News from the May Dell - March, 2021

Kris Sorrells campus brick building backgroundFrom the Head of School

Dear Friends,

The start of the spring semester through early March is known as “robotics season.” During this time, the Academy’s First Tech Challenge teams compete in several rounds of competitions. A normal competition match consists of four robots scrambling madly to complete a series of tasks while working together and against each other on the same 12’ by 12’ field. These tasks range from picking up and shooting objects, to pushing wobble goals across the field, and in some challenges, the robot must lift itself up and hang on a bar! All in two minutes and 30 seconds. (View the 2021 Ultimate Goal Challenge)

When the robotics challenge is announced in September, team members are often initially overwhelmed. You can hear them say “how are we supposed to do that?” “that’s impossible,” “where are we supposed to start?” They stare at the pile of parts available not quite sure how to begin. Initial panic and nerves have taken hold.

Over the course of the next few team meetings, ideas start to formulate, sketches are made, research is completed, and the parts start being put together. The robot (or any part of it) never works correctly the first time. The mecanum wheel will have the wrong orientation, a set screw will come loose causing a part to fall off during drive practice, the autonomous code will not be correct causing a motor to turn in the wrong direction, which makes the robot crash into a wall. Then there was the time a shooting motor overheated and started to smoke or the pressure from the scissor lift was so strong the lead screw snapped in half and flew across the field. Let me stress, in robotics, nothing goes as expected the first time.

Fast forward to “robotics season” when the new build team members can explain the engineering principles and apparatus names (mecanum, lead screw, pasta roller intake, flywheel shooting mechanism using 6000 rpm). The new coders are discussing hardware classes, gamepad assignments, and sending code wirelessly to the new control hub. The CAD designers have made amazing diagrams of the robot as well as created specialty parts that they 3D print. Social media specialists have documented the season on Instagram and Twitter. Not to mention the amazing videos created for the FIRST Tech Challenge video awards. Everyone interested in robotics has found a place.

When I look back over the season each year, all these stories remind me why this program is beneficial for Salem students. They have persevered over a challenge by trying out ideas in a safe environment. They have made mistakes and realized these errors are not fatal. These errors allowed them to grow, learn a new skill, recognize what is needed (or not needed) in a specific situation. They become researchers and innovators. They have realized being successful does not mean your work is perfect or good all the time. They have begun to see in themselves the strength, power, and abilities that the Academy faculty see in them. They have learned more than robotics skills; they have experienced lessons that will strengthen and help them for the rest of their lives.

So how did the Salem Academy Robotics teams do this season?  Impressively as always—unbelievable impressively when you consider the majority of work was completed remotely and they did not have nearly the in-person build or practice time they normally have.

  • View the 2021 FIRST Tech Ultimate Goal Challenge
  • Summary Portfolio for FTC #7444 Sisters of the Motherboard
  • Summary Portfolio for FTC #15333 Code Sisters
  • FTC Qualifier #5 on Feb 12
    • 7444 - Sisters of the Motherboard - 2nd place Collins Aerospace Innovate Award
    • 15333 - Code Sisters: 3rd place Think Award
  • FTC Qualifier #8 on Feb 19
    • 7444 - Sisters of the Motherboard: 1st Place Think, 2nd Place Motivate, advanced to states
    • 15333 - Code Sisters: 1st Place Promote, 2nd Place Think 
  • State Level Competition on Feb 26th
    • 7444 Sisters of the Motherboard earned 2nd Place Motivate Award 



Kris Porazzi Sorrells
Head of School
Dr. Susan Henking

President’s Corner

As we reach the anniversary of Salem’s evacuation and move to remote, I am so moved by each of you.

I remember a gathering—our last “public” one—which brought together campus leaders, parents, and more. I can see in my mind’s eye those moments, the peculiarity of hand sanitizer being passed along with a microphone, for example. I can see earlier meetings where we sought to sit far enough from one another to move to decisions. I have re-read emails about what classes might become and the logistics of getting possessions to one another including to those who had left without knowing how long—how very long—it would be before our campus welcomed us again as a full community.

I watched and learned from leaders—each of whom deserves to be called out for all they did those days, weeks, and months a year ago. We joked about words that kept repeating—unprecedented—and knew that this was not what any of us expected to encounter in the second decade of the 21st century.

I feel the echoes—in my heart, my mind, my body. I suspect you do too.

The echoes are not merely the echoes of a pandemic but reminders of the ongoing need to say the names of people like Breonna Taylor—who was killed on March 13 of that very same weekend that we evacuated—reminding us that these issues too require us to step forward. In this year of existential challenge, justice demands we act as well to change the systems within which we live.

Over the next few days, I ask that we each stop to express our gratitude to those who helped each of us get this far. I ask that we be fair to ourselves and others and recognize what and perhaps who we have lost and what we have required of one another to get here. I ask that we say to ourselves and to each other how very hard this has been and how amazed we are at how much time has passed. I ask that we remember to stop—to mourn as needed—and then to move forward with care and strength. We will never again live in a world without this year and who we have become.

