Welcome from the head of school

Ed Ellison, CFA Head of School

Welcome to Cape Fear Academy, Wilmington’s leading independent school. We are a community of learners committed to discovering and developing individual potential, preparing each student for success in college and life.

Cape Fear Academy enjoys an outstanding reputation throughout North Carolina for the academic excellence of our curriculum, the quality of our teaching faculty and our low teacher-to-student ratios. From our youngest students, 3-year-old Little Explorers, who distinguish themselves by attaining Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) literacy scores beyond the first grade, to our oldest students whose Advanced Placement test scores are among the nation’s best, Cape Fear Academy students are top achievers.

Cape Fear Academy is much more than academic excellence. We offer students a vast array of co-curricular programs — providing opportunities to discover passions they didn’t know they had, and to learn life lessons from stepping out of their comfort zone. Over 90% of our students play an interscholastic sport, 100% are involved in the fine and performing arts, and we offer numerous after-school activities and clubs for students at every grade level. Through these opportunities our students of today grow into the leaders of tomorrow.

What an excellent time for your family to consider joining our vibrant and welcoming community in which everyone’s perspective is valued and respected. I hope you will contact our admissions office to experience firsthand CFA’s exceptional program and facilities.

Ed Ellison, Head of School


Cape Fear Academy Board of Trustees

Cape Fear Academy’s Board of Trustees stewards the school’s mission and values by establishing strategic goals and policies, while allocating Cape Fear Academy’s resources through the careful consideration of annual operating budgets. The board also works in tandem with the head of school and admin­istrators to focus on long-range and strategic planning efforts that ensure Cape Fear Academy remains the premier independent school in southeastern North Carolina. Cape Fear Academy board members are committed to the success of the school, and observe the highest ethical standards and principles of fiscal integrity.

Porter is a native of Greensboro, NC, and attended Walter Hines Page Senior High School and UNC-Chapel Hill, graduating with a BA in economics in 1987. She spent 9 years working in corporate banking with a primary focus on real estate lending. Porter and her husband Vance have lived in Wilmington for over 30 years and have three children, two CFA graduates: Will (Class of 2012) and Vance, Jr. (Class of 2020). Their daughter, Ali, is a graduate of the LIFE Program at Coastal Carolina University. Porter is a founding board member of the Hill School of Wilmington and has fulfilled various leadership roles since the school’s establishment in 2009, including Board Chair. Dedicated to volunteer work and the community, Porter served as past treasurer of the Junior League of Wilmington, past chair of St. James Day School Board and is an active member of St. James Church, where she has served in many capacities.

Connor Keller was born in Lexington, Ky. After attending The Taft School and Denison University, he began his investment career in Kentucky. In 2004, he relocated to Wilmington where he currently is managing director at Live Oak Private Wealth. In addition to being on the CFA Board of Trustees, he sits on the St. James Foundation Board and the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation Board. His wife, Jean (Class of 1995) is a CFA alum. They have three daughters, and their middle child, Jeanie (Class of 2025) currently attends CFA.

Jason DahlJason grew up between London, Connecticut and Texas, graduating high school from McCullough High School in The Woodlands, Texas. He earned a BA in Economics from Bucknell University and started his career in finance in New York City. After working at Neuberger Berman and RBC Dominion Securities, Jason managed the event-driven hedge fund platform at First Eagle Investment Management. Jason and his wife Jennifer moved to Wilmington with their four children in 2014. Bennett (Class of 2018) and Jocelyn (Class of 2018) graduated from CFA, and they are currently sophomores at Bucknell University and Wake Forest University, respectively. William (Class of 2021) and Audrey (Class of 2023) also attend Cape Fear Academy.

Elizabeth WellsElizabeth grew up in Greenville, NC and attended Arendell Parrott Academy in Kinston, NC, graduating with the Class of 1997. She earned a B.S. in Business Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2001 and subsequently earned her Master of Architecture from North Carolina State University’s College of Design in 2005. Elizabeth has worked for several Wilmington architecture firms during and after graduate school, including Boney Architects (now LS3P), Kersting Architecture, Michael Moorefield Architect, and Ligon Flynn. She now practices independently, balancing her time between work and family. Elizabeth’s husband, Wilmington native Vin Wells, is a partner at Cape Fear Commercial and a CFA alum (Class of 1994). They have two children attending Cape Fear Academy, Lulu (Class of 2027) and Webb (Class of 2031) grade. Elizabeth is also serving on the Board of Trustees at Cameron Art Museum as its current Board Chair.

