Meet the Summit Leaders

Click the pictures for information on each summit leader.

Executive Director, Center for the Environment

Dr. John E. Wear, Jr., is the Founding Director of the Center for the Environment at Catawba College and Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science. During his tenure at Catawba, he assumed responsibility for establishing the college's Environmental Program, coordinating the faculty's creation of four different degrees.

He has committed his energies to environmental initiatives at the local, regional and state level. His leadership has been instrumental in launching a number of sustainability initiatives in the state relating to air and water quality and land conservation.

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Marty Pickett is a Managing Director, Trustee, and General Counsel of Rocky Mountain Institute, an entrepreneurial nonprofit “think-and-do tank” that drives the efficient and restorative use of resources. An 18-year veteran at RMI, Marty focuses on the Institute’s advancement in alliances, funding, and governance as well as general strategy and legal counsel. Marty holds a Masters Degree in Community Development and Planning from the College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado, Denver, and a law degree, with an emphasis in environmental law, from the University of Denver. Prior to joining RMI in 1998, Marty practiced land use planning and land use and real estate law in Denver and Aspen Colorado. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for the Environment at Catawba College in North Carolina, the international jury of the Dutch Postcode Lottery’s Green Challenge prize, and the People and Planet advisory board of IKEA. 

Robert McIntosh, a Sr. Associate at Rocky Mountain Institute, entered the energy field after a high school major in auto mechanics and a Bachelor’s concentration in History and Science (Harvard 2007). Prior employment included advanced biofuels, California advanced grid/transportation planning, and renewable startup financing before earning a master’s at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources (graduated 2012). After working for a waste-to-biogas project, he traveled to Kibera, Kenya to facilitate a water/energy project. Robby’s work at RMI includes the transportation/industrial component of energy planning around China’s next 5-year plan, distributed solar costs in the US, and engineering the future of passenger and freight transportation in the US. A skier, swimmer, and NCAA sailor, he is from urban Los Angeles and rural upstate New York.

Courtney Fairbrother, an Associate with RMI’s Electricity Practice, holds a BA in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Business Administration from Washington and Lee University. She focuses on distributed generation and utility business models, currently on the team providing strategic advice to New York State’s Public Service Commission on the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) process, as well as the e-Lab Accelerator, an annual event that brings together teams from all over North America working on projects at the distribution edge to accelerate their projects and increase their impact. Formerly, Courtney was a Senior Analyst at GI Energy, a distributed-generation developer that specializes in combined heat and power (CHP) and ground source heat pumps, where she was responsible for developing detailed energy and financial models for a variety of energy measures including CHP, solar panels, and demand reduction measures. Preceding her time with GI Energy, Courtney worked as a consultant for Sapere Consulting, a management consulting firm focusing in the technology, energy and natural resources, and media and communications sectors. 


Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG), is widely recognized as one of the environmental community’s most prominent and influential critics of industrial agriculture, U.S. food and farm policy and the nation’s attempt to protect families and children from toxic substances.

In the 1990s, EWG’s research was a major factor in the passage of the landmark pesticide reform law, the Food Quality Protection Act. EWG was among the first to draw attention to the health threat posed by the weed killer atrazine. In 2013 Capitol Hill’s newspaper, The Hill, said that Cook’s “influence spans the country” and called EWG “the tip of the green movement’s spear when it comes to agriculture and food policy.”

Under Cook’s leadership, EWG has empowered American families with easy-to-use, data-driven tools to help reduce their exposure to potentially harmful ingredients in foods, drinking water, cosmetics and other household projects.  In recent years Cook and EWG have been in the forefront of national and state campaigns to require the labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Cook earned bachelor’s degrees in history and agriculture and a master’s degree in soil science from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Heather White is a nationally-recognized sustainability, health and wellness leader. In 2014, she was named one of the “Top 15 Women in the Food Industry” along with First Lady Michelle Obama, Gywenth Paltrow and Katie Couric by the influential Elizabeth Street blog.  In 2015, she was named one of the "Top 20 Women Leaders in Sustainability" by Green Building & Design magazine and "100 Women to Watch in Wellness" by MindBodyGreen.Com.

The former executive director of Environmental Working Group, White has testified before Congress, briefed top ongressional staff and met with senior White House officials on a wide range of issues. She often appears as an expert in national and local media such as ABC, NBC, MSNBC, PBS, Fox News and Dr. Oz and has been cited in many publications, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. She has authored more than 30 blogs, op-eds and essays and wrote the Fall 2014 cover story for Ms. Magazine on the cosmetic industry. 

She's currently writing a book and posts on instagram as @onegreenthing to inspire people to make simple, daily changes to a healthier, greener life. 

Eleanor Johnstone is an intern with the Rocky Mountain Institute’s transportation team. This summer, she is working with the City of Denver to develop a parking pricing strategy to manage parking congestion at the city’s light rail park-and-ride stations. Eleanor is also involved in RMI’s projects developing Mobility as a Service, transit data access, and transit-oriented development.

Eleanor is currently completing a two-year Master in Environmental Management (MEM) with an energy focus at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. In addition to gaining skills in energy modeling, data analysis and energy technology applications, she is focusing her studies on transportation, building energy efficiency, urban and ecodistrict development, and systems design. Prior to attending Duke, Eleanor worked domestically and internationally as a journalist in radio, print, video and web-based media. From 2012-2015 Eleanor provided project management support for multi-million dollar USAID contracts targeting agriculture, finance and trade in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eleanor holds a BA from Middlebury College. 

