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Q&A: The Long View

Providence Day has a proud history of alumni returning to campus for events, to work, and even to enroll their own children. For the first time, now, the school can also celebrate a Charger leading the Board of Trustees.

Chris Mullis ’90 is a man of many talents. He holds a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy, one of the world's leading astronomical research centers. In 2006, Mullis founded NorthStar Capital Advisors to serve clients in financial planning and investment management. A Charlotte native, Mullis is a passionate champion of Providence Day—both its history and its future.

What do you enjoy most about your role as
Chair of the Board of Trustees?

Thanks to my PD education, I have lived and worked around the world, collaborated with Nobel Laureates, explored the farthest frontiers of the Universe, and helped great families live their best lives possible. But I’ll put my experience with the Board of Trustees right up there in that list. It is a profound privilege to work with, learn from, and serve our school together with the passionate, committed, and expert members of our Board and our school’s senior leadership team.

What is your goal for the work of the Board?

First and foremost: support our world-class Head of School,
Dr. Glyn Cowlishaw, whose visionary leadership shapes the incredible experience imparted to the students of PD today and the students of tomorrow. Second: focus on strategic and generative leadership. Third: cultivate processes and structure of governance that promote a consistently high-performing Board. 

What do you see as the Board’s role in advancing
Providence Day’s mission and strategic vision?

The Board pursues engaged learning conversations with school leadership, industry thought leaders, and the community at large. This allows us to be properly equipped to provide vision, direction, and unique problem solving. To remain profoundly relevant and sustainable, the Board regularly revisits our mission and strategic vision and is ready to reshape and retool when necessary. 

How has Providence Day changed since you were
a student? How has it stayed the same?

The biggest change since my student days of the 70s and 80s is clearly the growth. Our student body, our faculty, and our campus have grown manyfold. The maturity and sophistication of execution have scaled such that our learning environment reflects many aspects of the universities for which we’re preparing our students. But what remains unwavering after all these years is our PD commitment to rigorous academics and helping our students succeed on their own unique pathways of learning and preparation for a fulfilling life. 

What’s your fondest memory of being a student at PD?

It’s impossible to choose just one! I like to remember the heartfelt mentoring of Coach Gil Murdock and the countless miles we ran training in the Robinson Woods neighborhood on the cross country team. The guidance and support of science teachers like Bentha Johnson, Bobbie Hinson, and Peggy Dreher who nurtured my love for science. We went on some amazing trips together to compete in (and ultimately win!) the International Science Fair. 

What is the biggest challenge/opportunity facing
the school over the next 15 years?

As Chargers we’re accustomed to leading from the front. Not because we deserve it, but because we earn it through discipline and hard work. Think of the trifecta of excellence that we see across academics, athletics, and arts at PD. Nonetheless, one clear opportunity for self improvement is our endowment. We trail our peers by a far margin in this dimension, but we’re gaining ground thanks to the Charging Forward campaign and newfound focus on endowment growth. A strong and healthy endowment will protect the school from inevitable (but temporary) challenges of the economic cycle. Moreover, it will create new capacities to support and grow our school across all times.

What are you most proud of since becoming a PD alumnus?

Getting a Ph.D. in astrophysics and creating a mission-driven business of financial advice. The former equipped me to probe the origins and structure of the Universe. The latter empowers people to achieve lives of passion, purpose, and impact for their families and their communities.

As your alma mater approaches its 50th anniversary how would you describe the first 48 years? How is the Board and the administration planning for post 50 years?

Our first 48 years represent an incredible arc of growth and maturation. As we prepare to celebrate our anniversary, the Board and the administration are already diligently mapping out our second semicentennial. Our domains of planning range from the practicalities of continually improving our physical infrastructure, all the way to the “blue sky” challenge of creating innovative school models to sustain and enhance our educational mission. 

How has the Charging Forward comprehensive campaign impacted the school?

The Charging Forward Campaign has transformed the way we teach and learn at PD. It has created a new center point for student life, and strengthened our Annual Fund. And it has launched the growth of our Endowment toward a place that will benefit students and faculty for generations to come.

What do you do for fun? 

I love to hike, bike, camp, and travel with my wonderful wife and children. I also have a penchant for meteorology, “recreational” astronomy, and birdwatching.

What is your message to your fellow alumni?

Cultivate and cherish your relationships with fellow alums, teachers, and all of your Charger family. Our shared experiences as PD students define and bind us. The friendships that begin at 5800 Sardis Road can and should last a lifetime. Go Chargers!  

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