2017 speakers


mike Wiley

Mike wiley.jpg

Acclaimed actor and playwright Mike Wiley has spent the last decade fulfilling his mission to bring educational theatre to young audiences and communities across the country. In the early days of his career, Wiley found few theatrical resources to shine a light on key events and figures in African-American history. To bring these stories to life, he started his own production company.

Through his performances, Wiley has introduced countless students and communities to the legacies of Emmett Till, Henry “Box” Brown and more. His recent works include a one-man play based on Tim Tyson’s memoir Blood Done Sign My Name and The Parchman Hour, an ensemble production celebrating the bravery and determination of the Freedom Riders who risked their lives to desegregate Southern interstate bus travel in 1961.

Mike Wiley has a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the 2010 and 2014 Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to his numerous school and community performances, he has also appeared on Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and National Geographic Channel and has been featured in Our State magazine and on PBS’ North Carolina Now and WUNC’s The State of Things.


Cindy Whitehead

Cindy whitehead.jpg

The New York Times called her pharmaceutical product the drug of a generation and Fortune called her a tireless force of nature.  Associates of hers call her unapologetically pink.  Cindy Whitehead is a highly regarded women's health advocate and serial entrepreneur.

Over a distinguished 22-year career in healthcare, in only the last 10 she has started and sold two businesses for more than $1.5B.  She co-founded and last served as CEO for Sprout Pharmaceuticals where, in 2015, the company broke through with the first ever FDA-approved drug for low sexual desire in women -- dubbed “female Viagra” by the media.  She started Sprout only one day after selling another that she also co-founded, Slate Pharmaceuticals, which redefined long lasting testosterone treatment for men. 

Cindy has made waves, and made her own success, in the field of sexual medicine and creating mission driven companies that deliver big.  Her results became a widely covered business success story featured in major media outlets:  The New York Times, Associated Press, Financial Times, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg, CNBC, CBS, Fox, Yahoo and the cover feature of Entrepreneur Magazine.

Cindy has a new mission to mentor, invest in, launch and build other women led or focused businesses.  In 2016, she opened the doors to The Pink Ceiling -- a cross between a VC firm, a ‘pinkubator’ and a consulting enterprise -- where she is CEO.  In very rare moments she is hard at work trying not to work.  You cannot miss Cindy.  What she touches turns to Pink.


Rufus Edmisten

From his upbringings in Watauga County, NC to the global political arena, national treasure RufusEdmisten always has been in touch with a variety of people in high and low places. He’s also learned a thing or two about preparedness. After earning his law degree at George Washington University, Rufusbecame Chief Counsel and Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Separation of Powers. Then, he became Deputy Chief Counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee, chaired by the famous North Carolinian, Senator Sam Ervin. It was in this capacity that Rufus served a subpoena to President Richard Nixon—which was the first time a Congressional Committee authorized a subpoena to be served on a sitting President of the United States. He later went on to serve North Carolina as Attorney General and Secretary of State. Today, Rufus runs a successful lobbying firm and serves on a variety of non-profit boards and foundations. When not behind his desk in Raleigh, you can find him working on policy issues in his community, or on Capitol Hill, helping to protect and prepare people for a better future. 


Mary-Ann Baldwin


  • Four-term at large Raleigh City Councilor
  • Chair of Law & Public Safety Committee; member of Communications & Technology Committee
  • City’s representatives to the Triangle Transit Authority
  • Former member of the Budget & Economic Development Committee, Public Works Committee, and Comprehensive Planning Committee
  • Former representative to the Metro Mayor’s Coalition and liaison to the NC State Legislature


  • Co-founder / former director of Innovate Raleigh, a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship in our region
  • Member,  Advisory Board of Triangle Family Services; Member, Board Development Committee, Frankie Lemmon School
  • Former Chair of the Business Friends Council for the NC Museum of Art; Former member of the board of directors of Artsplosure, Communities in Schools of Wake County, and the American Lung Association
  • Former PTA volunteer



Jay Raffaldini

In 2001, Jay established a vineyard in the United States as a means to honor his family’s legacy of making wine since the mid-1300s.  Over the last ten years Raffaldini Vineyards has received numerous national awards including Top Ten Hot New Small Brands in North America, a first for any vineyard in the Eastern United States and the highest rated red wine ever from North Carolina (90 and Editors Choice) by the Wine Enthusiast. Jay started his career co-founding Ashley Securities, a NYSE market making firm, in 1985. He as an adjunct lecturer on risk management and derivative topics for the US Federal Reserve. Jay has over 30 years investment industry where he is currently the Head of Product Specialists for UBS Hedge Fund Solutions (HFS) and holds a BA from Georgetown University and an MBA from New York University. Jay resides in Winston Salem and divides his time between this beautiful area and his office in Manhattan.