Samhita Shiledar is a summer associate at Rocky Mountain Institute. She is working with the Office of the Chief Scientist on an India-EV project to help the government of India, conducting a charrette to develop a roadmap to achieve India’s goals for clean, safe, affordable and un-subsidized passenger mobility solutions with all new light EVs by 2030. 

Samhita is a graduate student at the University of Michigan pursuing master of science degrees in sustainable systems, engineering and chemical engineering. Passionate about the evaluation of effective yet socially inclusive models of a green economy, Samhita is working on a wide spectrum of projects along with her education, mainly focusing on best nutrition practices in the agriculture sector in India, sustainable water-system design and life-cycle assessment. Samhita is originally from India and received her bachelor of technology degree in chemical engineering from Visvesaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur. As an undergraduate, she spent substantial time working on potential water purification methods using mango leaves and various nano-materials. After completing her undergraduate studies, she worked with Pidilite Industries, India, in the manufacturing operations department where she handled 23 adhesive and paints manufacturing plants nationwide.

Vice President of Development

Environmental Working Group

Jocelyn Lyle has helped environmental health non-profit organizations for nearly a decade. Before joining EWG she focused on assisting environmental justice communities with public health solutions. At EWG she manages all development efforts. She graduated from Allegheny College with a dual degree in political science and communication arts.


Assistant Professor of Biology

B.S., Virginia Tech; M.S., Ph.D., Old Dominion University; Post-Doctoral study, Smithsonian Institution Dept. of Botany

Dr. Jay Bolin holds a Ph.D. in Ecology from Old Dominion University and a B.S. degree in Environmental Science – Plant Resources from Virginia Tech. Jay has been a faculty at Catawba College since 2011 and is crazy about plants and plant ecology. Prior to coming to Catawba, he was a fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s Botany Department. In addition to interests in our indigenous plants he has botanized  (studied plants) all over the world including South Africa, Namibia, Borneo, Turkey, and Greece.

Summit Focus Group: Invasive Alien Plants and Animals: Friend or Foe to the Environment?

Dr. Norris Feeney joined the Catawba College Department of Politics in August of 2013. Before he started teaching students about the variety of political systems around the world and the dangers faced when these systems interact, Dr. Feeney spent much more time, for pleasure and for pay, in the tamed wilderness of his home state of Tennessee. In these fields, woods, and mountains he stared at a good many trees and wildflowers, some whose names he still remembers, others he has momentarily forgotten.

Summit Focus Group: Water Wars

Dr. David Lee Fish, Ph.D., serves as the chair of the Music Department as well as the director of both the college's Popular Music and Music Business degree concentrations. He is also the current chair of the Association for Popular Music Education, a national organization he helped found that is made up of leading colleges and universities with programs of study in that area. At Catawba, Fish teaches courses on music business, songwriting, the theory of popular music, music technology, and world music. He also directs the Vernaculars, a contemporary popular ensemble.


Summit Focus Group: They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology

B.S., College of William and Mary; Ph.D., Old Dominion University; Post-Doctoral work at the American Type Culture Collection, Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Resource Center Division

Dr. Carmony Hartwig holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Old Dominion University and has experience in both academic and industrial research. Hartwig joined the Catawba faculty in August 2011 and is actively conducting student-involved research on disease vectors in the Fred J. Stanback Ecological Preserve on the Catawba campus. She loves the opportunity that Catawba provides to work closely with her students in the laboratory and in the field.  Prior to coming to Catawba she served as a senior authentication biologist in the Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Resource Center (MR4), where she worked on developing standardized fluorescence-based assays to monitor anti-malarial growth inhibition in Plasmodium falciparum in addition to continuing her dissertation work on artemisinin-class compounds. Her interests and expertise include aspects of molecular biology, parasitology, microbiology, biochemistry and disease vector ecology.

Summit Focus Group: Climate Change and Biodiversity: Rethinking the Ecology of Disease Vectors in the Face of Global Climate Change

 Assistant Professor of Philosophy and is serving as Chair of the Religion & Philosophy Department

B.A., M.A., Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Since 1998 he has been at Catawba, where he teaches almost all of the philosophy courses. He is the advisor for the Department's club, Catawba Conversations. His most recent publications are several articles in Routledge's Encyclopedia of American Philosophy. He opposes the dominant scientistic philosophy of scientific naturalism, instead defending a philosophy of the humanities worked out by his mentor, the late E. M. Adams.

Summit Focus Group: "Go Ahead: Change Your Mind" this summer.

Assiociate Professor of Biology

B.S., Butler University; Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Prior to coming to Catawba College, Dr. Poston was a Postdoctoral Fellow and Adjunct Instructor at the University of Kentucky. He is a member of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology, the Association of Southeastern Biologists, the North Carolina Academy of Science, and the American Ornithologists’ Union.

Summit Focus Group: A Backbone for Conservation

Lecturer in Communication Arts

M.A., Southern Methodist University; B.A., North Carolina State University; Over 20 years as Freelance Newspaper, Magazine and Internet Writer; Freelance Writer for SAS Software (Cary, NC).

Wittum has been writing professionally for over thirty years and has been publishing online for about fourteen years. She owns her own blogs and web sites as well as freelancing with major corporations. “I take a few projects each year to stay in the loop and on top of what’s going on in the world of online media,” says Wittum.

Journalism, new media, online publication, blogging and public speaking are Wittum’s key areas as a faculty member at Catawba College. She is also the advisor of the student campus newspaper, The Pioneer, and advisor for the Communication honor society, Lambda Pi Eta.

Summit Focus Group:  Green Reporting: Backpack Blogging for Digital Natives