine.

Dr. Knowles is married to Virginia native, Cindy Coulson, who is a former college administrator.

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Mr. Walter Butler

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Ms. Paige Kisber

Paige Kisber serves as president and CEO of Hospital Alliance of Tennessee (HAT), the only statewide organization that exclusively represents not-for-profit hospitals. Since joining HAT in 2003, Kisber has directed HAT’s advocacy and lobbying activities on issues such as TennCare reform, certificate of need revisions and preserving tax exemptions.

Formed in 1982, HAT takes an aggressive role in representing its members’ interests on legislative and regulatory issues in the State Legislature, governmental agencies and the executive branch. HAT develops strategies and positions for a membership of 40 not-for-profit hospitals that provide more than half of the licensed hospital beds throughout Tennessee.

HAT's members are not-for-profit community hospitals that are both private and government health care facilities ranging from small rural hospitals to major teaching and research facilities. Membership is open to Tennessee hospitals that are organized as a 501C (3) or are government-owned.

Prior to her work in the health care arena, Kisber worked in government relations for the University of Tennessee. As the UT system’s sole full time administrator in Nashville, Kisber was responsible for aligning the university’s initiatives with the needs and priorities of state government. During her ten years at the university, she led the development and implementation of a nationally-acclaimed youth leadership program and was recognized by the Points of Light Foundation and received the UT Vice-Presidential Citation Award.

Kisber holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a Master of Education in Human Resource Development from Vanderbilt University.

Active in various civic and cultural causes, Kisber has served on the Board of Directors of the Autism Society of Middle TN, High Hopes, Domestic Violence Intervention Center and the advisory board for the TN Bar Association’s Youth Court Program and a former member of the International Women’s Forum. Presently, she is an active board member of STARS (students taking a right stand) and TICUA, the-not-for profit organization representing Tennessee’s independent colleges and universities.

Kisber and her husband, Matt, reside in Nashville with their son, Harrison and daughter, Katherine.

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Ms. Renata Soto

Renata Soto is co-founder and Executive Director of Conexión Américas, a nonprofit organization based in Nashville and founded in 2002 to promote the social, economic and civic integration of Latino families.

Less than two years after opening its doors, the accomplishments of Conexión Américas were early recognized by the weekly magazine Nashville Scene in its 2003 ‘Best of Nashville’ edition as Best Entrepreneurial Venture: “Conexión Américas, thanks in part to the visionary leadership of executive director Renata Soto, over the past 15 months has become the foremost Hispanic service and advocacy organization in Middle Tennessee, if not the entire state.”

Following a holistic approach, Conexión Américas has developed nationally recognized programs that support more than 6,000 Latino families in achieving their American dream annually: purchasing homes, starting businesses, preparing taxes, learning English, supporting their children’s school success and path to college, and becoming integral part of Nashville’s social, cultural and economic vitality.

Crowning Conexión Américas’ 10th anniversary celebration, Renata’s vision for a nonprofit collaborative and community gathering place in South Nashville became a reality. Casa Azafrán, the $6 million center standing on Nolensville Pike, near I-440, at the gateway to Nashville’s International District, opened in December of 2012 after a tenacious five-year effort. The 29,000 square-foot facility houses Conexión Américas and nine nonprofit and government partners under one roof: American Center for Outreach, American Muslim Advisory Council, Family & Children’s Service, Financial Empowerment Center, Global Education Center, Justice for Our Neighbors, Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Early Learning Center, Neighborhood Health and the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition. Together, these partners make Casa Azafrán a vibrant place for health services and counseling; adult education and afterschool programming for children and youth; legal and financial services; entrepreneurship; community organizing; events; visual, performing and culinary arts. Casa Azafrán has become South Nashville’s hub for social services, arts and cultural engagement, and an iconic source of neighborhood pride. Even President Obama took notice and hosted a nationally televised town-hall meeting on immigration policy at Casa Azafrán in December of 2014.

Renata has been a leading force on efforts that have helped solidify Nashville’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive city. She is a founding member of the Nashville for All of Us Coalition, which led the campaign that successfully defeated the English Only referendum of 2009.

Renata is also a nationally recognized leader and serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Latino advocacy and civil rights organization in the nation. She also serves on the advisory board of Transportation for America.

Renata’s community involvement extends well beyond her commitment to Latino and immigrant families. As a co-chairwoman of Mayor Karl Dean’s Task Force on Children and Youth in 2010, she helped create the Child and Youth Master Plan, which is now a blueprint for efforts to ensure the well being of every young person from birth to adulthood. Her most recent volunteer involvement includes positions on the boards of the Belcourt Theater, Center for Nonprofit Management, Nashville Symphony and Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies.

