2013: The Difference That Makes A Difference

2013 Video Recap

Hawa Ahmed


Dawn Averitt

The Well Project

Rachel Bagby

Author of Divine Daughters: Liberating the Power and Passion of Women’s Voices

Tony Beasley

Director - Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA)

Dr. James Coan


Ralph Cohen

Co-Founder, American Shakespeare Center

Martin Davidson


W. Jeffrey Elias, M.D.

Neurosurgeon, University of VA

R. Edward Freeman

Business Professor, Philosopher

Joel Fuhrman


Leslie Gordon MD, PhD

Founder and Medical Director, Progeria Research Foundation

Deb Gottesman

My Soul Back and Wonder: Life Stories from Women in Recovery

John Hunter

Educator, World Peace Foundation

John Kluge

Founder- Toilet Hackers

Vusi Mahlasela

Musician, Activist

Cynthia Murray

Author, Motivational Speaker, Attorney

Darius Nabors


Zoë Romano

Writer, Runner, Visionary

Denise Stewart

Playwright, Actor, and Motivational Coach

Laura Thomas

Director, Charlottesville High School Orchestra

Chandler Van Voorhis

ACRE - The Currency of Conservation

Hawa Ahmed did not grow up thinking she could attend college. 

Born a refugee in Chad, Ahmed arrived in the United States with nothing but the clothes on her back. As she watched her parents struggle to make a living, college was simply a fantasy.

However, upon receiving a full scholarship to study at the University of Virginia, her whole world changed, catapulting a lifetime of unforeseeable opportunity. 

Now a junior at UVA, Ahmed has been compelled to service ever since being granted a college education. This past summer, Ahmed rode her bike 4,265 miles across the continental United States. Averaging 80 miles a day, she biked for 11 and a half weeks to raise money and awareness for affordable housing. 

Dawn Averitt  is a change maker.  As a strategic visionary, activist, founder of non-profit organizations, projects and initiatives, and as speaker and adventurer, Averitt makes things happen.  For the past 20 years, Averitt has been a leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS, specifically as the disease impacts women and girls.

In 2002, Averitt founded The Well Project (www.thewellproject.org), with her brother Richard, to change the course of the AIDS pandemic by focusing on treatment and prevention for women. In 2003, she launched a think tank that became the Women’s Research Initiative on HIV/AIDS to work for “more, better, faster” research in women.  Averitt was the driving force behind The Grace Study, the first HIV treatment study to successfully enroll predominantly women, largely people of color.

As an advocate for social justice for people living with HIV and AIDS, Averitt has developed programs to increase awareness, accelerate testing, provide access to treatment, disseminate information and expand clinical trials. She has received awards and accolades over the years and is frequently featured in the media. In July 2007, Averitt received a Women Leading Global Change Award from the World YWCA for her leadership in the HIV/AIDS pandemic and in 2010 was named one of the top 100 most influential AIDS activists by POZmagazine.  She was appointed to serve on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in 2010.  In July 2012, Averitt led the first National HIV Awareness Month in the United States.  Averitt is passionate about travel, her family and ending AIDS.

Rachel Bagby, J.D., a voice for life, has a Stanford law degree in Social Change. She works with leaders from organizations like Google and the Sierra Club to unleash the resounding force of nature inside of them so that they have more fun getting that next, big, earth-serving thing done.

Author of Divine Daughters: Liberating the Power and Passion of Women’s Voices, Rachel originated a poetry form called Dekaaz, which condenses large amounts of information into ten syllables of sharable wisdom. She is growing a global community of Dekaazens from seeds she first planted at “Watershed,” a Library of Congress conference hosted by former US Poet Laureate Robert Haas.

A founding member of Bobby McFerrin’s touring ensemble, “Voicestra,” Rachel uses improvisation techniques to amp up her audiences’ presence and message, so that they increase their communicative power to transform the moment.

Anthony (Tony) Beasley became the Director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) on 21 May 2012. He succeeded Fred K.Y. Lo, who served as NRAO Director from 1 September 2002 through 20 May 2012.

