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American Eagle Foundation Staff

The AEF is made up of a dedicated staff that cares for Bald Eagles, Hawks, Owls, Vultures, Falcons, and other birds of prey in a variety of ways.
Read our staff bios below to learn more!

Jessica Hall

Executive Director

– with AEF since 2018

About Jessica

“I began my professional career working for a Fortune 500 company that ranks as one of the most admired companies in the world. Over the course of several years there, I developed the skills and values that would define my leadership philosophy – People are the most important part of any organization!

When I heard about an opportunity to combine my passion for people with my natural love of birds, I jumped at the chance to join AEF.

The mission of AEF is compelling but it’s the remarkable team here that inspires me each day with their diligent, heartfelt commitment to these incredible birds of prey!”

Katelyn Dotson

Curator of Ornithology

– with AEF since 2013

About Katelyn

Hello all, I’m Katelyn! I was very fortunate to work with birds of prey at my high school and found them to be such incredible creatures with different personalities. While I always wanted to be a teacher, I pursued a degree in Biology at Western Kentucky University. Throughout college I did several internships, and always found myself back at the doorstep of the American Eagle Foundation. I have been the “revolving door”  at the foundation since 2011 as an intern, seasonal, wildlife program coordinator, intern coordinator, assistant curator and Curator of Ornithology.  I love the mission of AEF and am thrilled to be a part of such an amazing team with such passion for birds of prey and conservation! Please feel free to reach out to me! 

Joanne Cheponis

Business Office Manager

– with AEF since 2001

About Joanne

“I became interested in the American Eagle Foundation through my friend Karen Wilbur and her daughter Danielle, who worked at the AEF. I was invited to volunteer at the American Eagle Festival in the late 90s and I learned more about its cause. A few years later, I was hired as office administrator and have been here ever since. Although my job didn’t bring me in direct contact with the birds, I would often hang around the Wildlife Program Coordinators to learn what I could about the different raptors. I have been living in Tennessee for 25 years with my husband of 38 years and my two daughters, who have both volunteered at the AEF.”

Nancy Zagaya

Rehabilitation Manager / Veterinary Tech

– With AEF since 2011

About Nancy

“I first started working with the American Eagle Foundation in 1995 as a University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine Licensed Veterinary Technician, assisting with annual physicals and care throughout the year. Also permitted as a wildlife rehabilitator that same year, I began caring for injured and orphaned wildlife at my home,with my husband, Tom and my two children, Daniel and Julia. Providing compassionate, up-to-date veterinary nursing care for wildlife has been a priority throughout my thirty-three year LVT career.

Always awestruck by birds of prey, I welcomed the invitation to join the AEF staff in July of 2011, after retiring from my position as the UTCVM Avian, Exotic Animal and Wildlife Clinic Veterinary Technician Supervisor. Graduating from UT College of Nursing the same year I retired, I now share my working hours between the Transitional Care Unit of Ft. Sanders Regional Medical Center and caring for the birds at the American Eagle Foundation. I feel truly blessed to be able to share my passion for nursing in both places.”

Kayla Jackson

Director of Avian Training

– with AEF since 2015

About Kayla

“A native of upstate New York, I graduated from Siena College in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a desire to see the world.  I landed in Alaska where I spent my time working as a Naturalist and animal caretaker at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  My journey with raptors truly began in 2014 when I met my first vulture face to face.  Bob the Egyptian vulture was one of the stars of the Parahawking Project, an initiative based in Pokhara, Nepal that aimed to educate visitors and locals about the plight of Asia’s vulture species. Since leaving Nepal I have developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for birds.  I have also learned a tremendous amount about myself, as you tend to do when you work with any kind of animal.  I have become invested in the training of our raptors as a means to ensure that they have the most rewarding lives they can and that they are able to serve comfortably and effectively as ambassadors for their wild counterparts.  I look forward to sharing our birds with people in new ways and inspiring the next generation of animal enthusiasts and conservationists. It really is a lifestyle.  When I am not hanging out with one of our many incredible birds, you can find me relaxing with my cats, getting lost in a good book, or on the road (or a plane) eager for my next adventure!”

