Headshot of Cathy. She is smiling softly and is wearing a black blazer, white blouse, and pearls.

Cathy Alston-Kearney ’81

Cathy Alston-Kearney ’81 knows the value of investing in human potential. After all, someone did it for her first. After working for twenty-one years as the executive director of the Warren Family Institute, helping underprivileged families find affordable housing, Cathy now works as the student success director for Warren County Schools and as a pastor for Oak Chapel AME Church in Warrenton, NC. She says her life passion mirrors the mission of the Morehead-Cain Foundation, and in fact the Morehead-Cain alumni network launched her nonprofit career.

“I have always had a firm belief that helping people see their own value and their own potential, and giving them tools by which they can cultivate their gifts, is one of the best investments we can make,” Cathy says. “I enjoy seeing kids, especially, learn and grow and discover their own power. It’s all about building relationships with folks and helping them figure out how to overcome their particular challenges.”

Once, Cathy worked with a young girl in her church congregation who struggled with intellectual developmental challenges. Cathy discovered that the girl had talent in drawing and art, and subsequently gave the girl responsibilities in the design projects the church had underway at that time.

“It was an opportunity for her to shine,” Cathy says.

For Cathy, the Morehead-Cain Scholarship enabled her to pursue her dreams in ways she otherwise would not have been able to.

“I’m not from a wealthy family,” she says. “I lost both my grandparents in my junior and senior years of high school. They’d always instilled in me the expectation and desire to go to college, but how to do that was not as clear. The Morehead lifted that burden, answered that question.”

Cathy says her alternative was to attend community college to earn an associate degree so that she could work and pay her own way through a four-year degree.

“Morehead closed all those doors and opened a big one of opportunity,” she says. “Just having it on my résumé has had an impact on my career choices and opportunities.”

In fact, Cathy’s nonprofit career path started with another Morehead-Cain alumus. Not too long after her graduation from UNC, Cathy saw Robin Britt ’63 give a talk at a statewide conference. Cathy was living in her hometown, Nashville, NC, at the time. She approached Robin after the talk, he invited her to interview for a position his nonprofit was in the process of creating . . . and soon Cathy was living in Greensboro, working for Robin. Her husband’s job took Cathy to Warren County just two years later.

Cathy says it has been years since she’s been back on campus.

“I’m looking forward to connecting with the community of Moreheads, networking, fellowship, hearing where people are and what they’re doing, being inspired by all the good work,” she says of the Forum.

After all, Cathy sees the value of the Morehead-Cain as a catalyst “to connect to a group brought together intentionally because of shared characteristics.”

“The Foundation’s interest in developing leaders with an outward focus and motivation has meant a lot to me,” she says. “Not just an investment in my personal interest but an intentional investment in my growth and development.”

And Cathy pays it forward for others in her work every day. In her free time, though, she has several hobbies that have nothing to do with other people. She loves reading, gardening, story quilting, and home improvement projects.

“I love power tools,” she laughs. “Working with people, those results can be slow to manifest. Having something where you can see some immediate results that you’re responsible for has always been important.”