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HUNTINGTON — Marshall University will host its third annual TEDxMarshallU event organized by students, faculty and staff from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 2, online.

The theme for this year’s TEDxMarshallU is “RISING,” to honor the 50th anniversary of the Marshall University community beginning to rise from the ashes of the November 1970 plane crash and to highlight ideas and initiatives that are helping our community rise in education, economic development and mental health and persevere through adversity.

“I’m proud to have been a part of bringing the tradition of the yearly TEDxMarshallU event to Marshall University,” said Dr. Brian Kinghorn, assistant professor in Marshall’s College of Education and Professional Development, who is licensee and lead organizer of the event. “We have an amazing team of top-notch MU students, faculty and staff who have been working tirelessly since last summer to plan and organize this event, and we have a phenomenal lineup of speakers. This year has been particularly special because we are able to use our platform to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the plane crash, honor the lives lost and those left behind to mourn and persevere, and highlight the resilience of our community rising from the ashes of that and other tragedies over the last 50 years.”

What makes TEDxMarshallU unique “is that each speaker will share their personal experiences and brilliant ideas with the connection to the other speakers through the common theme of rising,” said Kelly Leonard, TEDxMarshallU’s co-organizer, who is an MBA student and a 2020 Marshall bachelor’s graduate. “This is an event people do not want to miss, as they will take away great insights and ways to make positive changes within the world.”

Speakers include:

  • Lt. Chad Napier, a retired Charleston police officer who worked with the Metro Drug Unit and now is employed by Appalachia HIDTA. He will discuss Handle with Care, a statewide trauma-sensitive collaboration between law enforcement and schools to ensure that traumatized children are handled with care.
  • Kathy D’Antoni, Ed.D., an educator who has served as associate state superintendent for West Virginia. She will share her thoughts on education in West Virginia, specifically the Simulated Workplace initiative.
  • Brandon Dennison, founder and CEO of the Coalfield Development Corporation, will discuss helping West Virginia reach its fullest potential through Coalfield Development’s trainings and education to start social enterprises.
  • Lee Farabaugh, a senior technology, design, operations and business development expert with 20 years of experience in financial technology and health care IT, who pioneered the Hereshore model for U.S.-based technology outsourcing. She will explore the concept of outsourcing IT services to smaller cities in the United States.
  • Red Dawson, who served as assistant coach for the Thundering Herd football team in the 1970s, will share his perspective on rising from the devastation of the 1970 Marshall University plane crash.
  • Suzanne Strait, Ph.D., associate director of the Division of Science and Research at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, is in her 27th year of teaching as a professor of biological sciences at Marshall University, and served as a West Virginia Mask Army organizer during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her talk will be centered around COVID-19 and the West Virginia Mask Army.
  • Ashley Perkins, Pharm.D., a mental health advocate with a background as a pharmacist and educator, will discuss improving mental health awareness through sharing stories and helping others with mental illnesses cope and achieve their goals.

Duo Transcend, the entertainment team of Tyce Nielsen and his wife, Huntington native Mary (Wolfe) Nielsen, are aerialist and roller-skating performers who entertain around the globe with Cirque du Soleil, and were runners up on “America’s Got Talent Champions.” They will perform and discuss how to overcome failure through determination and grit.

Visit to register for this virtual event. Additional information about the event can be found at

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