Jenna Penland

Assistant Curator

– with AEF since 2015

About Jenna

I grew up in the small town of Cleveland, Georgia, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Young Harris College. I’ve always been an avid animal lover, but my love for birds began after I discovered AEF’s Northeast Florida nest camera. My interest in birds of prey grew and I decided to apply for an internship at the AEF. I interned during the summer of 2015, and after those amazing three months, I couldn’t stay away. I was hired as a seasonal employee the following summer until I finished school and then was employed as a Wildlife Program Coordinator in 2017. I feel very blessed to get to work with so many beautiful birds every day. I learn more and more about them every single day, and look forward to doing so for many years to come.

Brian Smith

Facilities Assistant

– With AEF since 2019

About Brian
“I was hired to build some temporary bird housing at AEF while the main housing was being renovated.  I fell in love with the employees and more importantly the birds.  Being able to listen to them all day while working is extremely soothing and I get to see them in passing which is a major plus as well.  American Eagle Foundation offered me a job and I was hired on in August of 2019.  I have loved bald eagles since I was a child, where I spent an obscene amount of time at Dollywood riding the rides and most importantly, watching the eagle and the James Rogers shows (because he sang about eagles of course).  I loved both shows and had to watch them every time I went to Dollywood.  I have been in construction for over 25 years.  Building gives me the opportunity to learn something new every day. At home, I am the proud father of three amazing children, who I love dearly.  I’m proud to be their Dad!”

Jessica Hall

Executive Director

– with AEF since 2018

About Jessica

“I began my professional career working for a Fortune 500 company that ranks as one of the most admired companies in the world. Over the course of several years there, I developed the skills and values that would define my leadership philosophy – People are the most important part of any organization!

When I heard about an opportunity to combine my passion for people with my natural love of birds, I jumped at the chance to join AEF.

The mission of AEF is compelling but it’s the remarkable team here that inspires me each day with their diligent, heartfelt commitment to these incredible birds of prey!”

Katelyn Dotson

Curator of Ornithology

– with AEF since 2013

About Katelyn

Hello all, I’m Katelyn! I was very fortunate to work with birds of prey at my high school and found them to be such incredible creatures with different personalities. While I always wanted to be a teacher, I pursued a degree in Biology at Western Kentucky University. Throughout college I did several internships, and always found myself back at the doorstep of the American Eagle Foundation. I have been the “revolving door”  at the foundation since 2011 as an intern, seasonal, wildlife program coordinator, intern coordinator, assistant curator and Curator of Ornithology.  I love the mission of AEF and am thrilled to be a part of such an amazing team with such passion for birds of prey and conservation! Please feel free to reach out to me! 

Joanne Cheponis

Business Office Manager

– with AEF since 2001

About Joanne

“I became interested in the American Eagle Foundation through my friend Karen Wilbur and her daughter Danielle, who worked at the AEF. I was invited to volunteer at the American Eagle Festival in the late 90s and I learned more about its cause. A few years later, I was hired as office administrator and have been here ever since. Although my job didn’t bring me in direct contact with the birds, I would often hang around the Wildlife Program Coordinators to learn what I could about the different raptors. I have been living in Tennessee for 25 years with my husband of 38 years and my two daughters, who have both volunteered at the AEF.”

Nancy Zagaya

Rehabilitation Manager / Veterinary Tech

– With AEF since 2011

About Nancy

“I first started working with the American Eagle Foundation in 1995 as a University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine Licensed Veterinary Technician, assisting with annual physicals and care throughout the year. Also permitted as a wildlife rehabilitator that same year, I began caring for injured and orphaned wildlife at my home,with my husband, Tom and my two children, Daniel and Julia. Providing compassionate, up-to-date veterinary nursing care for wildlife has been a priority throughout my thirty-three year LVT career.

Always awestruck by birds of prey, I welcomed the invitation to join the AEF staff in July of 2011, after retiring from my position as the UTCVM Avian, Exotic Animal and Wildlife Clinic Veterinary Technician Supervisor. Graduating from UT College of Nursing the same year I retired, I now share my working hours between the Transitional Care Unit of Ft. Sanders Regional Medical Center and caring for the birds at the American Eagle Foundation. I feel truly blessed to be able to share my passion for nursing in both places.”

