2017 Recap

Andrew Block

Director, Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice

Daryl Davis

Musician, Author, Actor, Social Activist

Rafe Furst

Impact investor, writer, producer and poker player

Nick George

Founder of The Listening, Inc.

Gregg Hallinan

Assistant Professor of Astronomy, Caltech

Amiel Harper

Entrepreneur, brand builder, storyteller, artisan

Christian Howard

PhD Candidate, English; University of Virginia

Kat Imhoff

President and CEO of The Montpelier Foundation

Rob Jackson

Research lecturer

Pete Johnson

Cave Explorer

Abigail Kayser

Ph.D. Candidate, Curry School of Education


Four women, virtuosic musicians, and educators

Bradford and Bryan Manning

Social Entrepreneurs on a Mission to Cure Blindness

Kirsten Martin

Business Ethics Professor at George Washington University

Minds In Motion

of The Richmond Ballet

Bob Moje

VMDO Architects, Founding Partner

Pete Myers

Founder and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences

Baaba Seth

Homegrown World Groove Ensemble

Dr. Sanjiv Singh

Educator, Innovator, and Entrepreneur

Michael F. Suarez, S.J.

Director of Rare Book School at UVA

David Swanson

Author, Activist, Journalist, and Radio Host

Chic Thompson

Chemist, Cartoonist, Dyslexic, Educator

Ami Vitale

National Geographic photographer

Andy Block has been working with vulnerable children since he graduated from college in 1987 and went off to a rural region in western Kenya to teach high school.

He was appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to become the Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) on April 7, 2014. Prior to this appointment he was an associate professor and director of the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law from 2010-2014. From 1998 until the spring of 2010 he was the founder and legal director of the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center. Director Block received various awards for his innovative and successful work as an advocate, including the American Bar Association Young Lawyer’s Division Child Advocacy Award, the Virginia State Bar’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year, and the Virginia Bar Association’s Robert F. Shepherd Jr. Award.  Director Block graduated from Yale University in 1987 and from the Northwestern University School of Law in 1994.

Since his appointment, and with strong support from Governor Terry McAuliffe, Director Block and the rest of the DJJ team are in the process of transforming the work of the Department.  This transformation includes safely reducing the number of youth in state-operated Juvenile Correctional Centers (JCCs) from almost 600 when Governor McAuliffe took office to close to 200 today, closing two of these JCCs and reinvesting those savings into building a statewide continuum of evidence-based programs and community supports,reforming practices in the JCCs to emphasize rigorous rehabilitation, education and family engagement, and strengthening and unifying juvenile probation practices across the commonwealth.

Most importantly, Andy is married to Kelli Sutton Block, and the father of four amazing kids– Sage, Maya, Eden, and Ry.

Daryl Davis is an American R&B and Blues musician, author, actor and bandleader, known for his energetic style of Boogie Woogie piano. Davis has played with such musicians as Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Bruce Hornsby, and Bill Clinton. His efforts to improve race relations, in which as an African-American he engaged with members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), have been reported on by media such as CNN, Newsweek Magazine, and the Washington Post. Davis summed up his advice as: "Establish dialogue. When two enemies are talking, they're not fighting."   Daryl received rave reviews for his stage roles in William Saroyan’s The Time Of Your Life with a famed cast of Marcia Gay Harden, Brigid Cleary, Richard Bauer, Dion Anderson, and Henry Strozier. Davis was a key player in Elvis Mania which was extended by two months due to popular demand in New York City at an off-Broadway theatre.  He appeared in two episodes of the critically acclaimed HBO series, The Wire.  Davis is the author of the nonfiction book Klan-Destine Relationshipsand he is the subject of the documentary Accidental Courtesy


Beginning in Silicon Valley in the mid 1990s, Rafe has founded, invested in and advised dozens of startups, including Pickem Sports, Full Tilt Poker, and Crowdfunder. To date, his companies have generated over $1 Billion in revenue and $450 Million in liquidity to stakeholders.

An avid poker player, he's won a World Series of Poker Championship, produced an award-winning instructional video, and has helped raise millions of dollars for cancer prevention and other charitable causes.

These days Rafe invests in cryptocurrencies, and coaches social entrepreneurs through COMMON.

He holds a B.S. in Symbolic Systems and M.S. in Computer Science / Artificial Intelligence from Stanford University.

Nicholas Steven George is a published author and poet. While he works in the mental health field as a Day Treatment clinician, he has been writing since his youth in Newark, NJ. First born to his Trinidadian parents, Nicholas began performing his poetry at local open mics and slam competitions in Newark, crafting his skill and delivering his story. In 2013, Nicholas started a platform called "The Listening", an organization that exists to challenge the perception of the performing arts being strictly for entertainment purposes, and connect it to mentoring and social impact.

