Carolyn Ward, Ph.D. serves as the CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the primary philanthropic partner to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Carolyn was born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia. After graduating from Emory and Henry College, she found her passion as a seasonal park interpreter at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virginia. Following that love for the outdoors and her passion for teaching and learning, she completed her Master’s and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in Forestry.
Willa has an MBA/ MHA and extensive experience in non-profit management. She has served as the Executive Director of Appalachian Voices, the Director of Operations and Development for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Assistant Director of Catawba College Center for the Environment and previously as Director of Development for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. She holds degrees from Pfeffier University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. "The Parkway takes us to the highest places physically and spiritually.
Ashley’s love for the Parkway comes from a lifetime of traveling the motor road, hiking, and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is thrilled to use her skills gained from 15 years in the financial services and wealth management industries toward preserving the Parkway experience for future generations. Nonprofit work past and present includes various positions with BookMarks, Helen Simoneau Danse Inc., and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art. Ashley holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Wake Forest University.
Jordan has worked for museums and historic sites in North Carolina and Virginia. A graduate of Wake Forest University, she has a Masters in History and a certificate in nonprofit management. An active community volunteer, Jordan stays busy volunteering with her three children's schools. She grew up camping on the southern end of the Parkway with her three siblings. Jordan and her husband enjoy biking and exploring the outdoors with their children. E-mail Jordan or call her at (866) 308-2773.
Rita Larkin graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism and went on to serve as a photographer, editor, and designer at community newspapers in Georgia and North Carolina. She joined the staff of the Asheville Citizen-Times in 2000 as a copy editor before becoming news editor and then editor and general manager of the newspaper’s magazine division. Most recently, Larkin was the editor-in-chief of WNC magazine, which covers the lifestyle and culture of the North Carolina’s 24 western counties.
Mandy joined the Foundation staff with over 11 years of experience in nonprofit organizations, including the Atlanta International School and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, both in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. She loves to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway and go hiking with her husband and two dogs, Sparks and Zissou. Some of her other hobbies include kayaking, swimming, running, and jewelry design. E-mail Mandy or call her at (866) 308-2773.
Richard Emmett is Program Director for the Blue Ridge Music Center. For the past 6 years, Emmett was the Chief Operating Officer & VP of Facility Operations for the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County where he oversaw the 2 year renovation of the Sawtooth Building and the AC Delco Parts Store into the new Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts and Hanesbrands Theatre, which opened to the public in September of 2010. Emmett managed the operations of the new Center - with an overall budget of $900,000 - and coordinated the programming and marketing for the Hanesbrands Theatre.
Jason came to the Foundation in 2008 to assist in running the Kids In Parks program for which he now serves as Project Director. Jason is a natural resource interpreter and educator who loves providing children with meaningful connections to nature through outdoor education programs. Prior to earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Humboldt State University in natural resource interpretation, Jason spent over 11 years working with children in various fields ranging from outdoor education to standard classroom education and physical education.
Originally from a small town in Michigan, Amy moved to Asheville on a hunch. Prior to landing in Western North Carolina, Amy spent many summers leading outdoor adventures at a kids' camp in Maine. She also worked with at-risk youth enrolled in a wilderness therapy program in the high deserts of Utah. Amy loves traveling the Parkway with her husband and young daughter to access some of the most beautiful hiking and camping areas in the country. She and her family also frequent the French Broad River via canoe.
Adam came to the Foundation team with an eclectic resume. Graduating from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, with a degree in Digital Media he has worked with mobile games companies, public libraries, and even the Department of Homeland Security. He’s lived out of his car, travelling the country for half a year. The culmination of experience and skills gained through his varied history brought him to the Blue Ridge to help create wonderful adventures for the Kids in Parks program.