Susan Henking
Interim President

Presidential Search Update

This is another in a series of updates intended to keep you informed about the work of the Presidential Search Committee. The search is progressing well and on schedule.

The committee members met recently to discuss our progress and to initiate the systematic review of applications. This initial review, the first of several stages in the candidate vetting process, will continue throughout the spring.

The multi-faceted process of building a strong and diverse pool of well-qualified candidates is ongoing. We ask once more for your help in identifying promising prospects or people who might be able to suggest such prospects. Please reach out to our consulting team, Jim Sirianni (, Ruth Shoemaker Wood (, and Julie Williams-Krishnan ( of Storbeck Search, with names and contact information related to any potential candidates. The nominations and suggestions that we receive from those closest to the Salem community may be among the most meaningful in the process of candidate generation.

The committee members will meet again early next month to begin reducing the pool of applicants to a smaller group for further review and evaluation.

The search prospectus continues to be available for your review.

On behalf of the search committee, I will share additional periodic updates with you throughout the process. Please feel free to reach me with any questions. Thank you for your support.

Liz Baird
Chair of the Presidential Search Committee
Salem Academy and College

Alumnae Awards Nominations Deadline Extended

The deadline has been extended to Friday, March 26! The Salem Academy Alumnae Awards recognize the outstanding contributions and lasting impacts of our diverse alumnae base. Given each April during Reunion Weekend, the Alumnae Association highlights the accomplishments of chosen individuals for three awards: Distinguished Alumna Award, Alumna Service Award, and Young Alumna Award. Please submit your nominations through this form for deserving individuals from classes ending in 1 or 6 by March 26, 2021.

Reunion 2021: Virtual Events

The Office of Alumnae Engagement has put together a month-long slate of virtual events to help you get your Salem fix! Open to all classes, with special recognition of 0s, 1s, 5s, and 6s, join your friends in live sessions or watch later at your convenience. From a wine & design event with John Hutton, to an alumnae panel, to the Annual Meeting of the Alumnae Association, a full events schedule will be released soon.

Wine & Design with John Hutton

Join your fellow alumnae on Thursday, April 8 at 7 p.m. for a virtual event with Art Professor John Hutton. Bring a glass of wine and learn how to draw a picture of the May Dell via Zoom. Professor Hutton will make it fun and easy; you don’t need to be Rembrandt to enjoy this event! Look for more details soon on how to sign up!

Road to Salem 250

The Road to the 250th

In recognition of Women’s History Month, this column celebrates the history of innovation in education at Salem Academy and College. Our story has its beginnings in the Moravian dedication to education and the community’s belief that girls deserved an education as much as boys did. Salem has a long tradition of leadership in the education of girls and women. This legacy has been fostered by strong women from its first teacher, Elisabeth Oesterlein, to the women of today.

In the 18th century, Elisabeth Oesterlein joined a group of Moravian girls and young women who journeyed from Pennsylvania to Wachovia to serve a higher purpose according to their beliefs. At the age of 22, Oesterlein taught her first class in Salem’s Gemein Haus where Main Hall now stands. This school grew into the institution of Salem Academy and College today.

Over the centuries, Salem has led the way forward in girls’ and women’s education. In the 17th century, former students such as Martha Miksch returned as teachers. In the 1800s, the school formally trained young women to be teachers. Students such as Emma Lehman, who began teaching at Salem in 1864 became leaders in their fields. In the 1880s, Salem Female Academy, as it was known then, took the bold step of offering courses for women who would prefer to make their own living in the office rather than the schoolroom. Thus, Salem offered classes in bookkeeping, commercial law, telegraphy, and typing.

This tradition of strong female leadership continued in the 20th century, when Julianne Still Thrift became the first woman to serve as president. The tradition of innovation continued with the creation of an adult learning program that has become the Martha H. Fleer Center for Adult Education.

Now in the 21st century, as the College forges a new path in health leadership and as the Academy creates new opportunities for students, Salem Academy and College continues in the tradition of those first women and girls who charted their path from Pennsylvania to a new life in North Carolina.

Michelle Hopkins Lawrence
Co-chair of The Anna Maria Samuel Project: Race, Remembrance, and Reconciliation at Salem Academy and College
History Department Salem Academy

Academy Admissions—It is Not Too Late to Apply for Fall 2021!

Calling all alumnae—help us find applicants! Do you know any young women who might be interested in Salem Academy? We are still enrolling for fall 2021. You can refer students and/or families through our Admissions Referral Form.

Or, if you would like to be an Academy Alumnae Ambassador, please use this form.

In today’s competitive and unique (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) environment, we would love your help finding future students!

In particular, we wanted to draw your attention to two events. Please share them with prospective students and/or their families.