Amiel Harper is the Founder & Principal of The Morpheus Consultancy, where he focuses on brand strategy and business development. Harper founded The Morpheus Consultancy after growing brands for some of the largest consumer packaged goods companies in the world, including Procter & Gamble, Mars-Wrigley, and Tyson Foods.  With a desire to grow minority businesses in Chicago, Harper decided to refocus his talent and learnings on his own back yard. Harper works with clients across a variety of industries including law, finance, politics, technology and education.

A proud south-sider, Amiel Harper credits his Chicago upbringing for much of his success as a lawyer and business owner. He earned his B.S. in Finance from Bradley University, his J.D. from Washington University School of Law, and his M.B.A. from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Harper is also an active mentor and proud brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.

Christian Howard is a current PhD Candidate in English literature at the University of Virginia, where she is specializing in contemporary global fiction and digital humanities.

Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Christian received her BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Dallas in 2012. In 2014, she received her MA in English from the University of Tulsa, where she specialized in modern literature and began working on digital humanities. As a PhD candidate at UVA, Christian has worked as a Makerspace Technologist in the Scholars' Lab and as a graduate student assistant for Alison Booth's digital project, The Collective Biographies of Women. Christian is currently a Praxis Scholar, and she is one of the Principle Investigators for the podcast series, Circulating Spaces: Literary and Language Worlds in a Global Age.

In her spare time, Christian enjoys fencing, playing the piano, and frequenting art museums. She lives in Charlottesville.

As President and CEO of James Madison’s Montpelier, Kat Imhoff is among the first generation of women to oversee all aspects of a national historic site. Under her leadership, Montpelier has become a leader in the research of slavery in the Early Republic and garnered the attention of patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, whose $10 million gift in 2014 jumpstarted efforts to reconstruct the landscape of slavery at Montpelier and fully furnish James Madison’s historic home.

Montpelier also operates The Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution whose mission is to improve the public’s understanding of the founding principles of the United States and inspire civic engagement. Kat’s fresh, visionary leadership of the Center has repositioned Montpelier as a cultural organization with an innovative instinct for connecting history to present day challenges through its civic education programs for constitutional practitioners.

Prior to joining Montpelier in January 2013, Kat enjoyed a five-year tenure as State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Montana, where she led a successful  effort conserve an ecologically intact unit of 310,000 acres of land in the Northern Rockies that serves as part of an environmentally-protected migratory corridor extending from Wyoming across Montana to Canada, Crown of the Continent. 

Before her leadership role at The Nature Conservancy, Kat served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) which owns and operates Monticello, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

She lives on the grounds of Montpelier with her husband Jeep and black lab Lena. 


Rob Jackson received a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from the University of Virginia in 1990. After graduation, he served as the Assistant to the Associate Director and a high-school college counselor at Boys Harbor in East Harlem, NY. Rob was exposed to professional audio recording at Greene Street Recording Studios by his childhood friend Djinji Brown and released a single entitled Bon Vi/Sun Up From Sun Down in 1995 on Gangreen Records and an EP entitled Cosmology in 1997 on Sevenheads Records as Blue Black of the Unspoken Heard. In 1997, Rob also became the tenth employee at an Internet startup founded in Charlottesville, VA called Value America and lived through the “dot.com bubble” before releasing a full-length album with Asheru entitled Soon Come in 2001. Rob served as a loader in a produce warehouse, a barista, a Café manager, a Sous Chef, and a university administrator before earning a Master of Science degree in the Management of Information Technology from the McIntire School of Commerce in 2003. Since then, he has been able to help mission-driven organizations leverage recent advances in information technology to develop new services and integrate them into existing operations as a capacity building consultant in the DC Metropolitan area where he has provided vision, leadership, and strategic direction for the implementation of enterprise-level systems at charter schools, national associations, and community health organizations. Rob currently teaches an online class called Hip Hop America at SUNY - Empire State College, he is a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities, he has been accepted into a PhD program in Social Constructionism and Appreciative Inquiry at the Taos Institute and he and leverages his experience at Value America to help emerging entrepreneurs refine, grow, and scale their ideas.

For a decade Peter Johnson has been part of a community of people exploring caves previously unknown to humans. In an age where exploration is supposedly done and the world is all measured, examined and categorized cavers continue to cast light onto the unknown. 