Kayla Jackson

Director of Avian Training

– with AEF since 2015

About Kayla

“A native of upstate New York, I graduated from Siena College in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a desire to see the world.  I landed in Alaska where I spent my time working as a Naturalist and animal caretaker at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  My journey with raptors truly began in 2014 when I met my first vulture face to face.  Bob the Egyptian vulture was one of the stars of the Parahawking Project, an initiative based in Pokhara, Nepal that aimed to educate visitors and locals about the plight of Asia’s vulture species. Since leaving Nepal I have developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for birds.  I have also learned a tremendous amount about myself, as you tend to do when you work with any kind of animal.  I have become invested in the training of our raptors as a means to ensure that they have the most rewarding lives they can and that they are able to serve comfortably and effectively as ambassadors for their wild counterparts.  I look forward to sharing our birds with people in new ways and inspiring the next generation of animal enthusiasts and conservationists. It really is a lifestyle.  When I am not hanging out with one of our many incredible birds, you can find me relaxing with my cats, getting lost in a good book, or on the road (or a plane) eager for my next adventure!”

Jenna Penland

Assistant Curator

– with AEF since 2015

About Jenna

I grew up in the small town of Cleveland, Georgia, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Young Harris College. I’ve always been an avid animal lover, but my love for birds began after I discovered AEF’s Northeast Florida nest camera. My interest in birds of prey grew and I decided to apply for an internship at the AEF. I interned during the summer of 2015, and after those amazing three months, I couldn’t stay away. I was hired as a seasonal employee the following summer until I finished school and then was employed as a Wildlife Program Coordinator in 2017. I feel very blessed to get to work with so many beautiful birds every day. I learn more and more about them every single day, and look forward to doing so for many years to come.

Brian Smith

Facilities Assistant

– With AEF since 2019

About Brian
“I was hired to build some temporary bird housing at AEF while the main housing was being renovated.  I fell in love with the employees and more importantly the birds.  Being able to listen to them all day while working is extremely soothing and I get to see them in passing which is a major plus as well.  American Eagle Foundation offered me a job and I was hired on in August of 2019.  I have loved bald eagles since I was a child, where I spent an obscene amount of time at Dollywood riding the rides and most importantly, watching the eagle and the James Rogers shows (because he sang about eagles of course).  I loved both shows and had to watch them every time I went to Dollywood.  I have been in construction for over 25 years.  Building gives me the opportunity to learn something new every day. At home, I am the proud father of three amazing children, who I love dearly.  I’m proud to be their Dad!”

Kendall Wynant

Avian Care Specialist

– with AEF since 2018

About Kendall

I graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2015, with a degree in Natural Resource Management. During my time in school and after I graduated I worked for Tennessee State Parks doing educational programing as well as caring for and working with various birds of prey and reptiles. My love for birds of prey and educating the public, led me to pursue a job with the American Eagle Foundation. I was hired as an Avian Care Specialist in 2018.

Lindsay Bellaw

Avian Care Specialist

– With AEF since 2020

About Lindsay

“Born and raised in Ohio, I always loved to explore and see the world! I graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with my Bachelor’s in Aquatic Biology in 2014. Straight out of college I was able to intern at a local nature center where I held my first bird, and I haven’t looked back since! In 2015 I was fortunate enough to come to the AEF to intern and was hired on for the winter afterward. The following year I was lucky enough to travel to Alaska and work as a Naturalist at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where I fell in love with moose of all things! I came back to the AEF for the Dollywood Show season. While doing the shows I was given the opportunity to work for Zoo Knoxville as well. In 2019 after leaving Zoo Knoxville, I traveled to St. Louis, working directly with World Bird Sanctuary. After serving there for over 18 months, I received an offer to return to the American Eagle Foundation. I am so glad my journey brought me back, but as you can see it may have been telling me this all along!”

Ashley
Frye

Avian Care Specialist

– With AEF since 2020

About Ashley

“I am from Mason, OH born and raised. I graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a Biological Sciences degree. I found my passion for birds while interning at the Dallas Zoo and working seasonally with the Cincinnati Zoo Bird Show. My passions educating others about birds and wildlife and participating in track and field. In my spare time, I coach the pole vault teams of Sevier County High and the Sevierville Middle School track and field programs.”

