Our Head of School

Of all that Girls Preparatory School offers to students and their families, the most important is a fundamental promise to know and love every girl for whom she is.

In fact, we could not do our job as educators without this knowledge and emotional bond. Our promise means we teach and mentor each student mindful of her interests, her strengths, and her challenges inside and beyond the classroom. It means that we help each girl on her way to becoming her true, her best, her most fully realized self.

In keeping our promise, we develop a partnership with parents. Parents know their daughters more deeply than we ever can. And with more than a century of educating girls behind us, we know how they develop, learn, and achieve. 

Together GPS and parents create the strongest possible support for an exciting, joyous journey of discovery. I’m honored to continue to live out the purpose of the three visionary women who founded this remarkable school and to guide our girls as they grow into confident and capable young women.

Here's to the GIRLS,

Dr. Autumn A. Graves, Head of School

About Dr. Graves

Autumn Adkins Graves has established herself as a leader within the education sector for almost 25 years. Known as a change agent focused on student experience and outcomes that balance the institution's resource management and productivity, Graves has managed large-scale program and curricular metamorphoses.
 
With a rhetoric and history degree from the University of Virginia, a master's degree in private school leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University (NY), and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania, Graves has held significant leadership roles at Mercersburg Academy (PA), Breck School (MN), Sidwell Friends (D.C.), Friends Seminary (NY), and Girard College (PA). Currently she serves as the head of Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
 
Upon finishing her dissertation, which explored community engagement programs within private colleges, Graves recommitted herself to the development of curricular and co-curricular programs that demonstrate the public purpose of private education. Additionally, Graves moved into a second area of research interest: the preparation of girls for an innovative economy and public service.
Equally important to her work in schools is her commitment to community. A Leadership Philadelphia alumna, Graves was an active member of the Junior League for more than a decade and served on the World Class Education and Talent Development Strategy Team for World Class Greater Philadelphia. She has leveraged her nonprofit management and education experiences to serve as a trustee for several organizations, including the Philadelphia Film Office, an economic development nonprofit; the Public Health Management Corporation; the Library Company of Philadelphia; and the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr.
 
As a community member of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and advocate for education, women, and children, Graves serves on the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Chancellor’s Advisory Roundtable and as a trustee for the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools, Creative Discovery Museum, The Head’s Network, and Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga.
 
Graves is married to R. Vann Graves. She and her husband have a son and daughter. 

Board of Trustees - Executive Board

List of 4 items.

  • Holly Lynch Harwell ’84, Board Chair

    Holly Harwell '84 serves as the board chair and is a member of the executive committee. She is an affiliate broker with Real Estate Partners and a consultant for the Carlisle Clothing Collection. She values serving the local Chattanooga community and has been the board chair for Hosanna Community, the Arts and Education Council, North Chattanooga Chamber, Friends of the Festival, and the Memorial Hospital Foundation. Holly and her husband, Marc, live in North Chattanooga.
  • Rebecca Stimson, PhD, ’73, Vice Chair

    Before joining the chemistry faculty at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Becca Stimson '73 spent 26 years with the DuPont Company, starting as a research chemist and serving in various managerial positions. Becca was a founder in The Fund for Women at the Delaware Community Foundation and served on boards for the YMCA and TTU Library Foundation in Cookeville, Tennessee. She is a former member of the Davidson College Board of Trustees and continues to serve on their Athletic Foundation and Visitors Boards. Becca was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at both GPS and Davidson College. Married to Dr. Tom Jenkins, Becca and her husband have two children, including a GPS alumna.
  • Clay Watson, Treasurer

    President of Mountain View Ford/Lincoln, Clay Watson is a second-generation trustee at GPS and a graduate of Southern Methodist University. A member of the Better Business Bureau board of directors and the McCallie Alumni Council since 2006, he presided as president of that council from 2013-16. He supports many Chattanooga organizations, including the Komen Race for the Cure, Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer, and Boys Scouts of America. He and his wife, April Hughes Watson ’91, have twin daughters at GPS.
  • Blair Bennington Cannon ’93, Secretary

    Blair Bennington Cannon '93 works for Hartford Insurance as the senior staff counsel. An active GPS alumna since graduation, Blair served as co-chair of the Alumnae Council and was the chair for the 2013-14 Annual Fund. Blair is a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga. She and her husband, Eddie, have two young daughters, one of whom has attended GPS summer camp.

List of Trustees:

List of 21 items.