Beasley received his Bachelor's Degree in Physics with First Class Honours, and a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Sydney in 1986 and 1991, respectively. His doctoral thesis examined magnetic field generation and solar-stellar activity in post-main-sequence stars. After his completing his PhD, he joined NRAO first as a post-doc, then as a scientific staff member and senior manager in Socorro, NM and Charlottesville, VA. His scientific interests include non-thermal stellar radio emission, Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) techniques, radio supernovae, and astrometry of stellar/interstellar masers.

Beasley departed NRAO in 2000 for new challenges as the Project Manager for the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA), a University-based millimeter array funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and located at a high-altitude site in the Inyo National Forest of eastern California. He returned to NRAO in September 2004 as the ALMA Project Manager in the Joint ALMA Observatory in Santiago, Chile. During his tenure as ALMA Project Manager, Beasley led the ALMA construction project through multiple international reviews and a major re-baselining effort that ultimately led to National Science Board approval of a 40% funding increment.

Since 2000, Beasley's career has focused on the design, construction, operation, and management of major scientific research facilities. Prior to his appointment as NRAO Director, he served for more than four years as Chief Operations Officer and Project Manager for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), a continental-scale observatory designed to provide scientists with 30 years of ecological data on the impacts of climate change, land use change, and invasive species on natural resources and biodiversity. NEON is a project of the NSF, in cooperation with many other US agencies and NGOs. Beasley built and led the NEON, Inc. team that developed the detailed project definition and produced the prototype and test site build that led to a NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction award in 2011.

Dr. James Coan is Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Virginia Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Virginia. Dr. Coan's work emphasizes the neuroscience of emotion and social relationships, and has been featured in Science, Nature, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, the New Yorker, The Atlantic, BBC News, Discovery Channel, New Scientist, Scientific American, CBS Sunday Morning, and other major media outlets. His work with John Gottman on behavior coding was featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller, Blink. In 2010, Dr. Coan received the inaugural Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions from the Association for Psychological Science, and the Award for Distinguished Early Career Contributions from the Society for Psychophysiological Research. His talk today is entitled, "Why We Hold Hands."

Ralph Alan Cohen is Co-Founder of the American Shakespeare Center and Professor of Shakespeare and Performance in the Master of Letters and Fine Arts program, which he established at Mary Baldwin College.  He was the project director for the building of the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia.  He has directed 30 productions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, including Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, in America’s first professional production of that play. 

Ralph is the author of ShakesFear and How to Cure It: A Handbook for Teaching Shakespeare.  He has published widely on Shakespeare and early modern staging, and he co-edited Thomas Middleton’s Your Five Gallants for Oxford University Press’s Collected Works of Thomas Middleton.  He founded the Studies Abroad program at James Madison University, where he won Virginia’s award for outstanding faculty.  In 2008 he received the Virginia’s Governor’s Arts Award, and in 2009 he was the Theo Crosby Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

Ralph earned his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College, his doctorate at Duke University, and has honorary degrees from Georgetown University and St. Lawrence University.  From 1969 to 1973, he was an usher at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Dr. Martin Davidson is a professor of leadership at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

For 25 years he has taught about the power of diversity -- not just diversity as it relates to race and gender, but the diversity that’s present even when everybody looks the same. Martin calls this diversity within a homogeneous community “weirdness.”

As a leadership-and-diversity consultant, Martin has worked in 24 industries on five continents. His clients include AT&T, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Rolls Royce, and the U.S. Navy Seals.

He’s the author of “The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed,” and is working on his latest book, “Embrace the Weird.”

Martin received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Harvard, and his graduate degree in psychology from Stanford.

As Director of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery at the University of Virginia, W. Jeffrey Elias, M.D. has led a number of research investigations, resulting in innovative uses of image-guided interventions to treat debilitating neurological conditions.  In 2011, his team became the first in the world to successfully treat a person with disabling tremor using focused ultrasound that was guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  This procedure and subsequent clinical trials have resulted in an outpouring around the globe of investigations using ultrasound interventions to treat disorders of the brain.  The past decade has seen advances in ultrasound technology so that acoustic energy can now be safely and precisely delivered thru the intact human skull to reach the deepest regions of the brain.