  • Virtual Spring Open House, Tuesday, April 13 at 4 p.m.
    Attendees will learn about the power of an all-girls school and how our academic programs will help them excel in college and life. They’ll find out about the enriching experiences outside the classroom that will prepare them to launch a life of purpose and meaning. They’ll hear from teachers, meet with current students, and learn all about our admissions process. Interested students can register on our website.
  • The Girls’ School Advantage: Boarding Schools, Tuesday, April 27 at 12 p.m.
    Hosted by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. The Girls’ School Advantage is a unique opportunity to hear from a dozen of the nation’s premier Boarding Schools for Girls—including Salem Academy. Hear from a student panel, which will include current Salem Academy boarding student Michaela M. A'21. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet with Salem Academy representatives. Learn about the power of an all-girls school and how Salem Academy’s academic programs will help you excel in college and life. Those interested in this event should register at


Ashley Tomlin campus RG house background

Faculty/Staff Spotlight: Ashley Tomlin C'05

Ashley Tomlin joined the Salem team in December 2020 as director of alumnae engagement for both Salem Academy and Salem College. For Ashley, as a graduate of Salem College, taking the job was an exciting chance to return to a place she loves.

“It feels as though I have come full circle,” Ashley said. “I was really involved when I was an undergrad at Salem College. I was an athlete, helped at orientation, and was involved with many other activities. I really loved my time at Salem College, and I am really passionate about women’s empowerment through education. I feel so lucky to have a job that combines these two passions. I am thrilled to work at a place I love so much and that means so much to me.”

Ashley majored in history at Salem and graduated in 2005. “I met the very best people at Salem, and they are still very much in my life today. There is something so special about Salem. One can get a world-class education and connect with faculty members who care deeply about your education, your goals and what you see for your future.”

She went on to get a master’s degree in higher education administration at Georgia Southern University. She worked for eight years as director of student activities and new student orientation at Wesleyan College. But when her partner got a chance to take a great job back in the Triad, Ashley returned to Salem.

In her current position, Ashley does a lot of different things including working with both the Academy and College Alumnae Boards, helping plan reunions, and assisting with the day-to-day operations for the Office of Alumnae Engagement.

While she is delighted to be working for Salem College, a place that changed her life for the better, she is equally happy to be working for Salem Academy. Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down and before she got her current position, Ashley was a contract employee for the Academy helping plan reunions. “Although I only worked at the Academy for about a month and a half, I realized immediately what a special and unique place it is,” she said. “The academics as well as the focus on leadership and civic engagement are really incredible. I was so impressed with the students and faculty at the Academy, and I am so happy I get to work with this amazing place.”

Salem 250 logo

Salem’s 250th Celebration: Journey from Bethlehem to Salem

Join us this fall as we recreate the historic journey undertaken by the Single Sisters from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to North Carolina. From September 28–October 26, 2021, the “Journey to Salem” will cover 500 miles over 29 days and will follow the historic route as outlined in the 1766 journal of Salome Meurer—along the colonial migration trail which passes through Maryland, continues east of the mountains in Virginia, and turns west in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Walkers will arrive in Bethabara, North Carolina, the Sisters’ original destination, on October 25. The final leg of the Journey will be 6.5 miles from Bethabara to a celebratory Homecoming on Salem Square on the afternoon of October 26, which will be open to all.

This is a unique chance to walk in the footsteps of the Single Sisters and feel the power and impact of their journey. Alumnae and friends are invited to participate in any part of the “Journey to Salem” in person or virtually. You can join us for as much of the walk as you like. We already know of at least one alumna who plans to walk the entire journey and we welcome more adventuresome walkers!

We also welcome those who wish to walk just two days, or one day, or part of one day. Any length is fine! Use the walk as a way to connect with some of your Salem friends and make a weekend of it. Make the Journey a once-in-a-lifetime girls’ trip, as we’ll be walking through the Amish country of Pennsylvania, the beautiful horse country of Virginia, and other interesting areas that feature historic sites, vineyards, and more.

Make plans—and make some history of your own! We think the walk will be a great way to generate publicity for Salem locally, along the route, and nationally. Watch your email for further information coming soon on the exact route and how to register!

NASA Cindy with Elmo - Salem Voices

Salem Voices: NASA Employee Cindy Lovin McArthur C’75

Salem Voices: A Conversation with Salem Alumnae posts on the first and third Tuesdays of every month at 12:30 p.m. The most recent episode was released on March 16 and featured Cynthia (Cindy) Lovin McArthur, C'75. Cindy’s wide-ranging conversation with Lucy Rose, C'76, Vice Chair of the Salem Academy and College Board of Trustees is available on our website.

Cindy is the Deputy Director of the External Relations Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Johnson Space Center has served as the hub of human spaceflight activity for more than half a century. It is home to the nation’s astronaut corps, the Mission Control Center, the International Space Station Program mission operations, the Orion Program, and a host of future space developments to enhance scientific and technological knowledge to benefit all of humankind.

As Deputy Director, Cindy shares the human spaceflight story by leading, integrating, and amplifying the work of a Johnson Space Center team of civil servants and contractors in the areas of employee communications, digital media, public affairs, public engagement, STEM engagement, legislative affairs, exhibits, and university collaboration.

Join us to learn more about these amazing alumnae as they engage in conversations Lucy Rose, C’76, Vice Chair of the Salem Academy and College Board of Trustees and owner and president of Lucy Rose and Associates.

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