  • Amy Arrowsmith

    A graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, Amy Arrowsmith is the daughter of Sally Bacon Smartt ’61 and the niece of Jody Bacon Law ’59 and Helen Bacon Yates ’66. Amy was raised in Decatur, Alabama, and is the current past-president of GPS Parent Council. She supported the Impact Fund for six consecutive years and currently serves on the GPS Board’s 2016-17 Development Committee – Impact Fund subcommittee. Her daughter, Mary Margaret, was a member of GPS's Class of 2018; her son, George, graduated from McCallie in 2017. She and her husband, Ted, are involved parents at St. Nicholas School, where Ted serves on the board. Amy is also an active member of the U.S. Tennis Association.
  • Danna Bailey ’89

    Danna Bailey '89 is vice president of corporate communications at US Xpress. She has a background in marketing and communications, specifically brand positioning and messaging. Formerly in the same communications role at the Electric Power Board, Danna helped lead the product roll-out of EPB Fiber Optics and handled national media relations. She also has in-depth experience in consumer research. Her love of writing and her lifelong interest in storytelling add to her wealth of skills. She has served on the GPS Alumnae Council and has also been involved in planning several of her reunions.
  • Kerri Martin Bartlett ’75

    During her tenure as an assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney's Office Southern District of New York from 1984-1995, Kerri Bartlett '75 served as chief appellate attorney, chief of general crimes and senior trial counsel. She received the FBI Director's Award for Superior Performance as an assistant United States attorney. As chief appellate attorney, she was responsible for all the office's criminal appeals in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for legal advice to all assistant United States attorneys in the criminal division. Kerri taught and lectured at Fordham Law School, Columbia University School of Law, and Pace University School of Law. In 2004, Kerri was appointed by then NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the Local Conditional Release Commission, which was created to reduce overcrowding in prisons. Kerri and her husband, Richard, have two daughters and a son.
  • Charlie Brock

    Charlie Brock is president and CEO of Launch Tennessee, a statewide public-private entity charged with developing Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. During his four years as CEO, the organization has developed and implemented many new initiatives to bolster the state’s standing as a great place for entrepreneurs, innovators and investors. Brock has held leadership positions with multiple startups/ early stage ventures, including serving as CEO of CO.LAB, as general partner of the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, as managing partner of FourBridges Capital Advisors, and as co-founder/CEO of Foxmark Media. Brock serves on several business boards, including Pinnacle Bank, FourBridges Capital Advisors, and The Dixie Group. In addition, he serves as a board member for The Boys & Girls Club of Chattanooga and Outreach Haiti. He and his wife, Lisa, are parents of three GPS alumnae.
  • Betsy Blunt Brown ’92

    After graduating from GPS in 1992, Betsy earned a BS in business administration and a BA in East Asian studies from Washington and Lee University. She also holds an MBA from Georgia State University. Betsy is the co-founder and president of Pendleton Square Trust Company. In this role, she develops multi-generational family relationships and serves families and their advisors to deliver trust and family offices services as well as legacy plans. Prior to joining Pendleton Square, Betsy worked at Cumberland Trust and JPMorgan Private Bank serving families throughout the Southeast. She also worked for more than 10 years at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey as a director in corporate and investment banking. Betsy is a partner in The JumpFund, an angel investment fund dedicated to investing in female-led businesses in the Southeast. In addition to her professional responsibilities, Betsy serves on the boards of GPS, The Generosity Trust, AVA, and Reflection Riding and is a member of the Rotary Club of Chattanooga and the Estate Planning Council of Chattanooga. Betsy lives on Signal Mountain with her husband, Hugh, and three active children. Her daughter, Elizabeth, is a member of the GPS class of 2024.
  • Allison Cowan Carroll ’89

    Allison Cowan Carroll ’89 graduated from GPS and Dartmouth College. She then went on to earn her MBA at Goizueta Business School at Emory University. She’s a longstanding member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and has held several leadership positions in local chapters, including president, vice president, community programming chair, and debutante committee chair. She volunteers with Jack and Jill of America, Inc., serving as treasurer of the North Suburban Atlanta Chapter, and with Trinity School in Atlanta, Georgia. Carroll has also served on the TSPA Committee and been co-chair of diversity committee. She’s a member of the National Black MBA Association, GAMA International, and NAIFA. She and her husband, Jeroy (Jay) Carroll, III, are parents to two daughters, Addison and Avery.
  • Allen Coffman, M.D.

    Dr. Allen Coffman is a pediatrician at Highland Pediatrics. After graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Medical College of Georgia, he completed his residency at Children’s Hospital Medical Center Cincinnati. A leader in local healthcare delivery system design and strategies, Dr. Coffman serves on the boards of the Beacon Health Alliance and LifeSpring Community Health. He was recognized as the 2016 Pediatrician of the Year by the Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for his work in developing a statewide pediatric quality network, the Pediatric Healthcare Improvement Initiative for Tennessee (PHiiT), and his successful work on a Children’s Hospital at Erlanger and Hamilton County Department of Education school-based health network. Dr. Coffman also serves on the board of the Skyuka Hall school—Chattanooga’s leader in individualized education for children with special educational needs. He and his wife, Joanne, are the parents of three children—a GPS alumnae and a current member of the Class of 2021.
  • Melissa Woodall Curtis ’85

    Melissa Curtis '85 is the president of Woodall Agency Insurance. She is a member of the 2016 Board of Directors for the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute and the Estate Planning Council of Chattanooga and graduated from Leadership Chattanooga. A graduate of Tulane University, she has been an active member of the GPS Parent Council and was the first co-chair of the Alumnae Advisory Council. She and her husband, Michael, are the parents of a son and a daughter, who graduated from GPS with the class of 2016.
  • Stacy Eiselstein

    Stacy Eiselstein graduated from Florida State University and then obtained her MBA and JD from the University of Tennessee. She joined the legal team of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee in 2006, where she serves as their vice president of Provider Network Operations. Stacy currently serves on the GPS Board’s 2016-17 Risk: Audit, Insurance & Compliance Committee and has supported the Impact Fund for five consecutive years. Previously Stacy served on the boards of the Lookout Mountain Fairyland Club and the Fairyland Elementary School PTO. She also serves on the board of directors for Emily’s Power for a Cure and volunteers with the Chattanooga Area Swim League. At GPS, Stacy is an active Parent Council member, volunteer Parent Phonathon phoner, and athletic events concession stand worker. She and her husband, Kyle, have two GPS students, Kylie ’19 and Jane ’21.
  • Johnel Angel Evans ’92

    Johnel Evans '92 is the vice president of human resources for Bard Access Systems, a division of C. R. Bard, Inc., where she is responsible for attracting, developing, and retaining top talent and creating a culture of inclusion and engagement. Prior to joining Bard, Johnel served International Paper Company’s corporate headquarters as a strategic HR partner and advisor to corporate executive leadership. Her 18 years of HR and leadership experience spans multiple industries such as Honeywell, PepsiCo Frito Lay, Allstate Insurance, and Medtronic. She was named a Fellow by the New Memphis Institute and honored by the Memphis Business Journal as one of Memphis Top 40 Under 40. Johnel, her husband, Dan, and their two children, Riley and Aidan, relocated from Memphis to Salt Lake City in January 2016.
  • Yancy Freeman

    Yancy Freeman serves as vice chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Success, University of Tennessee Chattanooga. He has a bachelor of science in political science, an MBA in public administration, and a doctorate (ABD) in learning and leadership. Prior to joining the UTC team, he worked for a year at The Baylor School in admissions. Yancy is a graduate of University of Tennessee Leadership Institute (2005) and Leadership Chattanooga (2001) and a former board member of YMCA Youth Leadership Chattanooga. He served as the Collegiate 100 Black Men of Chattanooga Campus Advisor for five years. Yancy is also the associate dean of Multicultural Affairs and a Gold Key Honor Society Inductee. He previously served on UTC’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee, Task Force Chair for Horizontal Distinctiveness, and Alumni Board as well as Chattanooga Christian School Education Board. He and his wife, Rafielle, live in Ringgold, Georgia.
  • Jane Kline

    A dedicated community volunteer, Jane Kline has served in many capacities in support of the arts in Chattanooga. In addition to years of instructing piano and directing choirs, she has been involved with the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and Longwood University Arts Center. Other board memberships include Chambliss Center for Children, The Hosanna Community, and the UTK Development Council. Jane also served on the vestry at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal and on the board of the Good Shepherd School. She and her husband, Lowry, are parents of three children, including a GPS alumna, and grandparents of two current GPS students.
  • Jennifer Kline

    Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Jennifer Kline graduated from Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, an all-girls Catholic school in D.C., and then Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia). She has participated in the Impact Fund and been active in GPS Parent Council for the past seven years and serves as past-president. She served as chair of the live auction (Visions) and chaired the Spectrum Art Gala. Kline worked for Evian Water and Coca-Cola Enterprises before starting her own business in 2001, thread & ink, a personalized paper and gift company. She and her husband, Will (McCallie Class of 1988)—have three children: Carolyn ’18, Ellie ’19, and Will ’23 (McCallie).
  • Marclyn D. Porter

