As chair of Durham Academy’s Building and Grounds Committee, Laura Horton Virkler ’91 has a major role in the transformations taking place on the Upper School campus and in the planning stages at the Middle School. She has a background in business, has lived in Mexico and Singapore, and believes people must work together to help others and make a difference.
Q: What have you been up to since graduating from DA?
A: After graduating from DA, I attended Wake Forest University, where I graduated with a B.S. in business. I moved to Charlotte and worked for Accenture for the next five years, working on projects almost all associated with one client, Bank of America. Each time Bank of America bought another bank, I worked with a team to merge the two different computer systems. I traveled a lot and loved what I did. In 1998, I married Drayton Virkler, and 18 months later we moved to Puebla, Mexico, for his job. Although leaving Accenture was hard, my time in Mexico was spent volunteering while resuming riding horses, something that I had done every day of my life up until I graduated from Durham Academy. We returned in 2002 to Durham for Drayton to attend Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and then I had our daughter in August of 2002. Her brother followed in 2004 and her other brother in 2007. My time is now spent taking care of our three children and volunteering in our community. Over the last decade, I’ve served on the boards of Triangle Land Conservancy, NC Zoological Society and F. M. Kirby Foundation, and I am still on the board at Durham Academy and The Hill Center — both places that our children attend. We have lived in Durham for the last 15 years, aside from two years in Singapore, which was an amazing experience. Our time in Singapore was spent exploring different countries in Asia and experiencing as many different cultures and adventures as possible!
Q: What are you doing now?
A: The volunteer work I do on boards, as well as within other organizations, allows me to be involved in my community and help shape the future for these groups. I strongly believe that you cannot sit around and complain about what is happening around you if you don’t also help facilitate the changes you envision. Everyone is quick to critique when something bothers them, but they should also help figure out how to improve the situation so that the results are better. I want our kids to understand that things only change when people work together to help others and make a difference. Part of me wishes that I held a traditional job (with a paycheck!), but my volunteer work allows me to be directly involved in things that I feel passionate about and also be able to help out in my children’s classes when volunteers are needed.
Q: What DA experiences influenced you or helped you get where you are today?
A: When I arrived at Wake Forest University in 1991, I quickly realized I had received an education that was far superior to many of my friends’ educations. Not only did I know how to write an essay, organize my tasks and work at a high level, I also knew how to advocate for myself and talk to my professors. I was prepared and ready to take on the world! Even in my life today, I am reminded that a lot is expected of me — my family ingrained that in me and Durham Academy also made that a clear message during my time there. It’s something that I took away from DA, and I continue to strive to make my family and my school proud.
Q: What are your interests outside your volunteer work?
A: Since I don’t work, I have the flexibility to do some things that I enjoy during the day. I am passionate about tennis and play on several USTA teams each season. I love the competition and the exercise and the friends that I’ve made through these teams over the years. As a family, we love traveling and seeing new places and learning about the history of the area. It gets harder and harder as our kids get older — we now have a sophomore, seventh-grader and fourth-grader at DA — but I’m hoping that the places we have seen over the years will help shape the way they see our world as they become young adults.
Q: What’s on the horizon for you?
A: We returned from Singapore in part because we pledged to be back home for our kids to do high school at Durham Academy. That being said, we have loved our time abroad and will probably try it again in the future when the timing is right. In the meantime, my days are spent jumping between volunteering and ferrying kids to sporting events and helping with homework and keeping my sanity!