Bruce Birch


Bruce Birch, president of the Chatham Literacy board, moved to Pittsboro in 2003 after retiring from a 30-year medical practice in Blacksburg, Va. He is a past president of The Southwest Virginia Medical Society and The Free Clinic of the New River Valley and has served on the board of United Way of Chatham County. Bruce also is chair of Chatham Literacy’s Executive, Personnel and ad hoc Collaboration committees, and has been a tutor.

Doug Emmons

Vice President

Doug Emmons is vice president of Chatham Literacy’s board and chairman of the Development Committee. He has 40 years of experience in high tech marketing, business development, product management, software development, and IT consulting. He retired from EMC Corp., where he was director of SAP Global Solutions Marketing. Doug previously held senior positions at Compaq Computer and Digital Equipment Corp. He started his career at a start-up software company designing, developing, and product managing financial applications software. He is on the board of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation and lives in Pittsboro with his wife, Joanne.

Christine Kehrer


Christine Kehrer, treasurer of Chatham Literacy’s board and chair of the Finance Committee, is a survey researcher with extensive experience in public policy research and financial services. She has authored studies of compensation practices and the drivers of profitability in bank brokerage firms. Since moving to Pittsboro from Princeton, she has contributed time to Fearrington Cares, Chatham Connecting, and Chatham Literacy’s Finance Committee. She also has continued as a partner in a firm consulting for banks, insurance companies, broker dealers, and investment companies.

Barbara Smith Irwin


Barbara Smith Irwin, secretary of the Chatham Literacy board and a member of the Development Committee, is a retired librarian who has been an active volunteer since moving to Chatham County 20 years ago. She was head of special collections at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and, earlier, library director at the New Jersey Historical Society. She also served as president of her national professional association, Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences. Barbara served as library chair for UNC Health Care Volunteers for 10 years and was on that group’s board. As a member of the Fearrington Women’s Club, she founded and served as chair of The StoryTime Project, in which members read to students in Chatham pre-schools.

Julia Herbón

Board member

Julia Herbón is coordinator for Central Carolina Community College’s English as a Second Language Program in Chatham County. She has been active in the ESL field for 22 years as an instructor, teacher trainer, and presenter in the United States and Argentina. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English as a Foreign Language Teacher from AACI in Argentina and a bachelor’s in English with distinction from North Carolina Central University. She is a member of Chatham Literacy’s Program Committee and volunteers with several other non-profit organizations.

Larry Hicks

Board Member

Larry Hicks is a newly retired higher education administrator/educator, who most recently served as the Director of Housing and Residential Education at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Larry has extensive experience in strategic planning, financial planning, organizational development, and creative approaches to student learning, development, and success. Plus he is an advocate and practitioner of multicultural competency building and personal skill development. Larry and his wife, Susan, moved to North Carolina in 1985. Over the years, Larry has served on and chaired several county and county-affiliated boards and committees relating to health, land use and strategic planning, and economic development.

Joan Lipsitz

Board member

Joan Lipsitz is a senior fellow at MDC, Inc., in Durham, where she is an advisor primarily in the southeast to foundations and nonprofits on philanthropy, school improvement, and youth development. She served as program director for elementary and secondary education at Lilly Endowment from 1986 to 1995. Prior to that, she established and directed the Center for Early Adolescence at UNC-Chapel Hill. She began her career as a secondary school English teacher. Joan is chair of Chatham Literacy’s Governance and ad-hoc Strategic Planning committees.

Rev. Mechelle Thompson

Board Member

Reverend Mechelle Thompson is the wife of Rev. Carl E. Thompson, Sr.  They have three adult children, Carla Thompson, Dr. Karen Barbee and Carl Thompson, Jr. Reverend Thompson has served her community for over forty years as an activist and organizer in various capacities.  She has also served as an administrator by occupation, having served…

Karen Vaca

Board Member

Karen Vaca, a North Carolina native, is a lifelong learner and educator. She holds a doctorate in Adult and Community College Education and spent over thirty years as an educator and administrator in the NC community college system. She began her career as an adult literacy program coordinator and director. From 1996-2014, she served as Chatham County Provost for Central Carolina Community College, where she led the development of many innovative programs. Her experience includes leadership positions on numerous county and non-profit boards in Chatham County.