Diane BeecherDiane is a Maryland native and attended Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, MD, and then went on to earn her BA at the University of Maryland. She is founder and CEO of The Brand Consultancy and is on the Board of Marriott Hospitality Public Charter School. Diane and her husband Mark Morris have 2 children, May Morris (Class of 2016) and Nick Morris (Class of 2023).

Chris moved to Wilmington in 2017 with his wife Stephanie and their two children, Addison (Class of 2027) and Samuel (Class of 2029). He serves as executive vice president of PPD Laboratories and is currently on the board of WHQR, Wilmington’s local NPR station. Before joining PPD in 2017, Chris was vice president and general manager of oncology and companion diagnostics for Quest Diagnostics. Prior to that, he held a number of leadership roles at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics. He began his career in the healthcare practice of The Boston Consulting Group. Chris holds dual degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his medical degree from the Perelman School of Medicine and a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of Arts and Science at New York University and went to high school at Ramsey High School, a public school in northern New Jersey.

Emily is originally from Houston, Texas, where she graduated Lee High School and then went on to attend The University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a BA in finance in 1997. She joined Goldman, Sachs & Co. as an analyst in the real estate group of the Investment Banking Division in New York City immediately after graduation. She spent the next 18 years working in various roles within real estate, including six years as Global Chief Operating Officer of Goldman’s real estate investment banking business. Emily served as a Board Member of the Chelsea Day School, an independent pre-school in Manhattan. She was also actively involved in Grace Church School, an independent PreK-12 school in Manhattan, where she served on the Capital Campaign Committee as well as serving as the vice president of the parent’s association and was president elect prior to moving to Wilmington with her family. Emily has thus far spent her hiatus focusing on her children and children in need. She served on various committees for the GO Project in New York, a nonprofit that provides educational support to students struggling in the New York City Department of Education. Emily also remains passionately involved in CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) NYC, a nonprofit that advocates for children in the foster care system. Emily moved with her family to Wilmington in the summer of 2018 after her husband, Huntley, accepted an offer to join Live Oak Bank as President. Huntley and Emily have three daughters at CFA – Morgan (Class of 2033), Jessie in (Class of 2029), and Taylor (Class of 2026).

Michael JacobsMichael is a Raleigh, NC native and attended Sanderson High School. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill and Harvard Business School. Michael is CEO of Jacobs Capital, a merger and acquisition advisory firm based in Chapel Hill. He served as Director of Corporate Finance Policy at the U.S. Treasury Department under President George H.W. Bush and as Chairman of the N.C. Coal Ash Management Commission. Jacobs serves on the boards of K2 Solutions, a special operations defense contractor and security company, and the Oleander Company. He spent 13 years as a member of the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Peter was born in Bedford Hills, NY. He attended Fox Lane High School in Bedford and then received a BA from University of Colorado, Boulder in 1992 and a MD from New York Medical College in 1995. He completed his general surgery residency at the University of Miami from 1998-2003, and his cardiac and vascular residency at the Carolinas Medical Center from 2003-2006. He is currently a cardiac and vascular surgeon at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. He and his wife, Tanya, have two children: Annie attended CFA from pre-K-9th and Ben (Class of 2024). Peter also served on the Board of Directors for the Wilmington Hammerheads.

Crystal was born and raised in Rocky Mount, NC and attended Rocky Mount Senior High School, graduating in 1990. She received a BA in communications from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1994 and a BS in nursing from East Carolina University. Crystal worked as an RN in labor and delivery and then the recovery room at Day Surgical place. She moved to Wilmington with her husband Harrison in 2005. They have 3 kids, all at CFA: Davon (Class of 2021), Grant (Class of 2024), and Selby (Class of 2029). Crystal has been involved with many committees and boards in Wilmington over the years, including the Junior League of Wilmington, The Children’s Museum of Wilmington, and as a Sunday school teacher at Wrightsville United Methodist Church. Crystal has served as the chair of CFA’s Family Partnership for the last two years.

Matt was raised in Charlotte, NC, and where he attended Charlotte Country Day School, graduating with the Class of 1989. He went on to attend the University of Georgia and graduated with the Class of 1993 with a B.A. in Speech Communication. He founded Real Properties, LLC in 1995, a real estate investors group specializing in apartments and commercial properties. In 2003, Matt moved from Asheville, NC to Wilmington. Current and past boards include: Historic Wilmington Foundation, First Bank local advisory board, Historic Preservation Commission, City of Wilmington, Friends School of Wilmington, and the Cape Fear Community Land Trust. Matt has two children: Landon (Class of 2019), and Berkeley (Class of 2021).