Since a meeting in an Arlington, VA rec center, Pete has explored, mapped, and documented the subterranean world from the hills of Appalachia to the walls of the Grand Canyon. In 2014 he was a member of a team that discovered the deepest cave in the Unites States in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana. His current focus is a return expedition next summer.

 He lives in Denver, CO and can usually be found drinking Genmaicha tea.

 Abigail is a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate at the Curry School of Education, where her research focuses on preparing teachers to support culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse students to attain positive academic and social outcomes. Her research agenda also includes the positive development of adolescent girls of color and educational opportunities for girls in Ghana, her birth country.

This year, she produced the documentary “Black Girlhood: Access and Assets” with a group of adolescent Black girls from the Charlottesville community that focused on female education, opportunities, perceptions, and attitudes. The documentary was shown at UVA’s Global History of Black Girlhood Conference in March 2017.

Abigail is also the program advisor for Arts Mentors, an artistic program that fosters a mentoring relationship between UVA undergraduates and children from the Westhaven community. Her work with Arts Mentors, she earned the 2017 Madison House Alumni of the Year.

Before going back to school, Abigail taught for six years in Charlottesville City and Albemarle County Schools, where she was a recipient of the Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Elementary Teacher in 2012.  Abigail lives in Charlottesville with her three boys (a husband and two sons).

LADAMA is a group of four women, virtuosic musicians, and educators — Lara Klaus, Daniela Serna, Mafer Bandola and Sara Lucas—each from a different country and culture of the Americas, who are sisters in song, rhythm and spirit. Harnessing music from their respective countries of origin –Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and the United States, the group utilizes traditional and non-traditional instruments from across the Americas, but with a modern twist, to produce Latin Alternative music.

LADAMA’s debut, self-titled album, set for release in the Fall of 2017, could not be more timely; both Latin America and the United States, in fact the world, are in need of projects that transcend boundaries and defy norms. This is precisely what their debut album, crafted carefully on a journey through Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and New York, represents. LADAMA’s new self-titled album transcends space, time and borders. Hatched across continents and language by the members of the group themselves, it delivers a fresh take on a myriad of traditional, Pan-American rhythms all coming together seamlessly into LADAMA’s unique blend of enthralling sounds.

The songs in this collection emit an electric pulse and energy that are truly global in concept and vision. A song like Porro Maracatu is a vibrant and provocative marriage of two traditional rhythms from Afro-Colombian and Afro-Brazilian culture. Confesión is a tender love letter to self-actualization and womanhood. Traditional instruments combine with electric arrangements to produce a vibrant, melodious experiment in allowing oneself to feel, speak and reimagine the currents that connect us all across the Americas. In its deepest essence, LADAMA’s inaugural album is a reflection of what it means to communicate across the Americas. Written, composed, arranged and produced by the dynamic foursome, the album is an organic yet modern expression of authenticity across cultures.

Brothers, Bradford and Bryan Manning, are social entrepreneurs on a mission to cure blindness. At the age of 7, they were both diagnosed with an eye disease that destroys central vision over time.  To fight back, they left their former careers in finance to propel a small charitable clothing company, Two Blind Brothers, into one of the fastest growing charitable brands in the country with endorsements from Ellen DeGeneres, Ashton Kutcher, Richard Branson, NBC Nightly News, and many others.

Their leadership on topics such as "purpose-driven" work, family, overcoming disability, and launching a social enterprise has also attracted the attention of major corporations and conferences. Some of these partners include AT&T, TEDx, Sotheby's, Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the Life Is Beautiful Festival.  

Their luxury clothing project is focused on quality, comfort, and "sense of touch". The brothers hired an organization of 70% blind and visually-impaired workers to produce the clothing in Dallas, Texas. Two Blind Brothers donates 100% of its profits to researchers and the Foundation Fighting Blindness to find cures for blindness. The funds from Two Blind Brothers are driving life-changing treatments that are already being used in patients such as the “Voretigene Neparvovec” treatment, a gene therapy developed by Spark Therapeutics.

The brothers are evangelists for charitable and social enterprises. They empower others through advice and consultation on branding, story-telling, corporate responsibility, and sustainable fashion. They use social media to host weekly shows to promote these ideas and to connect the visually-impaired community. In their first year, their weekly shows and videos have received over 10 million views.

Bradford and Bryan are originally from Charlottesville, Virginia and currently both live together in New York City.

Kirsten Martin teaches business ethics at the George Washington University’s School of Business. Her research centers on privacy, technology, and ethics, has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and is regularly featured in academic and practitioner journals. Kirsten’s goal is to make the ethics underpinning technology and privacy accessible to academics and ‘normal people.’  Kirsten is also a member of the advisory board for the Future Privacy Forum and the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee for her work on privacy and the ethics of Big Data.  She earned her B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan (go blue!) and her MBA and Ph.D from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business. 