Andrea McCravy

Avian Care Specialist

– With AEF since 2020

About Andrea
“My love for raptors began when my dad took me out on the boat and we watched two Bald Eagles fishing together over the Elk River. After learning about the world of raptor conservation and education, I knew I wanted to work with these beautiful birds up close and share my passion for them with others. I transferred to Auburn University in January of 2018 and began volunteering at the Southeastern Raptor Center (SRC) where I worked with a variety of raptors including Auburn’s mascot eagles that fly over the crowds in Jordan-Hare Stadium. My time with the SRC ended in May 2020 after graduating from Auburn University with a degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management. I learned about the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and their summer internship program when I stumbled upon Challenger and his handlers at a Field and Stream grand opening in 2017. I was offered the 2018 summer internship position and loved it so much that I came back as a seasonal employee in the summer of 2019! In June of 2020, I joined the AEF team permanently as a full-time Avian Care Specialist, and this time I don’t have to leave! It feels incredible to work for such an amazing organization that is on the frontlines of wildlife conservation.”

Martha Madigan

Wings of America Show Assistant

– With AEF since 2016

About Martha

I began watching eagles in late 2010 thanks to a friend that sent me a link to a wildlife bald eagle cam.  How fortunate for me because it led me to American Eagle Foundation.  I became a DW mod in 2013 and I’m currently the DW liaison for our educational online chat platform.  I began volunteering at AEF in 2013 working in the barn with the birds.  I loved it so much, my husband and I moved to Tennessee to make it a real job in 2016.  Then I added AEF Staff member to my resume!  I have processed Bird Adoptions, Donations, Memberships and Merchandise orders, been the Volunteer Coordinator for the office and the barn, back up for our Office Manager, given facility tours, assisted in educational programs and helped to coordinate our Annual Chatter Reunions.  My current position is Stage Assistant at our Dollywood “Wings of America” Free-Flying bird show!  I talk to guests from all over the world, ensure our safety protocol is met, help the team with backstage husbandry and enrichment for our birds.  I also act as docent for education between shows.  Hopefully our guests will leave Dollywood loving our birds as much as I do!  It doesn’t get any better then this.  AEF is truly a family that I am grateful to belong to!

Brad
Skinner

Wings of America Presenter / Avian Care Specialist

– with AEF since 2016

About Brad

“I was born and raised in High Point, NC. Graduated from Lees McRae College with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Rehabilitation. Also a Minor in Performing Art Studies. I first fell in love with raptors when I started college in 2011, glove training a Red Tailed Hawk. I then knew I wanted to work with these amazing birds in the future. That’s when I soon joined AEF in 2016, which was the best decision I have ever made. It has been a privilege to show how much passion I have with birds of prey by performing at the Wings of America bird show in Dollywood and educating the public on these beautiful creatures. I bring in my experience to the team at AEF but I’m also eager to expand and cultivate that knowledge in order to better educate the public about these magnificent birds of prey.”

Carly Hamilton

Wings of America Presenter / Avian Care Specialist

– with AEF since 2017

About Carly

“As a proud Ohioan, I graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a Bachelors of Arts in Conservation Education and Zoology. Like many of my coworkers, I discovered that working with birds can be a bit addicting! As a student, I worked for a natural history museum, conducted migratory bird research, and was a volunteer naturalist at the Hueston Woods State Park nature center, where I cared for non-releasable hawks, owls and vultures. After undergrad, I took the opportunity to intern and work at several zoos, such as Cincinnati Zoo, Columbus Zoo, and Birmingham Zoo.Raptors were always my favorite birds to care for, and when the opportunity arose for me to work at AEF, I jumped on it! I now have an amazing job of help care for and train a wide variety of beautiful birds.

