The Durham Academy Alumni Board recognizes the contributions of accomplished alumni and the legacies of dedicated faculty and staff members each year at the Spring Alumni Reception.
The board has honored alumni with the Distinguished Alumni Award each year since 1983, and a faculty or staff member with the Faculty and Staff Legacy Award each year since 2012. In addition, at its discretion, the board may choose to honor an alumnus with the Alumni Service Award, first bestowed in 2014.
Each year, a recipient is selected by a Distinguished Alumni Award Committee. Through this award, the Alumni Board aims "to recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves in their business, profession or vocation and through their actions have demonstrated concern for, and service to, their community. The individuals should have shown loyalty to Durham Academy, and their personal values and achievements should be representative of Durham Academy's highest ideals."
2020 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Ward Horton '94 is an actor who has starred in films, television shows and a Tony-nominated Broadway play.
Horton’s career as an actor began on the Durham Academy stage with theatre teacher Bob Singdahlsen at the helm. The Wake Forest University alumnus originally worked in finance, but the Sept. 11 terror attacks spurred Horton to reevaluate his career and pursue his true passion.
After moving to New York City, Horton studied at acting studios, performed in Off-Off Broadway productions and made student films to produce a résumé of on-camera work. He did background work in movies and television, and worked as a model to support his growing family. Small roles on television and film led to a guest appearance on Law & Order, leading to his breakout role in the supernatural thriller Annabelle. Horton was a series regular on the CBS drama Pure Genius, and in 2018, he made his Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated revival of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song. Horton has had the fortune of working alongside some of the industry’s great directors and actors over the last 15 years. He continues to study his craft with weekly classes and private coaching, and is currently preparing for his role in a yet-to-be announced project for HBO.
Horton and his wife, Alexa, live in Fairfield, Connecticut, with their two children. The couple serve on the Leadership Council of the medical relief organization Americares. When he’s not working, Horton and his family love to travel. He is still applying lessons from DA basketball coaches Verle Regnerus and Steve Engebretsen on local courts.
The Alumni Board grants this award annually to the faculty and/or staff member(s) who, in their service to the school and its mission, best represent the alumni’s aspirations for Durham Academy. Recipients embody the best of the teaching profession in general and are committed to excellence at DA; share a substantial history with the school and have impacted a significant number of alumni; have imparted lessons that transcend subject matter and extend beyond classrooms; have instilled values in students that continue to play a role in the lives of alumni beyond graduation; and serve as pillars of the DA community by representing the school's mission and core values of living moral, happy and productive lives.
Verle Regnerus, assistant Upper School director, Upper School registrar and Upper School math teacher, joined the DA community in 1987 as a math and technology teacher. He previously served as a junior high and high school math and computer instructor at schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“I knew that Durham Academy was a special place of learning," Regnerus recalled. "Not only were the academics among the finest in the area, the students appeared extra energetic, enthusiastic and curious. The faculty was friendly, encouraging, and displayed a heartfelt desire to see their students succeed.”
Regnerus has served as assistant Upper School director since 2012, working on Upper School curriculum development, academics, initiatives and policies. As the Upper School’s registrar for the last 20 years, Regnerus creates and maintains the Upper School course catalogue, working with the academic advisors and college deans, and counseling students and parents on course planning and selection. He currently teaches AP AB Calculus and has served as a lead class advisor since 2011.
Regnerus received the F. Robertson Hershey Award Distinguished Faculty Award in 2005. The award promotes excellence in teaching and in assisting students to achieve worthwhile goals, both in terms of academics and lifelong values. He also served as head varsity baseball coach from 1991–2015. Regnerus holds a Master of Arts in Teaching in mathematics education from UNC-Chapel Hill and a B.A. in mathematics from Northwestern College. He and his wife, Connie, are the parents of DA alumni Brandon '13 and Austin '15.
This award, granted at the discretion of the Alumni Board, recognizes an alumni with superior service in the public sector, or a sustained pattern of volunteer service in the community. Recipients have demonstrated a continued connection to Durham Academy and its core values of living a moral, happy and productive life.
Molly Shaw '98 serves as president and CEO of Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, a student support organization that empowers and supports more than 30,000 students and case-manages roughly 6,000 students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district. Shaw, a Davidson College graduate, earned a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2008. Prior to joining Communities In Schools, she led The Charlotte Teachers Institute (CTI), an initiative designed to strengthen teaching in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Shaw also spent several years at Davidson College serving in various roles, including director of parent programs and capital gifts officer. She has served on community boards to support organizations that promote early childhood learning, literacy, youth development, supportive housing, the arts and women’s collective giving.
At the start of the coronavirus crisis, Shaw put plans in place to continue operations in order to support at-risk students, families and team members throughout mandatory school closures. By late March, Communities In Schools had coordinated the delivery of more than 4,000 meals to more than 400 students and families who were in transitional housing in hotels and motels across Mecklenburg County. CIS also partnered with the school district, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, nonprofits and faith communities to deliver meals from school-based food distribution sites, as well as hygiene kits, cleaning supplies and educational materials.
Shaw has published op-eds and delivered talks locally and nationally on topics including economic mobility, national educational trends and local solutions, cradle-to-career success, social capital and leadership. She is married to David Webb, and in her free time she enjoys cooking, traveling, reading, spending time with friends, and giggling with their two children, Max (5) and Kate (3).