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Friends Conference is proudly sponsored by:


Keynote Speaker Tom Earnhardt


Tom Earnhardt


Tom Earnhardt is a graduate of Davidson College (where he was Student Body President) and UNC School of Law. He is an attorney with experience in government as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant Secretary of NC Department of Administration. Working with Attorney General Robert Morgan, Tom was one of the first attorneys to work for North Carolina in the "new" area of Environmental Law in 1971. In Governor James Holshouser's administration he worked with Secretary William Bondurant to protect the New River and to purchase much of the land that is now part of Cape Lookout National Seashore. Earnhardt also worked in the corporate arena (in-house Counsel for Fieldcrest Mills, Inc.), and in private practice with the Goldsboro law firm of Taylor, Allen, Warren and Kerr. Finally, Tom had over 20 years in the classroom, and retired as a full professor. At North Carolina Central University School of Law he taught Property, Business Associations, and Environmental Law. 

In Earnhardt’s “other life” he has been, and continues to be, an avid naturalist and advocate for the natural and cultural resources of North Carolina. Tom is a keen observer, writer and photographer of wild things and places. He admits that on most trips he also packs a flyrod and that flyfishing has served as a convenient excuse to visit some of the most beautiful watery destinations in North Carolina and beyond. His conservation-related travel and speaking engagements have taken him across North America, the British Isles, Europe, and Asia--including Russia and China. Tom has been a keynote speaker at many environmental, regulatory, civic, parks, and science organizations over the years. In October, 2017 Earnhardt delivered the annual Caldwell Lecture for the North Carolina Humanities Council titled: “The Humanities and Nature: An Intimate Relationship.”

Over the past 15 years Tom has criss-crossed North Carolina researching, writing and co-producing some 80 episodes of the natural science television series, Exploring North Carolina (SEE BELOW). Earnhardt also completed a book of essays on the natural history of North Carolina for the University of North Carolina Press (released in April, 2013) titled, Crossroads of the Natural World.

Tom has served on the boards of major education and conservation organizations including: The Nature Conservancy (state), Trout Unlimited (national), North Carolina Wildlife Federation (state), Audubon North Carolina, the Friends of North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (President, 2009-2011), and the North Carolina Botanical Garden Foundation (President, 2014-2016). He currently serves on the board of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, is a member of the “North Caroliniana Society” and serves on the Executive Committee of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Society. Earnhardt also works with the Dix Park Legacy Committee to ensure that North Carolina’s botanical diversity is on display throughout the 300 acre park. In February 2018, Tom was reappointed by Governor Roy Cooper to serve as chairperson of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Advisory Commission. 

Earnhardt has received numerous awards for his work with cultural and natural resources, including the Governor’s Award as “North Carolina Conservationist of the Year” in 1994. In 2004 he received Audubon's “Honorary Warden Award” for protection and preservation of bird habitats. For Earnhardt's work with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and for championing natural resources, he received the “Order of the Longleaf Pine” in 2011. In 2016, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Tom received the Ney Landrum Park History Award (for best park history or documentary) from the National Association of State Park Directors, for his one-hour documentary: “Saving the Best – North Carolina State Parks at 100.” In October 2016, he received the “Flora Caroliniana” award for habitat restoration and protection from UNC CH North Carolina Botanical Garden (given only four other times in the last 50 years). In January, 2017 Tom received the "Locke Craig Award" from North Carolina State Parks for "dedication to public service and commitment to conservation." Finally, Earnhardt was named the 2017 recipient of the "Herbert H. Brimley Award" from the North Carolina Museum of Natural

 for his advancement of natural resources and science education and was 2018 Recipient of the “Pelican Award” from the North Carolina Coastal Federation

The UNC-TV (Public Television) television series, Exploring North Carolina (ENC), which highlights natural resources of North Carolina and the Southeast, has been nominated for Emmy Awards five times. It has consistently been one of the highest-rated programs on UNC TV as it celebrates North Carolina's rich cultural and natural history from the Outer Banks to the Tennessee border. In 2010, 24 episodes of ENC were made available to North Carolina public schools, with a special grant from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. In 2015, 53 episodes (approximately 80 produced thus far) were included in the "North Carolina Collection" at Wilson Library at UNC-CH, and will soon be available online. Recently, Tom donated to the North Carolina State Archives his personal collection of over 125,000 photographs documenting landscapes, rivers, small towns, and biodiversity from every region of North Carolina. 

Tom lives in Raleigh with his wife Dana Jennings, a women’s issues activist. Their son, Izaak, is a student at Duke Law School. Their daughter, Rachel, is a recent graduate of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.

Dwayne Patterson

Director of the Division of State Parks and Recreation

New Director of the Division of State Parks and Recreation Dwayne Patterson brings extensive leadership experience in the operational realm to DNCR. Immediately prior to joining our staff he was executive director for CREST, a regional non-profit agency that serves intellectually and developmentally disabled adults. Dwayne Patterson understands the important role that parks and trails play in improving health and quality of life, and will work to expand access to parks throughout North Carolina, especially among children.

Other significant positions held by Patterson include chief financial officer of DNCR, chief deputy secretary for the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, chief financial officer for the Warren and Durham county public school systems, and director of operations for the Museum of Life and Science in Durham.

He was raised in Kinston and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in accounting from N.C. State University.

Carol Tingley
Chief Deputy Director of NC State Parks

MS, Biology – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Carol Tingley has worked with the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation since 1986 and currently serves as Chief Deputy Director.  With a background in biology, her career in the State Parks System started in the field of natural resource management. Her responsibilities grew to include planning, land protection, trails, grants, facility construction and administration.  She guided the system’s New Parks for a New Century initiative and has helped establish numerous new state parks, state natural areas, and state trails.  She also guides administration of the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and its local grant program, and currently leads the administrative programs of the division.


Friends of State Parks, Inc.
PO Box 37655
Raleigh, NC  27627
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Friends of State Parks, Inc. is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax identification number 58-1634155) under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

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