Jessie Douglas

Wings of America Presenter / Avian Care Specialist

– with AEF since 2020

About Jesse

“My passion for wildlife started at a very young age. My oldest memory of interacting with wildlife happened when I was three years old. I found a snake at my grandparent’s house and threw a tantrum trying to get my parents to let me play with it. From then on, I made it my life’s goal to work with animals. With wonderful influences like David Attenborough, Steve Irwin, and Jeff Corwin, I learned as much about nature as I could when I was young. I attended Auburn University to pursue further education on animals and how they impact the natural world. In December of 2019, I graduated from Auburn University with a degree in wildlife ecology and management. While in school, I volunteered at the Southeastern Raptor Center and the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center. There, I learned how to care for and educate the public on the importance of birds of prey and reptiles. My time at Auburn was filled with exciting experiences such as teaching kids about how cool snakes are as a spring break camp counselor, flying eagles at football games, and getting to travel across the southeast educating thousands of people about raptors. I am forever grateful that Auburn and my experience at the SRC and KPNC led me to the American Eagle Foundation. I am truly getting to live out my dream as an educator and ambassador for wildlife and the natural world. As all Auburn fans would say, “War Eagle!”

Connor O’Brien

Digital Marketing Specialist

– with AEF since 2017

About Connor

My journey with the AEF began in 2017. For six years prior to joining the AEF team, I worked full time at an animal hospital while acquiring a BS in Biology. While I had intentions to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, I also have a passion for technology. When I received the opportunity to merge those two passions in a position at the AEF I was overjoyed!

I believe I bring a unique perspective to the AEF, and to the conservation and tech industries. In all of my tech-based projects, the animals always come first. Their physical and mental health is the single most important thing for me. By keeping this awareness, our projects reach far greater levels of success. I look forward to a long career here at the AEF and it is my intention to continue to push the boundaries combining technology with biology!

Robyn
Miller

Educational Content Specialist

– with AEF since 2018

About Robyn

“While completing my PhD in literature at Auburn University, I volunteered at the Southeastern Raptor Center (SRC). It was here that my life-long love of raptors metamorphosed from a childhood dream into a passion. During my six years at the SRC, I handled Auburn University’s mascot eagles, participated in the rehabilitation of hundreds of raptors, and trained birds for their education program. My love for raptors shaped my life, inspiring not only my classroom curricula but also my role as a falconer and as a wildlife transporter for the Wildlife Resources and Education Network. In 2013, I toured the American Eagle Foundation for the first time, and it became the standard to which I aspired with my raptor husbandry. I was inspired by that first tour (and subsequent visits) to join their highly dedicated staff as an Avian Care Specialist in 2018. It is a blessing to be a part of the AEF family and a privilege to care for our avian residents. I hope to share my partnership with raptors as a force for good, inspiring a passion for avian conservation in the hearts of generations to come.”

Ryan
Chamberlain

Digital Content Creator

– With AEF since 2019

About Ryan

“I have lived in East Tennessee for most of my life. I would spend my Summers going to Dollywood where I saw the Wings of America show, put on by the AEF, for the first time. It didn’t take long to fall in love with these beautiful animals, especially the mesmerizing owls! I began my college career at Pellissippi State as a marketing major. After helping a friend with a short film she was working on, I became enraptured by all aspects of the behind the scenes world of making videos and changed majors to video production. When the opportunity presented itself to use my passion for video production and my background in marketing to work around the AMAZING creatures I fell in love at Dollywood, I was thrilled. I’m the happiest when I am behind the camera filming these beautiful birds of prey!”

Crystal Slusher

Webmaster / Webcam Coordinator

– With AEF since 2014

About Crystal

“My passion for Bald Eagles began in 2008. I immersed myself in anything and everything I could read about these magnificent creatures. I traveled to observe them in the wild, visited rehab centers, attended Bald Eagle releases, and taken several courses on raptor rehab, husbandry, falconry and training. I discovered the AEF in 2012 after tragedy struck my favorite cam site in 2011. I fell in love with Franklin and Independence instantly but even more so after reading their stories. I remember thinking the AEF chat room was the friendliest I had ever witnessed—it was like a family and they made me feel like family too. I love working for the foundation because it encompasses everything I value—preservation, rehabilitation, conservation and education about Bald Eagles and other birds of prey.”

Macey Cate

Wings of America Presenter / Avian Care Specialist

– with AEF since 2020

About Macey

I’m Macey, I was born and raised right here in East Tennessee. Ever since I was a child I knew I wanted to work with animals, so I graduated from Pellissippi State with an associates in science. I started working at Zoo Knoxville as an educator when I was 17, teaching about conservation and wildlife became my passion. I loved all the program animals I worked with, but the birds of prey were my favorite. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to work with AEF and educate tomorrow’s leaders about wildlife conservation. 

