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Joan Higginbotham

Joan Higginbotham, a native of Chicago is one of three African-American female astronauts to ever launch into space.  She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Southern Illinois University (Carbondale), a Master of Science Degree in Management from the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), and a Master of Science Degree in Space Systems from FIT.  
She began her career in 1987 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where she participated in 53 space shuttle missions before being selected to Class 16 of the Astronaut Corp.  After extensive training, she was selected and flew onboard Space Shuttle Discovery in December 2006, on a 13-day mission to continue the construction of the International Space Station.  
In 2007, Joan retired from a 20 year distinguished career with NASA to pursue other interests. 
Among a myriad of awards and recognitions are:
  • Charlotte’s 50 Most Influential Women, 2014
  • Savoy Magazine’s 2012 Top Influential Women in Corporate America
  • 2007 White House Black History Month Honoree
Most recently, the degree of Doctorate of Aerospace Science was conferred upon her by her alma mater, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  
She resides in Charlotte, with her husband Councilman James Mitchell and her two bonus daughters, Kayla and Nicole.  


Harvey B. Gantt

Harvey Gantt was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He went to the public schools of that city and graduated from Burke High School second in his class. He attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa from 1960­1962. In late 1961, he applied to Clemson University, and was admitted in January 1963 under court order and became the first black student to attend a previously all white school in South Carolina. He graduated from Clemson with honors and a Bachelor of Architecture Degree in 1965. He moved to Charlotte after graduation to join the firm of Odell Associates. Five years later, in 1970, he received a Master of City Planning Degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1971, Mr. Gantt returned to Charlotte to open Gantt Huberman Architects, an architectural firm he cofounded with Jeff Huberman. The firm has won numerous local, regional, and national design awards. In 2006, AIA North Carolina presented Gantt's Firm with its highest honor for outstanding service, the 2006 Firm Award.

Mr. Gantt is a member of the American Institute of Architects and the National Organization of Minority Architects. The American Institute of Architects paid due recognition to Harvey Gantt in 1987 by making him a Fellow in the Institute. Mr. Gantt has served on the NC Board of Architecture, the AIA National Minority Services Committee, juror on numerous design awards programs, and member of accreditation committees at Howard University and Southern University Schools of Architecture. Mr. Gantt has been a lecturer and visiting critic at colleges and universities nationwide. He currently serves on the Visiting Committee of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, and was a past Visiting Committee member of the Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. He was chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission, appointed by President Bill Clinton, from 1995 to 2000.
Mr. Gantt has been an activist in the political arena since 1974. He served more than three terms on the Charlotte City Council in the late 70’s. In 1981, he was made Mayor Pro­Tem. In 1983, he became Charlotte’s first African­ American Mayor and went on to serve two successive terms in this city of better than 400,000 persons. Mr. Gantt’s tenure in Charlotte politics was one of unprecedented growth and development. He placed a great deal of emphasis on planning, revitalization of the inner city, housing, and managed growth.
In 1990 and 1996, Harvey Gantt ran for national office and challenged Jesse Helms in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race. While unsuccessful in winning the senate seat, he has won national acclaim and respect for positions he took on education, health care, the environment, and his vision for improving the quality of life for all citizens.

Mr. Gantt has always believed in promoting education and in every child having an equal opportunity to grow, flourish, and succeed. He was past co­chair of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) Task Force, and a member of CMS Board of Directors for the Public School Foundation.
He has been a board member of numerous cultural, civic, and business organizations. He has served for over a decade as a board member of Nucor Corporation. Currently he serves on the Boards of the Foundation for the Carolinas, Charlotte Center City Partners, the Charlotte­Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, and the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. He has served as past chairman of the Foundation for the Carolinas, and past president of Crisis Assistance Ministry.

Mr. Gantt has received numerous awards, honors, and citations from local, regional, and national organizations. He has been recognized for his leadership and contribution to the Charlotte community by being honored by the Charlotte Post with the “2007 Lifetime Achievement Award,” and Center City Partners with the "2008 Vision Award." In 2009 the Afro­American Cultural Center named their new building "The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture.” The building opened in October 2009. Mr. Gantt also holds honorary doctorate degrees from eight colleges and universities.

Since 1965, Mr. Gantt and his family have been members of Friendship Missionary Baptist, where he has been a choir member and past member of the Board of Trustees.

Harvey Gantt is married to the former Lucinda Brawley. They have four adult children.



Gayle Lanier

Gayle Lanier serves as senior vice president of customer services for Duke Energy. She is responsible for customer contact operations, revenue billing and receivables, metering services, customer support operations and customer satisfaction.

