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Thursday, September 24 2020


Event Time: 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

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pace back to the future

Virtual Executive Forum

Post COVID-19: Back to the Future
Challenges, Opportunities & Growth

COVID-19 pandemic has impacted society norms. It is important that we overcome the pandemic and look to the bright future.

Join the upcoming forum to reflect on the future of our Civil Liberties, Economic, Politics, Education, Business and Healthcare. Leading executives from different sectors of the economy will share thought provoking ideas and suggestions about the future of Post COVID-19.

This is a virtual forum. You will receive the virtual link upon your registration.

Register Today


Panel of Executives:

Dr. Matthew Martin

Matt Martin is a regional executive at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He is based in the Charlotte office, where he leads the bank’s outreach efforts across North Carolina and South Carolina.

As part of the nation’s central bank, the Richmond Fed supports the monetary policy process by engaging business, banking, and community leaders throughout the District to gain a real-time understanding of the state of the economy and the challenges facing our communities. As the regional executive, Martin has responsibility for these efforts across the two-state area through a range of activities, including a regional Board of Directors, industry roundtables, speaking engagements, and other undertakings.

Martin joined the Richmond Fed as a regional economist in 2006 and was promoted into his current role in 2009. Prior to joining the Bank, he worked as a senior economist for Moody’s Analytics and as an analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He also spent time as a faculty member at Kent State University where he taught macroeconomics, money and banking, and economic history.

Martin is active in the community having served as past chair of the board for Community Link, a housing non-profit where he continues to serve on the Strategic Planning Committee. He currently serves as a board member for Veteran’s Bridge Home, an organization that helps veteran’s transition to civilian life. He is also a board member for the North Carolina Council for Economic Education and the Belk School of Business Advisory Board at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. And he recently served as a member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force.

A Pennsylvania native, Martin has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a doctorate in economics from the University of Delaware, which he earned after completing his military service

Dr. William Downs

Gardner-Webb University’s 13th President

A Raleigh native, Downs earned his BA in Political Science (with a minor in Journalism) from North Carolina State University in 1988, and he holds MA (1990) and PhD (1994) degrees in Political Science from Emory University. Dr. Downs grew up in an academic family, with both parents on the faculty at NCSU.

dr. william downsPrior to his appointment at Gardner-Webb, Downs was Dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Political Science, and W. Keats Sparrow Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts at East Carolina University. As Dean, Downs had responsibility for ECU’s largest and most diverse academic college, with 16 standalone departments, 17 interdisciplinary programs, 6,500 majors at undergraduate and graduate levels, and more than 530 faculty and staff. During his five years in Greenville, Dr. Downs served as president of ECU’s chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi national honor society and as a member of the executive board for A Time for Science.

Downs was Area Dean for Social and Behavioral Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgia State University, where he was a member of the faculty for 17 years. Before his service in the Dean’s Office at Georgia State, Downs was Chair of the Department of Political Science and, before that, Director of Graduate Studies in Political Science. At Georgia State he was founder and Co-Director of the interdisciplinary Center for Human Rights and Democracy as well as faculty coordinator for semester-long study abroad programs in Strasbourg, France and Nottingham, England. He served as liaison to the GSU College of Education and to the University System of Georgia’s educator preparation and teacher training programs. For more than a decade, Downs coordinated the University’s Certificate Program in European Union Studies, combining traditional classroom learning with distance education and

Downs’ research and teaching expertise lies at the intersection of comparative politics and international relations. His work addresses four interconnected themes: 1) political extremism and the politics of rejection, 2) elections and electoral behavior, 3) decentralization, regionalism, and the politics of place, and 4) legislative institutions. His books have been published by Ohio State University Press, Palgrave Macmillan, and Epikentro. Additional work has appeared in such journals as Parliamentary Affairs, Local Government Studies, Electoral Studies, West European Politics, Government and Opposition, Journal of Legislative Studies, Regional and Federal Studies, and Publius: The Journal of Federalism. His study of “Sub-National Legislatures” appears in The Oxford Handbook of Legislative Studies. Downs’ research in political science led to funded partnerships with faculty at Queens University, Belfast (Northern Ireland), the University of Strasbourg (France), and the University of Pretoria (South Africa).