Class of 2020

Dr. Andrea Miller

LeMoyne-Owen College

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Dr. John McCardell

The University of the South

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Dr. Nancy Dishner

Niswonger Foundation

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Mr. Mike Ragsdale

Tennessee Strategies

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Dr. Andrea Miller

Dr. Andrea Lewis Miller made history September 1, 2015, when she took office as the first woman to serve as president of LeMoyne-Owen College since its founding in 1862.

Dr. Miller has more than 20 years of experience in higher education with the majority of it serving in administrative capacities. Immediately prior to taking office at LeMoyne-Owen, she served as chancellor of Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC) in Louisiana, and prior to that as chancellor of SOWELA Technical Community College in Louisiana. She transformed SOWELA from a technical college into a comprehensive technical community college while leading it through its first SACSCOC regional accreditation. SOWELA’s enrollment increased by 67 percent during her tenure.

Dr. Miller also served six years as Provost/Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at Southwest Tennessee Community College where she was also responsible for strategic planning and institutional research. Prior to her leadership roles at community colleges, Dr. Miller spent several years in academic administration at four-year institutions. She served six years as vice president for Academic Affairs/dean of faculty at LeMoyne-Owen College, and as an assistant dean in the College of Human and Community Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Miller has acquired over $13 million in grants and contracts to support research, curriculum development and professional development activities in science and technology.

Dr. Miller received her Doctor of Philosophy and master’s degrees in Cell and Developmental Biology from Atlanta University and studied as a post-doctoral fellow at the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine. She also has spent summers engaged in biomedical research at the Marine Biological Laboratories (MBL), Woods Hole, MA and at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), Los Alamos, NM.

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Dr. John McCardell

John M. McCardell, Jr., currently 16th Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of the South, and president emeritus of Middlebury College, is a distinguished historian and respected national leader in the public discussion about higher education and student life. A 1971 graduate of Washington and Lee University, he did his graduate work at The Johns Hopkins University and then at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in history. He possesses a record of achievement as a scholar and is the author of The Idea of a Southern Nation.

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Dr. Nancy Dishner

Dr. Nancy Dishner is President and CEO of the Niswonger Foundation. In this role, she provides leadership for both the Scholarship and Leadership program (Niswonger Scholars) that is preparing future leaders for Northeast Tennessee; and the Foundation’s extensive programming to improve K-12 education and prepare students for post-secondary education and careers.

She previously served as Vice Provost for Enrollment Services and Director of the Roan Scholars Leadership Program at East Tennessee State University. Nancy was a tenured professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Her early experience was as a public school teacher in Unicoi County.

Nancy is an alumna of East Tennessee State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education, Masters in Supervision and Administration; and a Doctorate in Administration. She is the recipient of the ETSU Outstanding Staff Award, served at Staff Senate President, and is recognized in the ETSU Clemmer College of Education Hall of Fame. She was named the ETSU Outstanding Alumna for 2013, and had a street named in her honor on the campus.

In addition to her service on the Board of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA), she is a Commissioner on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC); a Steering Committee member on the State Collaborative for Reforming Education (SCORE). Nancy is on the Board of the Tennesseans for Quality Early Education (TQEE), and on the steering committee for Complete Tennessee. She serves on the Executive Council for the Niswonger Children’s Hospital, and is a member of the Board of Trustees at Tusculum University.

She is currently in her forty-second year serving in the field of education.

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Mr. Mike Ragsdale

Mike Ragsdale is president of Tennessee Strategies, providing consulting services to a diverse client base statewide.

Prior to founding Tennessee Strategies, Mike Ragsdale had successful careers in business, public service, and education. Ragsdale served two terms as Knox County Mayor, from 2002 to 2010, leading a county of nearly 430,000 citizens with a budget of over $640 million. During his administration, Ragsdale’s priorities included education, economic growth, seniors, and a more efficient government.

During his second term as Mayor, Ragsdale also served as President of the County Executives of America, an organization of more than 700 chief elected county officials. He also served two terms as president of the Tennessee Association of County Mayors.

For 16 years, Ragsdale served as Executive Vice President and Partner at Barber & McMurry Architects, Planners, and Consultants. During this time he was twice elected to the Knox County Commission.

Ragsdale's career began at Pellissippi State Technical Community College, serving first as Director of Admissions and Records and later as Dean of Administrative Affairs.