Minds In Motion is the cornerstone of Richmond Ballet's education program, reaching fourth grade students across Virginia. Professional teaching artists and musicians bring their love and experience of movement and music to each Minds In Motion student in weekly classes. Richmond Ballet’s Minds In Motion Team XXL is a group of youthful, diverse, high- energy dancers that combine pedestrian movement and rhythmic patterning into exciting and intricate choreography. This group of 32 5th - 8th grade advanced Minds In Motion students are the ambassadors of the MIM program and perform at events around Charlottesville.

Bob Moje - A founding partner of VMDO, Bob is a passionate advocate for today’s “New Learner.” He strategically supports the firm's nationally-recognized K12 studio by mentoring design teams to create spaces and places that inspire students to reach their full potential as curious, compassionate, and engaged twenty-first century learners. Bob’s work is distinguished by a strong commitment to his clients. Within the office, he has also done much to cultivate a spirit of collaboration – challenging staff to rigorously pursue excellence in both design and service. This model for practice has resulted in a series of “firsts”:

  • Manassas Park Elementary School is the first project to receive awards from both the AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) as well as the AIA’s Committee on the Environment (COTE).
  • Discovery Elementary School is the largest zero-energy school in the United States and also a recipient of an AIA COTE award – making VMDO one of only a few firms nationwide to win multiple COTE awards.
  • VMDO was one of the first architectural firms in the state to commit to the AIA’s 2030 challenge – a call for all new buildings and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030. 
  • VMDO was the youngest firm to receive the T. David Fitz-Gibbon “Firm of the Year” Award from AIA Virginia.
  • Bob Moje is the first recipient of AIA Virginia’s prestigious Award for Distinguished Achievement, specifically for his contributions to K-12 learning environments.

John Peterson “Pete” Myers is founder and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, a not-for-profit organization that promotes public understanding of advances in scientific research on links between the environment and human health (www.EnvironmentalHealthNews.org). Dr. Myers holds a doctorate in the biological sciences from the University of California, Berkeley and a BA from Reed College. For a dozen years beginning in 1990, Dr. Myers served as Director of the W. Alton Jones Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia. Along with co-authors Dr. Theo Colborn and Dianne Dumanoski, Myers wrote “Our Stolen Future,” a book (1996) that explores the scientific basis of concern for how contamination threatens fetal development. Dr. Myers is now actively involved in primary research on the impacts of endocrine disruption on human health. He is on the boards of the Science Communication Network and the Jenifer Altman Foundation.  He has also served as board chair of the National Environmental Trust and the H. John Heinz Center for Science Economics and the Environment. He is an Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. Over the last 18 months he has received 3 major national and international awards: the Distinguished Service Award from the Sierra Club, the Laureate Award for Outstanding Public Service from The Endocrine Society, the world’s largest association of medical and research professionals specializing in endocrinology and. the first “Champion of Environmental Health Research” award from the National Institutes of Health.  Myers lives just outside White Hall, Virginia.  As he was growing up he lived near Baltimore and in Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Baaba Seth got their start in 1991, soon after the birth of lead singer, song writer, and guitarist Dirk Lind’s son (and the soon to be band’s namesake), Seth. It all started on original guitarist Kevin Lynch’s front porch on Virginia Avenue, with casual jam sessions that included Lynch, Boyd Tinsley, current member Len Wishart (percussion), and others. As fans of African music, they decided to create a sound that incorporated the positive mood and infectious grooves of modern African music into distinctly American songwriting.

The band’s first album, Crazy Wheel, was released in February of 1996. The album was greeted eagerly by fans and the media alike, garnering positive reviews in local papers as well as major publications such as the Washington Post and New York’s Village Voice. MTV picked up a song from the album for one of its early reality shows.

Since its inception, Baaba Seth’s various iterations contained some of the area’s top musicians. The current lineup (which many fans consider to be the band’s strongest) consists of Dirk Lind-vocals and rhythm guitar, hugs and tickles; Hope Clayburn-vocals and sax, flute and dance madness; Mike Chang-lead guitar, vocals, minister of propaganda; Dylan Locke-bass, Floyd County crackalaka; Jim Ralston-drums, master illusionist/dancer; Len Wishart-congas, djembe, percussion, and DNA cloning technology; Tim Lett-trumpet and the original Jazzneck; Mark Maynard-trombone and official story teller, will travel for peanut butter. 

Dr. Sanjiv Singh is an educator, innovator, and entrepreneur.  He is currently a Research Professor at the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University and the CEO of Near Earth Autonomy, a startup that develops autonomy for next generation aircraft that will inspect infrastructure, deliver cargo, and, transport people.

Dr. Singh started his career working on self-driving cars in 1985 and led a project to demonstrate “fast navigation” for autonomous mining trucks, almost two decades before such capability was common.  He went on to work

on the automation for earth moving and in  2000, he demonstrated an autonomous 25-ton excavator.  In 2006, he led the first team to fly a drone at high speeds between wires, trees and buildings.  In 2010, he led the first effort to automate a full-scale helicopter for a Medevac mission and currently leads key technology developments for a military program to develop autonomous cargo delivery using full scale rotorcraft. 

He received a B.S in Computer Science (1983) from the University of Denver, M.S in Electrical Engineering (1985) from Lehigh University and a PhD in Robotics (1995) from Carnegie Mellon University.

Michael F. Suarez, S.J. is University Professor and Director of Rare Book School at UVA, the world’s premier institute for teaching the history and stewardship of manuscripts, books, and digital materials. He is a Distinguished Presidential Fellow of the Council on Library and Information Resources in Washington, DC, and was nominated by President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities. Since 2008, three of Suarez’s publications have been named Books of the Year by the Times Literary SupplementThe Sunday Telegraph (London) said his Oxford Companion to the Book was “colossal… a paradise for book lovers," while the Wall Street Journal called it “a fount of knowledge where the Internet is but a slot machine.”

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is the director of World Beyond War, a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace. 

David's books on the theme of his talk include War Is A Lie (a catalog of the types of falsehoods regularly told about wars), War Is Never Just (a refutation of just war theory), and When the World Outlawed War (an account of the 1920s peace movement and the creation of the Kellogg Briand Pact), as well as (co-author) A Global Security System: An Alternative to War (a vision of a world of nonviolent institutions).

David blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts a weekly radio show called Talk Nation Radio. He speaks frequently on the topic of war and peace, and engages in all kinds of nonviolent activism. He recently drafted a resolution urging Congress to move money from the military to human and environmental needs, rather than the reverse. Versions of the resolution were passed by several cities, including Charlottesville, and by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. David also recently organized a flotilla of 50 kayaks that held banners on the Potomac River in front of the Pentagon reading "No more wars for oil / No more oil for wars." 

David is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

David holds a Master's degree in philosophy from UVA and has long lived and worked in Charlottesville -- on the Downtown Mall when the weather's nice.

Chic Thompson’s passion is inspiring executives, MBA students and children to be “curious first… critical second” while creative problem solving. Chic’s latest creative adventure is founding “WAGiLabs.” A global, social innovation incubator for kids’ ideas.

He is a Batten Fellow of Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School and adjunct faculty at the Brookings Institution and the Young Presidents’ Organization.

Chic’s first book, “What a Great Idea!,” was published by HarperCollins and Harvard Business School released a case study on his speaking career.

Chic worked in new product development and marketing for:

• W.L. Gore and Associates (Gore-Tex®)

• Johnson & Johnson

• Walt Disney

Chic has given over 4500 presentations and has teamed up with talent ranging from Tony Robbins and Stephen Covey to Cirque du Soleil and Second City Improv.

Ami Vitale's journey as a photographer, writer and filmmaker has taken her to over 90 countries where she has witnessed civil unrest and violence, but also surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. She has lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit—all in keeping with her philosophy of “living the story.” She is an Ambassador for Nikon and a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine and has garnered prestigious awards including multiple prizes from World Press Photos, the International Photographer of the Year prize, the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting and named Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographer's Association, among others. Vitale now comes home to Montana in between making films and shooting stories about the planet’s most pressing issues, including wildlife on the edge of extinction, climate change-precipitated migration, and the struggles and triumphs of the human spirit.  She lectures and teaches workshops throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia, and her work is exhibited in museums, galleries, and private collections worldwide. She is a founding member of Ripple Effect Images, a collective of scientists, writers, photographers and filmmakers with a mission of creating powerful stories illustrating the very specific issues women in developing countries face.

After more than a decade covering conflict, Vitale couldn’t help but notice that the less sensational—but equally true—stories were often not getting told: the wedding happening around the corner from the revolution, triumphs amidst seemingly endless devastation. As a result, she re-committed herself to seeking out the stories within and around “the story,” and remaining independent, so that she would have the freedom to shoot what she believed deserved to be shared.