StepUp Durham Board of Directors


John Wroton, Pacific Western Bank, Board of Directors Chair

John Wroton is Senior Vice President, Venture Banking at Pacific Western Bank (formerly known as Square 1).  He manages a portfolio of venture capital backed companies spread across the U.S., assisting them with all of their banking needs.  Prior to joining Pacific Western Bank, John worked at locally-owned and operated Harrington Bank in Chapel Hill for 13 years before its acquisition by Bank of North Carolina (and subsequent acquisition by Pinnacle Bank).  At Harrington Bank, John led the bank’s risk management efforts, developing policies and procedures to ensure the bank met all lending regulatory guidelines.  He also served as a commercial loan officer, assisting many local small businesses and real estate investors with their banking needs and playing a large part in the revitalization efforts in downtown Durham.  He also worked at a local non-profit in Durham, UDI Community Development Corporation, for four years providing economic development, job training, and affordable housing to low and underserved communities in the area.  John has served in various leadership capacities on the boards of EmPOWERment, Inc. in Chapel Hill and Presbyterian Campus Ministry in Chapel Hill.  John received his undergraduate degree in Civil/Environmental Engineering from Duke University and his MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-CH.  He lives in Durham with his wife and three children.

Bob PhoenixCrawford Sprinkler Company of Raleigh, Vice Chair

Bob Phoenix is currently the VP of Finance & Administration for Crawford Sprinkler Company of Raleigh. Prior to this role, he was the President of Leonhardt Pipe & Supply, a distributor and fabricator of fire sprinkler systems for commercial and residential buildings, which services fire sprinkler subcontractors all over the southeastern United States. He was born and raised in Raleigh, NC, where he grew up as a member of White Memorial Presbyterian Church. Mr. Phoenix has an Undergraduate Bachelor's Degree with a double major from UNC Chapel Hill in Business Administration and Music Performance. Bob has lived in Durham since 2007, though much of the time he traveled for work. His first few jobs were in sales, entrepreneurship, investment banking operations, small business finance, and management. Bob is currently the Director of the Brass Choir at White Memorial Presbyterian Church, a group of which he has been a member since 1999 as a Trombonist. Bob is also a member of the Kiwanis Club of Raleigh. Bob has engaged as a volunteer with Urban Ministries of Wake County, Band Together, Nourish International, Evolve Mentoring, and the American Fire Sprinkler Association Carolinas Chapter. His passion is understanding people's talents, building collaboration, and facilitating synergy among teams and has found ways to do that in business with his coworkers and in much of his volunteer work.

Jacqueline Britt, NC Mutual Life Insurance Company, Board Treasurer

Jacqueline Britt worked for North Carolina  Mutual Life Insurance Company for more than 10 years. She served as the Vice President-Controller/Treasurer. Jacqueline is certified as a Public Accountant for New York State. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Pace University.

Rev. Marilyn Hedgpeth, First Presbyterian Church of Durham, Board Secretary

Originally from Charlotte, NC., Marilyn Hedgpeth has served as Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Durham since 2003.  She and her husband, Hedge, previously served as co-pastors in West Virginia.  They have three grown children and two grandsons.  Marilyn has served on the boards of the FPC Dayschool since 2003, and on the board of Durham's Partnership for Children.  She holds a BA degree from Salem College in Winston-Salem, and an MDiv degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.  Marilyn has been involved in Step-Up Durham since its inception, and enjoys cooking meals for its weekly training sessions.

Dan BrennerRetired Educator

Dan Brenner started his career as a Medical Photographer at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His education career began in 1982 at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, where he taught courses in Commercial Photography, Photo Science and Media. He later went on to teach TV Production, Video and Digital Film Production at Eastern Suffolk BOCES. He was an adjunct Instructor at New York Institute of Technology and Five Towns College. He has an A.A.S  from RIT, a BA from NYIT and a MA from NYIT. In addition to his work with StepUp Durham, he volunteers with Partners for Youth Opportunity. He is the proud grandfather of Ben, Reece, and Zach.

Thelma Thomas, Vice President Market Leader

Thelma Thomas has worked in the banking industry for more then 20 years, most recently with BB&T bank as a Vice President Market Leader.  Thelma has a great passion for volunteering and teaching financial literacy in her local communities.  She studied Biology at Bowie State University. She and her husband live in Creedmoor with their twin boys. 

Diana Nickole Graham, Founder/CEO of DNG Speaks

Diana Nickole Graham (DNG), MPA, MBA, approaches society, United States and abroad, with a desire to aid others in their path to self discovery and success.  Academically earning a Master’s in Business Administration, Master's degree in Public Administration, preceded by a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and an Associate of Arts in General Studies all with Honors. Ms. Graham is honorably discharged from the United States Army North Carolina National Guard and was deployed in 2005 as a Battalion - level Patient Administrator during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Through entrepreneurship DNG continues to serve as a premium serial proprietor and prime federal contractor; her consulting firm, Crowned for Success Global Consulting, LLC focuses on Administration (Virtual Assistant Services), Process Creation / Improvement, and Veteran Advocacy inclusive of extensive trainings and facilitation on numerous subject matters. DNG Speaks, comprised of Coaching, is another company that exist to provide personal effectiveness through development, creating an atmosphere to Be the Best You! Additional fulfillment as Professor Graham at Apex School of Theology via main campus lectures, online instruction, Directed Studies orchestration and facilitation, along with advising and expanding boundaries as Adjutant at North Carolina Wesleyan College, Aspire. DNG is also a published author, her first book is entitled Duly Noted.  This publication is noted as a self-help / improvement for assessing where one is and moving forward. 'It's your life, do something with it.'