WakeEd Partnership’s Annual


Celebrating Wake County’s Stars of Education

Virtual Gala

October 4, 2021

7:00 – 8:00 PM

Stars of Education


Stars of Education, presented by Pinnacle Financial Partners, is WakeEd Partnership’s annual awards gala to celebrate and honor those who have made lasting contributions to public schools in Wake County. The Wake County Public School System is North Carolina’s largest school district, with more than 161,000 students, 191 schools, and more than 10,000 teachers. This annual gala is WakeEd’s largest fundraiser of the year, with proceeds going to support our mission and award-winning programs serving local students and teachers.

In response to the significant increase in COVID-19 community spread and hospitalizations, WakeEd Partnership has made the difficult but necessary decision to shift our planned, in-person Stars of Education gala to an online virtual celebration. When it’s safer to gather again, we look forward to connecting. Until then, we sincerely thank you for supporting us and our public schools through these unusual times.

This year, we were proud to present the prestigious Robert E. Bridges Lifetime Achievement Award to former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt for his lifetime of outstanding contributions to public education in our state. We also awarded Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Vernon Malone Friend of Education Award for her exceptional leadership through the pandemic to keep students, educators, and families safe.

Additionally, six outstanding Wake County educators, alumni, and community leaders joined the Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame. Each member of the Class of 2021 has has deeply impacted public education or the quality of life in North Carolina through the Arts, Athletics, Business, Community Service, Education or Entrepreneurship.

Stars of Education


Robert E. Bridges Lifetime Achievement Award

The Robert E. Bridges Lifetime Achievement award is the highest honor given by WakeEd. This award is given to an individual who has dedicated their life to improving and creating an unmatched impact on public education. Learn More

Jim Hunt

Former Governor of North Carolina

It is difficult to imagine another individual who has had a greater positive impact on education in this state than Jim Hunt. The nation’s first “education governor,” Jim Hunt is a nationally recognized leader in education, and he has been at the forefront of state and national education reform. Smart Start, his nationally recognized early childhood initiative, helped North Carolina children get better child care, immunizations, and family services. Governor Hunt’s Excellent Schools Act of 1997 raised standards and pay for teachers. Hunt also focused on the improvement of teaching quality, set high standards for K-12 public schools, and was a national leader in ensuring rigorous accountability for student performance.

Vernon Malone Friend of Education Award

The Vernon Malone Friend of Education Award is given to someone who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to public education and shares the personal qualities of the late Senator Vernon Malone, who passed away in 2009. Learn More

Dr. Mandy Cohen

Secretary, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Dr. Mandy Cohen is being honored for her leadership during the pandemic, keeping our students, educators, and families safe and helping guide students back into classrooms. Dr. Cohen leads the COVID-19 response for the State of North Carolina. Her team at NC DHHS oversees the operational response – including hospital surge capacity, testing capacity, tracing capacity, and PPE availability – in addition to constructing the advanced data infrastructure necessary to collect and analyze key data points to drive decision making. Secretary Cohen also leads the development of North Carolina policy guidance which informs the actions needed to slow COVID-19 spread.

Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame

The Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) Hall of Fame honors outstanding educators, alumni and community leaders who through their lives have either deeply impacted WCPSS or, as an alumnus, dramatically added to the quality of life in our city, state or nation. Learn More

“JR” Richardson


Jeffery Richardson has dedicated more than 43 years to teaching and advocating for arts education in Wake County. His legacy as the director of the Broughton Magnet High School Band, twenty years of service on the Theatre in the Park Board of Directors, and most recent role teaching at Underwood Magnet Elementary School are just some of Jeffery’s notable contributions to arts education in Wake County and beyond.

Milton Senter


Serving as a dedicated educator and legendary baseball coach for more than 43 years, Milton Senter led Fuquay-Varina High School athletes to more than 600 wins and multiple state championships throughout his career. In addition to coaching for Wake County Public Schools, Milton is also the Co-Founder of the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer Baseball League.

Gordon Brown


Gordon Brown is the Chief Financial Officer of Alfred Williams & Company. He has a long track record of service in support of Wake County children and schools through his leadership and with the Boys & Girls Clubs serving Wake County and WakeEd Partnership.

Greear Webb

Community Service

Morehead-Cain Scholar and co-founder of Young Americans Protest (YAP!) Greear Webb got his start as a community organizer at Sanderson High School where, in response to the Parkland school shooting in 2018, he organized a student-led, statewide town hall to prevent gun violence in schools. Greear was selected as a 2020 Youth Voter Ambassador through Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and currently serves on the City of Raleigh’s Police Advisory Board, as well as on NC Governor Roy Cooper’s statewide Crime Commission.

Muriel Summers


Muriel Summers is a pioneer in education. In addition to serving as an educator and award-winning principal for more than 43 years, Muriel partnered with Franklin Covey to create the globally implemented Leader in Me program, integrating Covey habits and leadership development into all aspects of school and learning. As principal of A.B. Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School, Muriel created the first leadership elementary school in the nation – a model currently being used by more than 3,000 schools worldwide.

Victoria Scott-Miller


Victoria Scott-Miller is the founder of Liberation Station Bookstore, an independent pop-up bookstore amplifying Black voices in children’s literature. Since 2019, the mobile store has set up shop throughout Central North Carolina and is currently working with local businesses to install permanent libraries for children of color throughout the state. In a short time, Liberation Station has garnered national attention, as booksellers continue to promote literacy in unconventional spaces and engineer creative programming to ensure that all Black children are “seeing themselves and being seen.”

Stars of Education

Event Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor

Robert E. Bridges Lifetime Achievement Award Sponsor

Vernon Malone Friend of Education Award Sponsor

Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame Sponsors

Maynard Family Foundation

Public School Champions

Honor Roll

A.J. Fletcher Foundation


Capitol Broadcasting Company

Coastal Federal Credit Union


The McCullen Family

NC State College of Education

Participate Learning

Pierce Group Benefits

Sarah Quinlan

Rosemary and Smedes York

Booster Club

Judy Allard

Elena Ashburn

Seth Carruthers

Cris Charbonneau

Dick Daugherty

Elizabeth Droessler

Carey Hunter

Rod Malone

Diane Payne

Mike Perera

Muriel Summers

Leslie and Vann Taylor

Tharrington Smith, LLP

Thomas Williams

Marco Zarate

Andrew Zukowski

In Kind Sponsors

 WakeEd Partnership

  3101 Industrial Drive, Suite 100

  Raleigh, NC 27609 | (919) 821-7609

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WakeEd News

WakeEd Partnership

3101 Industrial Drive, Suite 100

Raleigh, NC 27609 | (919) 821-7609