Previously, Lanier served as vice president of corporate services for Progress Energy. Prior to that, she held leadership roles at both Nortel and EMC (previously Data General Corp.). At Nortel, Lanier served as vice president and general manager of Nortel Knowledge Services. She had global responsibility for Nortel’s strategic direction and performance for all training, documentation and leadership development for the company’s employees, customers and channel partners. Other roles held at Nortel include vice president of global corporate operations and general manager of time-division multiplexing (TDM) portfolio, where she had profit and loss accountability for the TDM family of switching systems. Lanier was also responsible for the development and deployment of Nortel’s first Voice over Internet Protocol product line.
Lanier’s time at Data General included various engineering roles and culminated in management roles in new product introduction and materials planning. She was named senior vice president and chief customer officer following the Duke Energy/Progress Energy merger in July 2012.

Actively involved in the community, Lanier currently serves on the boards of trustees for the United Way of the Greater Triangle and Discovery Place, a nonprofit education organization. She is a former member and secretary for the North Carolina State University (NCSU) board of trustees.

She established the Dwain K. and Gayle S. Lanier NCSU Scholarship Endowment in 2003 to help benefit engineering students. She received the NCSU Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award in 2008 and served as the N.C. State College of Engineering Keynote Address speaker in 2005. Lanier was also one of the 2009 The Network Journal’s 25 Influential Black Women in Business Award recipients and the 2011 Business Leader Women Extraordinaire recipient.

Lanier holds a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering from North Carolina State University. She and her husband, Dwain, have a daughter.



Corey Thurman

Corey L. Thurman is an athletic trainer / community activist and former professional baseball pitcher for the minor league York Revolution of the Atlantic League, and the Toronto Blue Jays at the major league level. 
Born in Augusta, Georgia, Thurman first signed with the Kansas City Royals out of high school in Texarkana, Texas in the fourth round of the amateur draft and would make his professional debut later that summer at the age of 17.  Corey later became a record setting picture for the minor league York, Revolution baseball squad.  

During his tenure with the York Revolution, Corey has taken a purposeful effort to step off the field and become personally involved in pressing issues in the community in which he lives.
After retiring from baseball in 2016 the York Revolution renamed their community service award, the Corey Thurman community service award.
Corey continues to dedicate his time and energy to various health, community, and social issues that affect his community.



Carrie Cook

Carrie B. Cook is a passionate advocate for youth engagement, economic empowerment, women’s rights and high quality education for all students. Carrie currently serves as the Regional Liaison for U.S. Senator Kay Hagan. In this role Carrie acts as the Senator’s liaison to government, business and community leaders within a 14 county region of North Carolina. Carrie is also the Founder of EmpowHERment, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non profit organization whose mission is to empower girls and women to be leaders in their community though mentorship, talent development and advocacy. Since it’s inception in 2011, the organization has positively connected, inspired, and empow(HER)ed hundreds of girls and women in the Charlotte region, effectively creating a sustainable pipeline to develop the talents of current and future leaders.
Carrie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Master of Public Administration degree with a focus on Education Policy and Economic Development from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been recognized by local, national and international organizations for her commitment to public service. In 2011 she received the Young Public Administrator of the Year Award from the National Forum of Black Public Administrators and in 2013 Carrie was recognized as 1 of 3 Women of Achievement Award Recipients from the YWCA of Central Carolinas. Carrie’s intellectually curious mind and adventurous spirit has led her across the globe to over 15 countries in six continents. A native of Charlotte, NC, Carrie is grateful for the opportunity to be a servant­leader in her local community and beyond. She credits her unshakable faith, passion and supportive family and friends for helping her to become a better woman every day.



The Open Book Foundation

Mr. Webb started his career in education early in his college years having the opportunity to volunteer at various schools in Fayetteville, NC as a student at Fayetteville State University. After graduating, Mr. Webb would go on to accept his first teaching position with an education organization called Citizen Schools where he worked as a Teaching Fellow. Throughout his tenue within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, Mr. Webb would gain first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing our young scholars within the education system. In 2012, the help of his business partner and best-friend Ryan Howell, they would go on to create The Open Book Foundation. An organization designed to provide free books to Title I elementary schools across the country. They have been able to donate over 70,000 books to over 1000 classrooms nation-wide. Currently, Mr. Webb continues to advocate for education equity around the country while serving as a U.S. Federal Air Marshal. 



Duke Energy

Duke Energy, the largest electric power company in the United States, supplies and delivers electricity to approximately 7 million customers in the Southeast and Midwest. The company also distributes natural gas in Ohio and Kentucky. Its commercial power and international businesses operate diverse power generation assets in North America and Latin America, including a growing renewable energy portfolio. Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK.