Elizabeth Howley, M.A.Ed., Executive Director and Co-Founder
Who are you? I am an educator of 8 years, a rescue dog mom, a runner, a travel enthusiast, a diverse needs advocate & speaker, a friend, a daughter, a duke basketball fan, and a William & Mary Alum (in no particular order).
What do you love best about your job? I have always said that it is my greatest privilege to work with our students. They are some of the very best people that I know. I also love the creative process, especially when collaborating with inspiring individuals from the RVA community. It makes my heart sing.
If you could do anything else what would it be? This is tough. I adore my work. If I had to pick another career, it would probably be in the arts, assuming I had the talent for such a gig. I love photography (which inspired the capABLE Project) and grew up taking classes. It is a powerful form of visual storytelling. There is something captivating about staring at an image and knowing that countless others have also stared at that same image, and have experienced your same thoughts/feelings. And ballet. I also grew up taking ballet and pointe. I am inspired by the discipline, strength, and beauty that it requires.
What item do you always have on your person? Notebooks. It’s silly. I even keep one in my running belt and in my bedside table–just in case I have the urge to jot down an idea.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Being on the water, traveling abroad, and being with my friends and family.
If you could plan a dinner party and invite any 5 people (living or dead), who would get an invite? Temple Grandin, Martin Luther King Jr., Otis Redding, my Mom, and my dear friend, Shelley. It would be the perfect combination of thoughtful conversation, great music, and dancing.
Mary Townley, Director of Educational Services and Co-Founder
Who are you? I am a wife to Carol and a mom to an awesome daughter named Emily, who is a student at Roanoke College. I love our cat, Molly, and our dog, Junie B. Jones. In my free time, I like to work in the yard, read a good book, or travel. I’ve also tried knitting, but have never progressed beyond a scarf! My favorite time of year is summer when I can go to the beach and visit my parents on the coast of Maine.
If you could do anything else what would it be? I’ve wanted to be involved with the special needs community since I was a child. My friends and I would put on skits for adults with special needs in our small town. If I tried another profession, it would still be human services related. Maybe nursing, eldercare, or even childcare. I would also love working with animals in some capacity.
What are your greatest passions? Equality for all is a strong passion of mine. Having been a plaintiff in the Marriage Equality case here in Virginia along with my wife, I have learned of the importance of supporting the rights of all people and allowing people to live their lives, despite the fact that others may have different beliefs. All people should be given fair and equal opportunities in this world.
What is your favorite activity to do in RVA? Gosh, there are so many! I love all that RVA has to offer. Strolling the shops in Carytown or touring the VMFA are top on my list. I also love taking my dog, Junie, on walks at Pony Pasture Park or Midlothian Mines. Oh, and did I mention Shyndigz? All I can say is Peanut Butter Mousse Pie!
Who inspires you most? I’ve been blessed to know many inspirational people in my life, so it’s hard to pick just one person. My aunt, MaryLou, was probably my first role model. An elementary school teacher and a world traveler, she taught me that a woman can live an independent life and follow her heart. I also have found inspiration from my grandmother, who was a strong leader in her community and an avid gardener.
Where else have you lived? I have been lucky to have lived in many states over the years. I was born on Long Island, NY and lived my first several years there. Next, we moved to Massachusetts and then to Michigan. We later returned to Massachusetts for a while, before moving to Illinois. I went to college in Maryland and then settled in Virginia in the early 1980’s. I’ve lived in RVA since 1990.