Downs has been a research fellow at Harvard University’s Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, a graduate research associate working on democratization movements at the Carter Center’s African Governance Program, and a Fulbright dissertation researcher in Belgium. His work has also been supported by the Belgian-American Educational Foundation. As an undergraduate student, Downs served as an intern in the North Carolina Lieutenant Governor’s Office and also studied abroad in the United Kingdom. His first post-doctoral positions were on the faculties of two universities in Denmark—Odense University (now the University of Southern Denmark) and Aarhus University. He also held a one-year post as Visiting Assistant Professor at Emory University.

President Downs is married to fellow Raleigh native and childhood sweetheart, Kimberly Harwood Downs. Kim is a 1989 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Pharmacy and has three decades of experience as a practicing pharmacist. Together, Bill and Kim have raised two children, Rachel and Bradley. Rachel is a 2018 graduate of the University of Georgia (Chemistry, French) and is entering the School of Dental Medicine at East Carolina University. Bradley is a sophomore studying political science and economics at North Carolina State University.

President Downs and his family have joined Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church in Shelby.

Mrs. Jennifer Marion Mills


Jennifer Marion Mills has served on the Gardner-Webb University Board of Trustees since 2016.  When she was elected chair of the Board of Trustees in January 2019, she became the first woman chair in the history of the University.

Jennifer and her family attend Williamson Chapel United Methodist Church located in Mooresville.

Jennifer is the Vice President of Randy Marion Automotive, the # 1 GM Volume Dealer is the South East.  In addition to representing all GM brands, including Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC, Randy Marion Automotive also represents Ford, Lincoln, Subaru, Isuzu, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram Trucks.  In addition to serving the greater Charlotte area, the company sells commercial vehicles across the United States.

Jennifer graduated from Mooresville High School and received her Bachelor of Arts from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  Jennifer was an active dancer throughout high school and college.  Jennifer is a proud alumnus of both the Carolina Panther Top Cats dance team and The Charlotte Hornets Honey Bees.

Giving back to the community is particularly important to Jennifer and her family.  Jennifer has served on the Board of Trustees for Mitchell Community College, Lowe’s YMCA, and B.R.A.K.E.S. teen driving school, among others.  She has also served on the Board of Directors for Carolina Trust Bank, which is now United Bank.

Jennifer is married to Grey Mills a local attorney and former NC House Representative for the 95th District, which he is presently seeking election to once again.  They have three children, Alexandria, who is currently a senior at Penn State University; Grey, who is a freshman at Texas A & M University, and Grant, who is a high school freshman.

Mr. Brian Gwyn

Brian Gwyn has been the Senior Vice President, Market President-West for Atrium Health Cleveland, Atrium Health Kings Mountain, and Atrium Health Lincoln since 2019.  He was previously President over Atrium Health Cleveland and Atrium Health Kings Mountain since 2009.  From 2008-2009, he served as Chief Operating Officer for both facilities.

In 1999, Brian joined Health Management Associates, accepting various leadership positions, including Chief Operating Officer of Davis Regional Medical Center, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Executive Officer of Franklin Regional Medical Center, Chief Operating Officer of Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center, Assistant Administrator at East Georgia Regional Medical Center, and Ancillary Services Administrator at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center.

Brian holds an MBA from Gardner-Webb University and an MA in Family and Consumer Sciences from Appalachian State University. He has served on many community, not-for-profit organizations that include the Chamber of Commerce, HealthCare Foundation of Cleveland County, Economic Development of Cleveland County, and Appalachian State Board of Advisors for Health Care Management, to name a few.

Brian is married and has two children.

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