Cheryl Wilkins

Assistant Office Manager

– with AEF since 2020

About Cheryl

My history with the AEF began in 2001 when I first volunteered at the age 12, assisting in the barn with the everyday care of the birds.  I have been fascinated with raptors and the mission of AEF ever since. When I was in high school, I was hired on as a part time seasonal employee in the administrative office.  I am honored to now call AEF my full-time employer.  I have lived in East Tennessee most of my life, and I have no plans of leaving. The Smokies truly has my heart. Even though I do not work closely with the birds, I have a passion for wildlife and nature, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with this amazing organization.

American Eagle Foundation Board of Directors

With a passion for wildlife and a dedication to service, the American Eagle Foundation Board of Directors bring unique and invaluable skill sets that support the AEF Operational Staff. Read our Board bios below to learn more!

Jim Marietta

Board President

– on Board since 1985

About Jim
“From the start I loved the vision for the American Eagle Foundation. Being a director on the board for so many years has always been an honor. Being close to such an awesome creature is indescribable! It’s my pleasure to serve our national symbol and hope for many more years.”

John Stokes

Board Vice President

– on Board since 2018

About John

John Stokes began his professional career in 1977 as a Bird Keeper at the Memphis Zoo. He started the Memphis Zoo Raptor Rehab Program in 1978. In 1979, he became an Apprentice Falconer (and eventually became a Master-rated Falconer). Also in 1979, he was promoted to Assistant Curator of Birds. In 1986, John took a job in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee as the Director of Wildlife for the Cumberland Wildlife Foundation. Here he supervised the rehab of hundreds of native raptors and other wildlife and conducted several hundred educational programs per year. In late 1989, The Cumberland Wildlife Foundation merged with the National Foundation to Protect America’s Eagles (now the American Eagle Foundation) and in early 1991, relocated to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Dollywood. From 1991 to 2002, John served as the Edutainment Director and wrote the script, trained birds and employees. and conducted the Wings of America Birds of Prey Show at Dollywood and at schools, state parks and civic groups. He also oversaw the very successful captive breeding and release program for Bald and Golden Eagles and Barn Owls.

In September of 2002, John relocated to Santa Barbara, California where he served as the Lead Keeper of Birds at the Santa Barbara Zoo. In July 2004, John and his wife Dale Kernahan moved to Trenton, Georgia and began working for Doris Mager and Save Our American Raptors, a 501(c)3 organization. In May 2005, they began the Rock City Raptors presentation at See Rock City above Chattanooga, Tennessee, which continues today. They have also conducted hundreds of programs at schools, state parks and civic groups. They also started a Peregrine Falcon release program at Rock City. In November of 2012, with Doris’ blessings, founded Wings To Soar, a 501(c)3 organization and continue to conduct educational programs around the region.

Courtney Lewis

 

– on Board since 1990s

About Courtney

“Down on the bayou at the tail end of the Mississippi River in a little town called New Orleans in 1954, I entered the world. Moving to the island of Key West, Florida in 1967 with my family, I grew up with a deep loving respect for nature, art, and music. After going to school to study Forestry in Lake City, Florida, I moved to Nashville summer of 1974 pursuing other interest in music and business. I met Al Cecere and his family in 1983 and became lifelong friends. During this time, Al shared his dream and vision to form a non-profit organization for the purpose of saving and preserving the American Eagle and other birds of prey. The dream and vision of Al Cecere became my own, as I was asked by Al and the AEF board to serve alongside them in 1990. Humbly accepting, impassioned with a heart to serve the AEF in this noble mission, I have considered it a true honor and privilege to join Al Cecere and the AEF board in the challenges that we face, the commitment of a “Pursuit of Excellence” in our organization, in preserving and sustaining “The Vision” as well as seeking new visions for the AEF instilled with a Divine Purpose for the promotion, awareness, preservation and protection of the American Eagle as well as other birds of prey. To God be the Glory.”

James Rogers

 

– on Board since 2016

About James

James Rogers has combined his musical talent and his love for eagles into a long-standing and valued relationship with the American Eagle Foundation.

In 1983, James won the National Mountain Music Festival at Silver Dollar City in Pigeon Forge, TN, launching a successful career in music.