Ragsdale currently serves as the Vice Chairman for EDSouth Board of Directors, one of the country's largest student loan corporations. He is on the Board of Directors for both the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association and for TnAchieves, a state wide student scholarship program.

Additionally, Mayor Ragsdale serves on the advisory board for the Tennessee College of AppliedTechnology - Knoxville and Jefferson Cocke County Utility District Board of Directors.

During his tenure as Knox County Mayor, Ragsdale received the Vision Award from Technology 2020 and the prestigious “Courthouse Award” from the National Association of Counties. He also received the Outstanding Service Award from the Disabled American Veterans of East Tennessee and the “Military Order of the Purple Heart.”

He is a lifetime member of the Optimist Club of Knoxville, and served the organization’s president. He is also past president of the Arts Council of Greater Knoxville, American Red Cross, Junior Achievement, and East Tennessee Discovery Center. He served on the Board of Directors for the Greater Knoxville Sports Corporation, Knox Area Chamber Partnership, and was Chairman of the Knox County Tourist Commission. Ragsdale is a 1989 graduate of Leadership Knoxville and has completed Harvard University's Mediation Program of Study.

Upon achieving his bachelor’s degree, Ragsdale earned the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Torchbearer Award, the highest University award given to students. He holds a Master's in Education from Auburn University and a doctorate in education from the University of Tennessee. Ragsdale is a native of Cleveland, Tennessee and graduated from Cleveland High School.

Class of 2021

Dr. J. Kline

Watkins College of Art

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Mr. Alexander Whitaker

King University

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Dr. Steven Bares

Bioworks Foundation

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Ms. Krissy DeAlejandro

TNAchieves

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Dr. J. Kline

Joseph Kline is the president of Watkins College of Art. Formerly he held administrative and faculty posts at Eastern New Mexico University, DeSales University, and the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he introduced the majors in production design and dramatic writing.

He is an active member of Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and the Dramatists Guild of America. Professionally he worked as an actor, director, playwright, and producer in theatre, film, and television, including three years as the playwright-in-residence at Barter Theatre, the state theatre of Virginia. His plays have been produced across America and abroad.

Dr. Kline holds a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University, a master of fine arts in drama from the Catholic University of America, and a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary fine arts from Texas Tech University.

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Mr. Alexander Whitaker

Alexander Whitaker has served as King University president since August 2016. He came to King with strong academic and professional credentials, broad experience in higher education and law, and a long history of successful leadership in his professional, church, and civic endeavors. He has a particular commitment to integrating free and robust academic inquiry with orthodox Christian faith and practice.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Berry College in political science and his Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia. He also has a Master of Laws in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Trinity School for Ministry, and a Master of Theology from Duke University.

President Whitaker came to King from Berry College, where he was a senior officer of the college for nearly a decade. He was chief of staff and board secretary and in charge of Berry's public relations, religious life, historical assets, and governmental relations. Previously he oversaw Berry's major gift fundraising and planned giving. The Berry College board of trustees granted him emeritus status upon his departure for King.

Before coming to King, he served three years on Georgia’s Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission, appointed by Governor Nathan Deal. He is a member of the Georgia and Virginia bars and various higher education professional associations.

He is on the boards of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Bristol, the Appalachian College Association, and the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Bristol Virginia/Tennessee. He is a trustee and former board of visitors chair at Trinity School for Ministry, an Anglican and Episcopal seminary in the Pittsburgh area.

He began his higher education career after 25 years as an active-duty Navy officer and judge advocate. A designated international law specialist, he had postings at sea and ashore, with tours on both U.S. coasts and overseas in Scotland, London, and Japan. His assignments included serving as director of Navy general civil litigation, as executive officer of the Navy’s largest court-martial prosecution command, and as commanding officer of the Navy's Southeast legal services office. His decorations include two Legions of Merit and four Meritorious Service Medals, in addition to numerous other unit and personal awards. He retired from the Navy as a captain in 2007.

He and his wife Maria live in Bristol and have three grown children.

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Dr. Steven Bares

Steven J. Bares, Ph.D., is the President and Executive Director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a broad-based public/private partnership focusing on the growth of biomedical research and commercialization of life science technologies. Under Dr. Bares’ leadership, Bioworks provides entrepreneurship support with funding, coaching, program development and accelerators. Dr. Bares is co-founder and board chairman of the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, a middle/high school offering STEM focused education for over 600 Memphis inner city children. Dr. Bares holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and a B.Sc. in Chemistry. He has authored nine patents and published numerous articles.

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Ms. Krissy DeAlejandro

Bio coming soon