Stemming in part from the influence of his father, a neurologist, Dr. Elias developed the goal of using less invasive surgical techniques to treat chronic, neurological disorders.  For the past 12 years, his practice has specialized in using precise, stereotactic techniques and brain stimulation to treat diseases such as Parkinson's disease, tremor, and epilepsy.    He has been awarded the UVA School of Medicine’s Excellence in Clinical Medicine Award for the clinical care of patients.  An Associate Professor in Neurological Surgery & Neurology, he serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Neurosurgery, has authored over 50 scientific manuscripts, and has received over 2 million dollars of research funding.      This focused ultrasound project is sponsored by The Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation, a non-profit organization, started in Charlottesville to promote research, education, and the adoption of the technology.

R. Edward “Ed” Freeman is a prolific educator, consultant and speaker, best known for his work on the topics of Stakeholder Management and Business Ethics. He also teaches Leading with Meaning, helping organizations create a culture that brings out the best in everyone.

Freeman is perhaps best known for his award winning book, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, first published in 1984 and reissued in 2010 by Cambridge University Press. This landmark book has helped to define and shape our understanding of how good management practice really is based on relationships—relationships with the stakeholders who affect or are affected by the business.

Today, Freeman is working passionately to create long-term stakeholder value in business through the Institute for Business in Society and Conscious Capitalism, Inc. He believes that the ultimate purpose of business is to create value rather than to maximize profit. Freeman is excited about innovation and entrepreneurs that can help to solve the world’s toughest problems. His massive online offering course (MOOC), New Models of Business in Society is reaching thousands around the globe. 

Joel Fuhrman, M.D., is a board-certified family physician, NYew York Times best-selling author and nutritional researcher who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods. He is an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows including The Dr. Oz Show, the Today Show, Good Morning America, and Live with Kelly. Fuhrman’s own hugely successful PBS television shows, 3 Steps to Incredible Health! and Fuhrman’s Immunity Solution! bring nutritional science to homes all across America.

As a former world class figure skater, Fuhrman placed second in the United States National Pairs Championships in 1973 and third in the 1976 World Professional Pairs Skating Championship in Jaca, Spain. Today, he is an active participant in multiple sports and is a health and fitness enthusiast. His dedication to sports medicine, foot and body alignment, injury prevention, and human performance and longevity speaks to these lifelong interests. Along with his nutritional expertise, Fuhrman has been involved professionally with sports medical committees, advised professional and Olympic athletes, and has lectured to athletic trainers and world-class athletes for maximizing performance and preventing injury.

Leslie B. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D. is the co-founder and Medical Director of The Progeria Research Foundation. She is also the mother of a child with Progeria. Dr. Gordon is Principal Investigator overseeing the PRF Diagnostics Testing Program, Cell & Tissue Bank and Medical & Research Database.

Gordon is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, RI, and co-Chair for the Progeria Clinical Drug Trial at Children’s Hospital Boston. She assembled the PRF Genetics Consortium and was among those members who discovered the gene defect in Progeria. She has been recognized for her extraordinary efforts in Progeria research by such prestigious institutions as the Gerontological Society of America, Harvard University, and The Genetic Alliance.

Deb Gottesman is the co-director of My Soul Look Back and Wonder: Life Stories from Women in Recovery, which premiered at The Kennedy Center in spring 2012 and will be featured in the upcoming documentary “How I Got Over.”  Founder and Co-Executive Director of The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts in Washington, DC, she is also a professional actress who has performed Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Signature Theatre, and the Washington Shakespeare Company, among many others.

As a director, she has worked at National Geographic Live, Catholic University’s Musical Theatre Department, and The Theatre Lab. A pioneer in the field of applied acting, she has co-authored (along with Buzz Mauro) three books, all published by Penguin Putnam:  The Interview Rehearsal Book:  Seven Steps to Job-Winning Interviews Using Acting Skills You Never Knew You Had (1999, over 20,000 copies sold), Taking Center Stage:  Masterful Public Speaking Using Acting Skills You Never Knew You Had (2001), and The Best Answer (2006). Her work has been featured on numerous radio programs (including the "David Essel Show" and "The Source Report," both nationally syndicated by Westwood One), as well as on the FOX Morning News in Washington, DC, and in the magazines Working Woman, Men’s Health and Cosmopolitan.

