Dr. owen cardwell

Dr. Owen Cardwell is the Rosel Schewel Distinguished Professor of Education and Human Development and the co-director of the Center for Education and Leadership at the University of Lynchburg.

A native of Lynchburg, Dr. Cardwell was one of the first African American students to integrate E.C. Glass High School. He is the founder and executive director of the Heroes and Dreams Academy in Richmond, a service-learning based mentoring program for at-risk youth. He was also the co-founder of the Family Restoration Network in Ashland, Virginia, an organization designed to restore fractured families and reconnect incarcerated fathers with their children.

Claiborne Deming

Claiborne Deming is an American attorney, business executive and philanthropist.  

In the mid-2000s, while serving as the CEO & President of Murphy Oil Company in El Dorado, Arkansas, Deming read a Wall Street Journal article about The Kalamazoo Promise in Michigan. Faced with workforce issues in El Dorado, Deming gravitated to the idea of a place-based scholarship initiative to develop, retain, and attract talent to the city.

Under Deming’s watch, Murphy Oil committed $50 million to establish the El Dorado Promise, which was announced in 2007. The Promise scholarship has provided funding to 2,025 students. It has improved college enrollment rates, revitalized the schools, and contributed to the economic development of El Dorado. In 2016, eighty-four percent of Promise-eligible students attended college compared with sixty-two percent pre-promise.

Deming — who is now the chairman of the Board of Directors for Murphy Oil and the president of the El Dorado Education Foundation — remains invested in higher education as a member of the Law School Dean’s Advisory Board and the A.B. Freeman School of Business Council at his alma mater, Tulane University in New Orleans. Deming is also a member of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust and the Board of Directors of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation of the University of Virginia.

Valerie Gregory

Valerie Gregory is a life-long educator and advocate for diversity and inclusion on college campuses.  

Gregory is a former teacher, principal and retired Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admission and Director of Outreach at the University of Virginia. She served the university in the office of undergraduate admission for over twenty years, working toward diversifying UVA’s student body. As a result of her leadership efforts, minority student enrollment reached record heights at UVA, and the increase in African American and Hispanic students doubled over a ten-year period. She is also credited with improving the number of incoming first-generation students, which improved 28 percent in five years.  

In 2019, Gregory received the John T. Casteen III Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Leadership Award. The University’s Office for Diversity and Equity established the award in 2010 to honor a member of the UVA community whose deep commitment and distinct passion for diversity includes the ability to create a setting in which the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion is paramount.


Hylan T. Hubbard, III (“Hank”) is a Lynchburg native who is a 1965 graduate of then segregated Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and a 1969 graduate of Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME.

Hank retired as a corporate executive at Aetna Insurance Company after 30 years and formed New America Insurance Company in Tarpon Springs, Fl, which provided insurance products to underserved customers, agents, and brokers. Hank retired to Forest, VA in 2007 and dedicated himself to giving back to his community.  He currently serves on the Lynchburg Beacon of Hope Board and numerous other community advisory boards, including Centra Health System.  Mr. Hubbard’s main passion is helping to close learning gaps and open educational opportunities for local students.


Cainan Townsend is the Associate Director & Director of Education and Outreach, of the Robert Russa Moton Museum, a National Historic Landmark in Farmville, Virginia. Townsend leads the Moton Museum Education Team as they work to advance the museum’s mission in all parts of the commonwealth through active education and programmatic offerings. 

Townsend is the great-grandson of John Townsend, a plaintiff from Brown vs. Board of Education, a great-nephew of students Mildred and Arlene Townsend in the 1951 Moton student walkout, and his father is a member of the lost generation missing several years of his education by the closing of the Prince Edward County Public Schools from 1959-1964.

Townsend served as a 2016 Governor’s fellow with the Virginia Secretary of Education. In 2017, he was one of the first ever elected to serve on the Prince Edward County School Board. In 2018, he was appointed to serve on the African American Cultural Resources Taskforce, tasked with preserving historic African American sites in Virginia. In 2019, he was appointed to the Commission for African American History Education tasked with rewriting the history Standards of Learning (SOL’s) to reflect the contribution of African Americans to the Commonwealth of Virginia. 


Walter Virgil currently serves as the Director of Strategic Projects and Alliances within the Division of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity at Liberty University and is the Chief Executive Officer of Get Fresh and Live.

Virgil is boldly working at the forefront of the incarceration epidemic that is plaguing a large percentage of young men in the United States. According to federal statistics, seventy percent of men who do not receive their high school equivalency will be incarcerated by the age of thirty-five. Through his program, Get Fresh and Live, Virgil shares his personal story with at risk youth and provides a framework to connect them to educational opportunities that lead to degrees, certifications, and careers. Virgil has made significant impact in the Virginia Juvenile and Adult correctional systems. He is a visionary on a mission to radically transform the prison statistics from a hopeless crisis to a hopeful future for the next generation.