Katie cannon

Katie Cannon was a special education teacher for 5 ½ years in a Raleigh public school.  After volunteering at Carolina Tiger Rescue for nearly 2 years, she made a career change and became Carolina Tiger Rescue’s Education Director.  

Carolina Tiger is the only wild cat sanctuary in North Carolina which fits the federal definition of a true sanctuary.  Having seen first-hand how children can harness their passion to move mountains, Katie believes that a better future for tigers – both in captivity and in the wild – is in the hands of younger generations.  

Wild tigers need advocates now or extinction is inevitable.  Help can begin right here in the United States, where more tigers live in captivity than in their native, wild habitats around the world.  Helping children understand the problems that both captive and wild tigers face, and more importantly, giving kids simple solutions that they can act on is Katie’s goal as the coordinator of summer camps, field trips, and outreach programs that reach over 4,000 children each year.



Just listening to the no-boundaries, acoustic jazz quintet Peter Lamb and The Wolves, you might guess that it formed to celebrate Truman's inauguration, not Obama's. Called into existence in 2008 to play Humble Pie's presidential party, the band that resulted was just too good to leave be. Nowadays, living up to their fairy-tale namesakes, the Wolves peddle languid sophistication that is always a little bit dangerous. Their repertoire reaches back to New Orleans' earliest syncopaters but also forward to hipster bards like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits; a tango might trip on the heels of a French waltz or a Russian folk song. The Wolves are sought out by swing dancers, but their tenderer tunes make the perfect nightcap for late-night lovers.

Five highly trained jazz musicians-who sound like seven-are at the heart of the quintet's intimate chemistry. Lamb leads on tenor saxophone, aided by Al Strong on trumpet, Stephen Coffman on drums, and two musicians doing double duty-troubadour Mark Wells on vocals and piano, and George Knott handling upright bass as well as the elephantine bass saxophone. Wells' vocal-high and round with just enough gravel to grab hold of some blues-is a double-boiler that can safely melt chocolate. Coffman paints an urbane jungle with his drumset textures, while horns flare and taper, of one mind yet independent. It takes discipline to know exactly when to relax and let loose, but everybody here knows what they're doing, soloing with the panache of a jam session.

"We're not the kind of jazz musicians that are just listening to jazz. We really want to play whatever the heck song we like to play," says Wells. "That's the vibe: If it's good, let it ride." -Sylvia Pfeiffenberger


Dr. Jo Allen

Jo Allen, Ph.D., Meredith College Class of 1980, took office as the eighth president of the College on July 1, 2011. She is the first Meredith College alumna to assume leadership of the 125-year-old institution, one of the largest private colleges for women in the United States. Allen brought her extensive experience as a faculty member, administrator, and scholar to her current role.

Since taking office, President Allen has guided Meredith to an enviable position of strength and vitality. After leading a collaborative, community-wide process to develop a comprehensive strategic plan, Meredith Forever, Allen and the Executive Leadership Team oversaw its implementation with impressive results. In the three years since the rolling plan was put in place, Meredith has exceeded enrollment and retention goals; raised more than $50 million in the silent phase of its largest fundraising campaign ever; earned the highest rating from the U.S. Department of Education for financial stability; launched the Going Strong brand initiative; established StrongPoints®, the College’s signature coaching and personal advising program; created a personal and professional development program for women called Stronger U; and completed or initiated renovations on buildings and infrastructure across campus, including Johnson Hall, the College’s most iconic building.  She has been recognized by Meredith College as a Distinguished Alumna and by East Carolina University as an Outstanding Woman of ECU.


Chip Gentry

Chip Gentry is a master falconer. He is the owner/operator of Hawk Manor Falconry; a falconry based business that specializes in raptor education, guided falconry hunts, and bird abatement work in which he takes a “green” approach to clearing areas of nuisance birds by using of birds of prey to do so. Chip loves educating children and adults alike at his facility, located in Lillington, NC, about falconry and birds of prey. Chip has served as the president of the North Carolina Falconers Guild and is a founding member of the Carolina Hawking Club.

Chip spent a majority of his life-training animals. His first business was a pet store that specialized in exotics. It was at this time in his life he was introduced to the sport of falconry. He soon realized that this was his calling, his passion. The training of birds of prey to hunt with intrigued him but the idea he was helping continue an age old art consumed him. Being a person who believes in living life to the fullest and pursuing what you enjoy, Chip figured out a way to use his passion for birds of prey and falconry, to make a living. He now spends everyday doing what he loves.


Vansana Nolintha

Vansana Nolintha and his sister Vanvisa are co-owners of Bida Manda Laotian Restaurant and Bar in downtown Raleigh. Native to the UNESCO’s World Heritage city of Luang Prabang in Laos, Van migrated alone to North Carolina at the age of 12 with the intention to learn English and return home immediately after his high school graduation.

16 years later, Van still calls Raleigh his “sacred” and “fluid” home.

Van’s path to becoming a successful restauranteur at one of Raleigh’s most vibrant restaurants was anything but straightforward. He studied Chemistry, Art and Design, and World Religious Studies at NC State University with the hope to become either a physician, a photographer, or a clothing designer. After many international service-learning experiences in more than 30 countries, Van switched his path entirely and went to Trinity College Dublin to study International Peace and Conflict Resolution concentrating in community building and nonviolent movements.

At the age of 25, Van returned to Raleigh in 2010 at the peak of the financial crisis and took another dramatic turn by opening one of the first Laotian Restaurants in the country in the controversial Moore Square District of downtown Raleigh.


George Hage

BMI Artist, API Member, PMP Certified.  Published songwriter and published artist in North Carolina, USA.

Songwriter and Music Producer:  George's songs have been featured in film and television on programs such as: HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, USA Network’s Graceland and Necessary Roughness, Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, The Layover, and Bizarre Foods, NBC’s Notre Dame Football Primer and Nascar the List, Fox’s Nascar Raceday and UFC Countdown, TV Land’s Jim Gaffigan Show, Spike TV’s I Am Dale and Auction Hunters, and Esquire TV’s Best Bars in America and Brew Dogs.  

Songwriter and producer for alternative/rock, americana band, Jack the Radio.  In 2015 for Jack the Radio’s Badlands, 12-song album featuring “Criminals” with guest vocals by Liz Hopkins of Delta Rae courtesy of Warner Bros, and “Wayfared Warriors” with guest vocals by BJ Barham of American Aquarium.  Songwriter and member of bluegrass/country, americana band, New Reveille.  In 2015 performed on J Kutchma and the 5 fifths’ Blue Highways album released by Last Chance Records out of Little Rock, Arkansas.  In 2010 co-wrote and recorded an EP with Kevin Allen (One Small Step for Landmines) and Chris Pennie (Dillinger Escape Plan, Coheed and Cambria) for a split, vinyl LP with members of Coheed and Cambria on Levy Park Records.

Artist & Art Director: Created various merchandise art and concert posters for artists and festivals such as: Hopscotch Music Festival, MoogFest, and The ArtsCenter including posters for Bill Frisell, and Charlie Parr featuring Phil Cook.  Created album artwork for other artists CD/vinyl packaging such as:  American Aquarium’s Live At Terminal West album, Jon Lindsay’s Cities and Schools album art, Season & Snare’s Seek album, New Reveille ’s Cannonball LP album, and Jack the Radio’s Pretty Money album.

Music Video Production:  Producer and production manager experience including the following responsibilities: end to end project ownership, assembling and coordinating teams and cast with the director, creation of detailed shoot schedule creative direction with the director, creating and controlling project budgets and scope, handling location scouting and agreements, communication management, travel arrangements, script and editing reviews, managing and controlling project through production, and coordinating video releases and premieres.  2016 produced Jack the Radio’s “My Way” music video.  2016 co-directed, co-wrote, storyboarded and produced Jack the Radio’s “Bad Man” music video.  2015 produced Jack the Radio’s “Ain’t So Bad” music video.  2015 produced Jack the Radio’s “Moonlight” music video.  2013 produced the live DVD and audio recording for Jack the Radio in front of two sold out crowds.


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