Welcome from the head of school

Thank you for taking the time to visit our website. I hope you will spend a few minutes to learn more about Cape Fear Academy and what makes our educational offering distinctive.

With just a few clicks, you can read about:

  • the outstanding students and exceptional faculty who make up our inclusive and tight-knit family,
  • our challenging liberal arts curriculum – enhanced by advanced STEM offerings at every grade level and capped off with our robust AP program,
  • our competitive athletics program,
  • our rich array of visual and performing arts offerings,
  • our community service activities, and
  • our exceptional facilities.

But that’s only the beginning; we place special emphasis on instilling character in our students. In thinking about their development, we care most of all what kind of a person each of them is. Since its founding in 1967, Cape Fear Academy has taken pride in graduating outstanding students of character – over 90% of whom graduate from our nation’s leading colleges and universities in four year or fewer.

How do we accomplish this outcome? We do this by keeping our class sizes small, assigning a faculty advisor to each student, and making and keeping the single promise that matters most to our parents: “Your child will be known, loved and challenged.”

After reviewing our website, I believe you will soon discover that we offer an educational experience unparalleled in the region. Please don’t take my word for it though. Come visit our beautiful 26-acre campus in Wilmington to see for yourself. I think you will appreciate what you see.

Ed Ellison, Head of School

Ed Ellison, CFA 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.

Kelly is the owner and co-founder of Maximum Design & Advertising, Inc., an award-winning agency with over 20 years of experience consulting and marketing for destination and amenity-rich properties across the country. Kelly’s marketing experience has spanned decades, starting in the early 90s in the financial district of San Francisco and expanding to a broad spectrum of clients, including professional sports teams, mid-size to large-size financial houses, gourmet candy companies, and national real estate developers.

Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a concentration in public relations. She is also a licensed real estate broker, has earned her certification as a social media strategist from a leading business school for applied social media, and holds multiple Google Adword Certifications.

Additionally, Kelly served on the Board of Directors for the Country Club of Landfall for six consecutive years, helping lead the club through a $10 million facilities improvement and funding plan, membership recruitment, and club marketing. She currently serves as president of a commercial property owners association.


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.

Andrea is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and possesses an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in communications, law, economics and government. Andrea has more than 25 years of public relations, crisis communications, investor relations, mergers and acquisitions, and digital marketing experience. A native of Massachusetts, Andrea is married with two children (JR, Class of 2021, and Julia, Class of 2022).

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.

Trip Meine, MD, serves as an interventional cardiologist at Cape Fear Heart Associates and the chief of the cardiology division at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. A graduate of Yale and Duke universities, Trip and his wife Elizabeth have two children, Brooks (Class of 2021) and Katie (Class of 2023).

Tee is the President of Coastal Beverage Company, Inc., a family owned, beverage distribution business established in 1960 by Lewis T. Nunnelee II. Born and raised in Wilmington, Tee graduated from Woodberry Forest School in 1996 before earning a bachelor’s degree from Wofford College in 2000. Tee and his wife Gray are the proud parents of Liza Gray (Class of 2031), Tune (Class of 2034), and Sterling (Class of 2035).

Tee has served as a member of the National Beer Wholesalers Association Board of Directors, the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association Board of Directors, the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Wilmington Chamber Foundation Board of Directors, and the Cape Fear Future Foundation Board of Directors. He has also served on the Children’s Museum of Wilmington Board of Directors, the Lower Cape Fear Hospice Foundation Board of Directors, and the North Carolina Aquarium Society Board of Directors.


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).

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.

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.