Through years of working with the corporation, he won the respect and friendship of the Dollywood Company, who became his business partners in Music Mansion in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee from 1993 – 1998. During this time, James Rogers and Company (as the huge production show was called) earned the title of “the number one most attended show in the Smokies.” His 2000 seat, multi- million-dollar theater received worldwide acclaim. Their performances won several awards, including the Peoples’ Choice Award for “BEST SHOW” 1997 and 1998, “BEST THEATER” 1996, 1997, and 1998, and “BEST ENTERTAINER” 1997 and 1998.

In 1984, James read an article in The Tennessean about an ‘Adopt an Eagle’ project—allowing country stars to name Eaglets released by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA). James had recently written the State of Tennessee Bicentennial Song called Fly Eagle Fly so he was very interested in finding out more.

A relationship was thus formed between James and the National Foundation to Protect America’s Eagles (NFPAE). Al Cecere, president & CEO of the Foundation, asked James to share his vision for an Eagle center at Dollywood and to ask for his help in setting up a meeting with Dollywood. In 1990 James introduced Al to Ken Bell, Executive VP of The Dollywood Company. As a result of that meeting, a long-term partnership was formed between NFPAE (later becoming AEF) and Dollywood.

James also wrote and recorded Save the Eagle as a benefit song for the American Eagle Foundation. Collaborating stars included Lee Greenwood, Ricky Skaggs, Tanya Tucker, Deborah Allen, Deanna Carter, Ricky Lynn Gregg, Joy White and The Oak Ridge Boys. When Challenger Flies,  his song for the American Eagle Foundation, has had millions of hits on YouTube.

Prior to performing in open-air stadiums, Bald Eagle Challenger got lots of experience flying during the James Rogers show at the Music Mansion Theatre in Pigeon Forge.

In sharing the vision of the American Eagle Foundation, James will endeavor to assist the Foundation in supporting its mission of “Keeping America’s Eagles Flying Strong & Free.”

Dr. Michael Jones

DVM

– on Board since 2018

About Dr. Jones
Dr. Jones is Professor, Avian and Zoological Medicine, Director of Student Services, Diversity, and Recruitment at the University of Tennessee School of Veterinary Medicine. He is a member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, the North American Falconer’s Association, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, and the Raptor Research Foundation. Since the 90s, he and his staff have seen to all the medical needs of the raptors cared for by the American Eagle Foundation, and perform yearly checkups for all our birds.

Jason Boothe

 

– on Board since 2018

About Jason

As Dollywood’s Vice President of Operations, I am honored to have partnered with the American Eagle Foundation throughout my 25+ years with the company. The beauty of these majestic birds and the dedication of the AEF to the preservation of the American Bald Eagle is truly world class. To know generations to come will be educated and have the opportunity to witness a Bald Eagle take flight makes it even more exciting to be a part of this. Again, I could not be more proud to be a part of the American Eagle Foundation, an organization that represents all Americans!

Frank Bass III

 

– on Board since 2018

About Frank

Frank is Principal, Vice President and Director at Lee, Danner & Bass, Inc. Investment Counsel. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with dual majors in economics and English. Prior to joining the firm, Frank was a commercial officer in the Private Banking Division of SunTrust Bank. He is a current member of the CFA Institute and was awarded the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 2003.

Frank says, “Over the years, I have always had a great amount of respect for the American Eagle Foundation’s mission. Therefore, I will work diligently to help advance the cause of protecting and preserving the Bald Eagle and other birds of prey through education, re-population, conservation, and rehabilitation.”

Sally Moorer

 

– on Board since 2018

About Sally

Sally is a resident of Southwestern Virginia. She holds a master’s degree in education (M.A.Ed.) from Emory & Henry College and is a National Board Certified Teacher. Sally retired in 2013, but was employed as an elementary school teacher at Marion Primary School for 40 years. During her tenure, she was awarded many accolades including Virginia Tech Excellence in Education Award, Evergreen Soil and Water Conservation Teacher of the Year, Marion Primary Teacher of the Year, Smyth County Teacher of the Year, and Virginia Region VII Teacher of the Year.  In addition to her regular duties at school, she implemented a school wide “Discovery Day” (in 1996) designed to raise awareness and appreciation of our natural resources. This is when she first became involved with the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) by inviting James Rogers to Marion Primary School to perform “Fly, Eagle Fly” and “Save the Eagle.”

