Staff Members

Carolyn Ward

Chief Executive Officer
Asheville, NC
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 Southwest 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.
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Willa Coffey Mays

Chief Development Officer
NC High Country
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.
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Jordan Calaway

Development Officer
Winston-Salem, NC
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.
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Elizabeth Hickman

Finance and Administrative Manager
Asheville, NC
Elizabeth Hickman is a native of the Piedmont of North Carolina. She relocated to Asheville in the summer of 1999. Elizabeth has more than 20 years of experience in the accounting industry and more than 10 years in the nonprofit sector. She comes from Henderson County Habitat for Humanity where she was the Director of Finance. Elizabeth also partnered with her mother, now deceased, in the family accounting business for almost 20 years. She enjoys spending time in nature, working outdoors and driving on the Parkway.
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Richard Emmett

Program Director, Blue Ridge Music Center
Winston-Salem, NC & Galax, VA
Richard Emmett has been the Program Director at the Blue Ridge Music Center since the 2014 season. From 2008-2014, Emmett was the Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Facility Operations for the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, where he oversaw the two-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 2010. Prior to that, Richard was the Executive Director of the Children's Theatre of Winston-Salem.
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Marianne Kovatch

Associate Director at the Blue Ridge Music Center
Galax, VA
Marianne Kovatch has been involved in arts administration and event planning for many years, most recently working at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts as Music and Woodworking Program Manager, Marketing and Development Director, and Galax JAM Program Director. Marianne began playing banjo and dancing in high school, and was first introduced to the Galax area many years ago when she began attending the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention and Mt. Airy Fiddlers’ Convention.
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Rita Larkin

Communications Director
Asheville, NC
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.
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Jacob LeBlanc

Communications & Graphic Design Manager
Asheville, N.C.
A North Carolina native, Jacob was born and raised in Chapel Hill. He earned his B.S. in Industrial Design at Appalachian State University, where he spent much of his free time exploring nature throughout Western North Carolina. His past endeavors include designing ergonomic furniture, making candy packaging for a chocolate-crazed chemist, and performing science-based “magic” shows for school groups. In his free time, he runs a small brand design business, and enjoys drawing, hiking, craft beer, and indie films.
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Jason Urroz

Director, Kids In Parks
Asheville, NC
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.
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Adam Roades

Program Manager, Kids in Parks
Asheville, NC
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.
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Allison Royal

Graphic Design and Outreach Coordinator, Kids in Parks
Asheville, NC
Allison came to the Foundation in 2016 after a small gig in Florida, where she worked in attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort. Before her Florida adventures, she graduated magna cum laude from East Carolina University in 2015 with a Bachelors in Fine Arts, concentrating in Illustration. Allison, a native North Carolinian, was happy to move back to her home state to work with Kids in Parks. Though trading the coast for the mountains was quite the change. However, she has adapted to mountain life in Asheville by hiking with her dog, Hera, and partaking in the weekend brunch scene.
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