David attended Cape Fear Academy for 12 years and graduated with the Class of 1985. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill he worked for Wachovia Bank in Wilson, NC and Atlanta, GA, and then became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), working for KPMG Peat Marwick in Atlanta, GA and Raleigh, NC. In Raleigh, he was hired as the finance manager for Bryan Properties, a North Carolina real estate development company. He returned to Wilmington in 2003 to manage his family’s real estate interests at Orton Plantation. Currently, that involves managing the long leaf pine timberland for pine straw harvesting and Venus flytrap seed sales as well as for wildlife, recreational, and conservation purposes. He is the past treasurer of St. James Church and currently serves on the YMCA Board and Finance Committee. He has three daughters and his youngest, Virginia is part of the CFA Class of 2025.

Katharine attended Cape Fear Academy for 12 years, graduating with the Class of 1985. She then attended Hollins College (now Hollins University) and graduated with the Class of 1989 with a BA in Art History. Upon graduation, she went to the California Culinary Academy and received a degree in culinary arts. While in San Francisco, she worked using her culinary art degree and in 1992 she returned to Wilmington to start a catering business. She also joined the Junior League, where she worked to help start the Children’s Museum of Wilmington. She continued supporting the Children’s Museum of Wilmington by serving on the founding board of The Circle of Friends. Katharine has also served on the board of The Simpson Foundation and Harvest Charities since 2007. She has two children who both attended Cape Fear Academy, Shepherd (Class of 2015) and Duncan (Class of 2018).

Kurt Taylor graduated from Cape Fear Academy with the Class of 2007. After high school, he attended UNC-Chapel Hill and received a degree in finance from the Kenan-Flagler Business School. He then pursued a career in investment banking before shifting focus in 2013 to launch Next Glass, a leading global provider of software to the beverage alcohol industry. Kurt recently stepped down as CEO of Next Glass after a successful exit. He now plans to work on his family’s next venture, Tru Colors – a socially-minded brewery focused on stopping street violence and unifying communities. Kurt and his wife Anna (Class of 2008) have a one-year-old son, Marshall, who they look forward to sending to Cape Fear Academy in the future.

Raiford attended the initial first grade class of CFA and graduated from CFA with the Class of 1979. He went on to attend UNC-Chapel Hill and graduated in 1983. He wrote travel/sport fishing articles for national and international magazines until returning to Wilmington in the 1990s to manufacture fishing tackle and started Trask Land Company in 2005. He currently serves on the UNCW Foundation Board of Trustees and previously served on the UNC Board of Governors, North Carolina Economic Development Board, the Cape Fear Community College Foundation Board of Directors, Board of Directors of the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trustees for Thalian Hall, and the finance committee for the NC Coastal Land Trust. Raiford also served as chair of the Committee for Military Affairs on the UNC Board of Governors. Raiford and his wife Ava have two daughters: Ramsay (Class of 2020) and Anne DeVeaux (Class of 2023).

Jill is a native of San Mateo, CA, and grew up in Tokyo and Atlanta. She is a graduate of the Westminster Schools in Atlanta and then attended UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism, where she served as President of the Carolina Student Union. She worked in the film business for many years before becoming a mom and self-employed muralist. She has been happy to call Wilmington home since 1997. She and her husband Bo have been part of the CFA community since 2011. They have two children attending CFA, Raney (Class of 2022) and Mack (Class of 2020). Previous board service includes: the Cucalorus Film Foundation, 1000 People Who Care, National Charity League, Wilmington Arts Council, and the CFA Family Partnership.

Hal attended Cape Fear Academy for 13 years and graduated with the Class of 1993. He attended Hampden-Sydney College where he majored in managerial economics. After college he lived in Atlanta, GA and worked for the Travelers Insurance Company. He moved back to Wilmington in 1999 and earned his MBA from UNCW. He is the CEO of Wells Insurance. Hal is also the chairman of the Swain Center at UNCW, on the board of the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, and on the local board of First Bank. He has three kids attending CFA, Liza (Class of 2024), William (Class of 2026), and Chesson (Class of 2030).

Cape Fear Academy Strategic Plan 2018-2023

Creating Cape Fear Academy’s next Strategic Plan: Enriching Today, Inspiring Tomorrow 2018 – 2023 is one of the most important and exciting responsibilities of the Board of Trustees and the result will determine where we will focus our resources in the next five years. This plan will positively impact every student.