Since then, her partnership has grown to bring American Eagle Foundation board members and staff to our rural community to educate them about the Foundation’s mission.  This partnership has garnered a collective community effort to support education and conservation of the American Bald Eagle and other birds of prey, including: local businesses helping sponsor school field trips to Dollywood to participate in the birds of prey show; bringing the birds of prey show to our community several times; adopting Challenger and other AEF eagles with money raised by the schools, and flying some of the adopted eagles at events in our community. Sally has also authored two books “Fly, Eagle Fly” and “Born To Be”, both of which chronicle stories related to the American Eagle Foundation. She is also a member of the Lincoln Theatre Board of Directors, where the AEF and Challenger have presented programs, including a kickoff for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for Smyth County. Sally resides in Marion, VA with her husband Glenn and their close knit family.   Sally has two children, daughter Ginny and son Matthew alongside her daughter in law Ashley and granddaughter Madison.

Sally is honored by the opportunity to be part of the dedicated team committed to the mission of the American Eagle Foundation.

Rain Moore

 

– on Board since 2020

About Rain

Rain Moore was born to a Shawnee/Kituwah (Cherokee) mother and Cherokee/Shawnee father. In his early years, he was taught to respect nature and all that was encompassed within it.  These teachings helped to foster a deep, abiding love for his culture and heritage.  After learning the traditional dances of his tribal people, he started performing and later become a Smoke Dancer.  This exposed him to the greater Native American community, and he began working with many Indigenous Rights groups, including the Tanasi organization, which was vital in bringing A.I.M. (American Indian Movement) into Tennessee and Western North Carolina.  

Rain become a cultural adviser in his early 20’s and has continued working to educate those who show interest in keeping Native American culture alive. In 2012, his expertise led to work in Hollywood as a Native American cultural advisor.  As an active member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild), Rain works to ensure accurate representation of Native American culture in films, television shows and other media.

In addition to his work as a cultural representative for his people, Rain alongside his brother Owl, have spent the past 13 years organizing and hosting Native American events and powwows within their community.  These events include demonstrations held by Rain where he creates artisan, Native American crafts and tools.  Being of service to his community is of vital importance to Rain, who is also a decorated firefighter. Rain holds a lieutenant rank and served during the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires.

Now, supporting the American Eagle Foundation, Rain has the distinction and privilege of utilizing his voice to speak for the eagles, hawks and other birds of prey that play a significant role in Native American culture and spirituality.

“I am humbled. I feel that this is the greatest honor. I believe this opportunity to serve these birds, to protect them and preserve their habitats is my future and that is the ultimate Eagle feather.” 

  • Rain Moore

Lindsay Rogers

– on Board since 2020

About Lindsay

Lindsay grew up at the Jersey Shore where she discovered an early fascination for marine and coastal wildlife. She attended the College of Charleston and earned a degree in biology with a concentration in animal behavior. During her summers back at home she worked at Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Pt. Pleasant, NJ. Her first internship after college was at The Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo, FL where she cared for rescued, rough-toothed dolphins that had mass stranded earlier that year. It was here she found a love for rescue, rehabilitation and release.

 

Lindsay began a career in zookeeping at the Staten Island Zoo in New York. From there she moved on to the TN Aquarium in Chattanooga where she performed educational programs as an Animal Encounter Specialist, teaching the public about the importance of an animals’ role within their ecosystem and the need for conservation. Her career also led her to Namibia, Africa where she provided daily care for a number of endangered species at a wildlife sanctuary. It was with each of these positions that she found a common purpose, the need for conservation and the importance of education.

 

Lindsay now lives in the greater Nashville area with her husband Justin and their two sons. They recently moved to a home on a lake to be closer to the water and nature. In their own backyard they see an array of native animals as well as a variety of water birds including osprey, American white pelicans and of course the ever majestic bald eagle.

 

Lindsay first learned of the American Eagle Foundation in 2008 when she had the opportunity to go on a behind the scenes tour to meet the amazing birds of prey and the incredible staff who cared for them. She has since been an enthusiastic supporter of their mission and is honored to be a part of the American Eagle Foundation and their incredible journey.