Deb holds a B.A. in Psychology from Lawrence University, and an M.F.A. in Acting from The Catholic University of America. She is a 2003 recipient of the prestigious Linowes Leadership Award for her contributions to arts education for underserved populations.

Musician, teacher, filmmaker and game designer, John Hunter has dedicated his life to helping children realize their full potential. His own life story is one of a never-ending quest for harmony. As a student, he studied comparative religions and philosophy while traveling through Japan, China and India. In India, inspired by Ghandi's philosophy, he began to think about the role of the schoolteacher in creating a more peaceful world.

As his online biography says: "Accepting the reality of violence, he would seek to incorporate ways to explore harmony in various situations. This exploration would take form in the framework of a game – something that students would enjoy. Within the game data space, they would be challenged, while enhancing collaborative and communication skills."

In 1978, at the Richmond Community High School, Hunter led the first sessions of his World Peace Game, a hands-on political simulation. The game has now been played around the world, on a four-tiered board. It's the subject of the recent film World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements.

Everyone poops.

The problem, says John Kluge, is that 2.5 billion of us have no clean place to go, and that lack is generating massive troubles with global health, economic growth, and even education. Kluge co-founded impact investment and business development firm Eirene, which regularly confronts ugly realities like poor sanitation, aging and illiteracy. Now he and his nonprofit group, Toilet Hackers, are putting the poop problem squarely on the socioeconomic agenda. The man knows what he’s doing. The co-author of Charity and Philanthropy for Dummies and The Philanthropunk Manifesto will reveal how social entrepreneurs are employing the hard-edged ethos of punk rock to drive change.

South African singer-songwriter, Vusi Mahlasela, will join the stage for his third TED event. He spoke and performed at TEDGlobal in 2007 and TED in Monterey in 2008.  Simply known as “The Voice” in his home country, Mahlasela’s music and message was crucial during the fight against apartheid, and still is in the new modern-day nation.  Vusi has recently been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in South Africa, awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Rhodes University, and honored by South African President Jacob Zuma with the “National Order of Ikhamanga” recognizing him for “drawing attention to the injustices that isolated South Africa from the global community during the Apartheid years.”  Blending traditional African music with soul and blues, his music showcases powerful vocals and poetic lyrics.  Vusi is signed to fellow South African Dave Matthews’ label, ATO Records.  Vusi is currently on tour with Taj Mahal and will be peeling off the tour to make a special stop at TEDxCharlottesville. 

Cynthia Murray, native of Charlottesville, Virginia, is an author, motivational speaker, attorney and success and leadership expert.  She gained much of her expertise from more than sixteen combined years of experience as a prosecutor and as a senior level business management professional for one of the largest and most respected global defense contractors in the United States. 

In this capacity, Cynthia has negotiated and managed dozens of multiple million-dollar contracts with more than fifteen nations in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  She also facilitates seminars for corporate professionals helping to improve skill sets in leadership, effective communication, change management and work-life balance.

Cynthia has encouraged and inspired diverse and multi-cultural audiences from small groups of corporate professionals and academics to auditoriums of hundreds with her engaging conference keynote speeches and training workshops in English or in Spanish.


She is author of the non-fiction, inspirational book, “Seasons of Change: Surviving and Thriving During Life’s Biggest Challenges”.   Cynthia is soon to publish her widely anticipated book, “The Power of A Plan: Ten Keys to Achieving Your Goals and Winning!” due to be released this spring 2013.

Training and Education:

Juris Doctorate, University of Virginia School of Law
Bachelor of Arts, University of Virginia, College of Arts and Sciences (Spanish and Anthropology)
Virginia State Bar, Admitted

Darius Nabors is not the director, founder or managing partner of anything. He does not own a business. He has not started a non-profit. He works 9-5 and struggles with the same things that everybody does. Picking up groceries, doing laundry on time and Charlottesville traffic.

Nabors is not particularly well known for anything other than his love of wolf shirts. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2007 with a degree in Political Philosophy, Policy and Law. During his final year of school one of his friends nominated him for the superlative of 'Most Likely to Wear a Wolf Shirt'. As the only write-in nominee he was granted the honor and began purchasing wolf shirts. Over the past 7 years, he has received dozen of 'gifts' from friends including wolf towels, wolf posters, wolf puzzles, and photos of random strangers wearing wolf shirts.