    Marcy Porter is the parent of two GPS graduates, class of ’08 and ’12. Currently, she is the Evaluation Coordinator for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s School of Nursing. Prior to joining the School of Nursing in 2014, she was the Senior Research Associate at UTC’s Center for Applied Social Research and an adjunct professor of sociology where she taught research methodology. Porter is the Founder/Senior Evaluation Specialist at Porter & Associates Evaluation Services and has served as evaluation consultant on numerous projects for community organizations, educational institutions, municipal, state, and federal agencies. Porter’s current community involvement includes Chair-Elect, Board of Trustees, Little Miss Mag Early Learning Center; Board of Governors, WTCI Public Television; Mayor’s Council for Women; Chair, Celebration of Trees Beautification Committee; Secretary, Riverview Neighborhood Association; and Chattanooga Junior League. She was the former President of Riverview Garden Club.
  • Michelle Ruest

    Previously on the GPS Board of Trustees from 2008 to 2014, Michelle Ruest is an affiliate broker with Crye-Leike Realtors. She is the past-president of the board of the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga. A member of the Chattanooga Bar Auxiliary, she is past-president of the Junior League of Chattanooga, which she recently served as a trustee and continues to support as a sustainer. Michelle has been active with ArtsBuild, Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Guild, Chambliss Center for Children, Leadership Chattanooga, and as a vestry member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. She and her husband, Dick Gossett, have been co-chairs of the GPS Annual Fund and are parents of two GPS alumnae.
  • Dr. Annette C. Smith

    A graduate of Louisiana State University, Dr. Annette Smith holds a BA and MA in education. She also completed her doctorate of education administration from the University of Mississippi. For 17 years, Annette served as the sixth head of school at Hutchison School in Memphis, Tennessee, a girls school founded in 1902. She retired in June 2017, completing an over-20-year career in girls’ education. Annette has served as president for TAIS as well as director of SAIS, SAES, and NAES. She volunteers for several organizations including Memphis Botanical and the Children’s Museum of Memphis. In 2004, Annette was selected to serve on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Leadership Development Committee.
  • Amy Thomas

    Amy Thomas served as interim GPS director of development in 2015-16. She is a past-treasurer and -president of the Junior League of Chattanooga and is the president of the Junior League Garden Club. She serves on the board of the Center for Nonprofits and is a Leadership Chattanooga graduate. She has been a member of the stewardship committee and served on vestry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. A graduate of Converse College, Amy and her husband, Jamie, have two daughters who are GPS alumnae.
  • Ben Vance

    With degrees from Lipscomb University and Rice University, Ben Vance is Vice President and Senior Managing Director within the investments unit of Unum Group. He was appointed by Mayor Andy Berke to serve on the Chattanooga City Task Force on Police and Fire Pension and is a past board member of Make-A-Wish East Tennessee. Ben recently served on the GPS Board’s 2016-17 Endowment Committee before becoming a trustee. He is an active member of Clear Creek Church of Christ, where he serves as chairman of the finance committee. Ben and his wife, Jan, have three GPS girls, Caroline '14, Mimi '17, and Charlotte '19.
  • Dori Thornton Waller ’99

    Chattanooga, Tennessee, native Dori Thornton Waller graduated from GPS in 1999. Upon completing her degree at the University of Tennessee, Waller moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue a career in event planning. After two years at a fundraising and event planning firm, Waller landed at the White House where she became the youngest Deputy Social Secretary in recent history, executing some of the most demanding and meticulous events in the world. In 2009, when President and Mrs. Bush returned to Texas, Dori returned to Tennessee and started The Social Office, a Nashville-based firm that plans high-end events for social clients and corporations throughout the southeast. In 2012, she married a fellow Chattanoogan, Blake Waller, and returned back to her hometown. While Waller lives and works from Chattanooga, most of her clients remain in Nashville, so she commutes back and forth as needed. She handles everything from children’s birthday parties to country music awards shows and even the occasional event for President and Mrs. Bush in Dallas. She and her husband live in North Chattanooga with their daughter, Madolyn, and saint bernard, Minnie.
  • Mary Moncure Watson ’74

    Mary Watson '74 has spent her entire career in the investment business and is a vice president in wealth management with Morgan Stanley in Atlanta. Mary has remained involved with both of her alma maters, GPS and the University of Virginia, having served on a GPS head search committee and on the boards of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, the University of Virginia Board of Managers, the UVA College Foundation, as well as participated in the Jefferson Scholars National Selection Committee. She serves on the board of Trinity School and the Skyland Trail Advisory Board, both in Atlanta. She is married to Tom Watson and is the mother of one daughter.
  • Thad Whitfield

    The father of a current GPS student and two alumnae, Thad Whitfield is vice president and general counsel of Chattem, Inc. He serves on the Board of the Metro YMCA and has served as a deacon and elder at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church. An avid supporter of the school, Thad has been involved in the Parent Council, serving as co-chair with his wife, Carol, Impact Fund campaigns, and the Visions fundraisers.

Girls Preparatory School

PHONE (423) 634-7600    HOURS M-F 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.