After graduating from school he moved to South Dakota for two years as part of the Teach For America program. While out there he taught 4th grade on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Parmelee at He Dog Elementary School. As he expanded the pack of wolf shirt wearers he realized that people want to have fun, enjoy life and live out their dreams. He has, by a simple name change, come up with a way for you to complete  your Bucket List and lead a more enjoyable life.

Zoë Romano really likes to run. In 2011, she ran 2,800 miles across the US, churning out 30 miles a day to become the first female to complete such a trek without a support vehicle. And, along the way she raised more than $15,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Romano was struck by the power of this "odyssey run" — for her own growth as well as for others.

Romano strongly holds the belief that everyone is capable of achieving the extraordinary and that endurance athletics are a powerful platform for advocating this philosophy. Her mission is to engage local and global communities in her odyssey running as a way to inspire them to not just dream big dreams, but to go do them. She first fell in love with running while a student at the University of Richmond, earning degrees in Spanish and International Studies, magna cum laude, in 2009. She is currently a freelance writer and tutors Spanish in Richmond.

While she is one of a few hundred people who have run across the U.S., Romano's next odyssey is to be the first person to run the Tour de France. She started May 18 and will be running through the summer...

Denise Stewart is a playwright, actor and motivational coach.    As the sole proprietor of Wellness Charlottesville, LLC  she teaches wellness and mindfulness classes for companies and individuals as well as self-esteem and creativity workshops for teenage girls. She recently toured her one-woman show, Dirty Barbie and other girlhood tales, in Washington, DC, New York City and Edinburgh, Scotland.  Her new play, The Sugar, opens at the Lee Street Theatre in North Carolina in April.  She has an MFA in Playwriting from UVA and a BA in Theatre from Catawba College.

Laura Mulligan Thomas has served as the director of the Charlottesville High School Orchestra for more than three decades. Thomas came to CHS after graduating with honors from James Madison University in 1982 and began immediately to develop and nourish the orchestra program of eight students she inherited. Today an award-winning group of 150, a number of CHSO graduates are professional musicians who perform with orchestras and pop, rock, and country artists in the U.S. and Europe. Still other alumni have followed in Thomas's footsteps and pursued careers in music education.

Honored as Charlottesville's Woman of the Year in 1999 by the Virginia Women's Forum, Thomas was also named one of the Charlottesville Top 25 Citizens by C-ville. Numerous additional awards for her work with young musicians include Charlottesville's Distinguished Teacher Award, the Golden Apple Award, the Piedmont Council of the Arts Award, and Outstanding Educator in Central Virginia awarded by Phi Delta Kappa. Thomas studied orchestral conducting with Thomas Wilkins, Carl Roskott, and Ray Fowler, and earned her master's degree from Shenandoah Conservatory in 1996. In 2002, Shenandoah University honored her with its first graduate Alumna of Excellence Award.

Thomas spent her early years in Alexandria, Virginia, where she studied piano with National Symphony pianist Marion Herrett and learned cello in the Alexandria City Schools string program. She has guest-conducted dozens of youth orchestras throughout Virginia, and serves on the executive board of the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association. She is the chair of the Fine Arts department at Charlottesville High School and for three years directed the University of Richmond Orchestra. An active performer, Ms. Thomas plays piano and cello with several Charlottesville chamber ensembles, and whenever possible performs with her three siblings as the Mulligan String Quartet.

Chandler Van Voorhis co-founder C21, LLC, a leader in conversation capitalism. The company plants, grows, and sells permanent forests. Capturing all the integrated assets forests house - biodiversity, carbon, nutrients, water credits - the GreenTrees program is today America's largest forest carbon origination pipeline. 

The company aims to plant 1,000,000 acres and turn forest environmental capital into a conservation currency called ACRE (Advanced Carbon Restored Ecosystem) that externalizes our natural capital. Previously, Van Voorhis for seven years co-hosted GreenWave Radio, a nationally syndicated talk show on the environment and business.  In 2002, he was awarded the ChevronTexaco Conservation Award, nation’s most distinguished private award in conservation.

He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and has authored several chapters in books as well as articles on marketplace conservation, environmental leadership, and energy.