Campbell Law Dean Emerita Melissa Essary honored as ‘Raleigh Woman of Change’

Photo of Melissa Essary

RALEIGH — Campbell Law School Dean Emerita and Professor Melissa Essary is among 10 women who were recognized as a “Raleigh Woman of Change” by the Friends of the City of Raleigh (COR) Museum at an inaugural event on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

Essary was recognized for being the first woman to lead the law school as dean and for her efforts in moving Campbell Law School from the main campus in Buies Creek to Raleigh in 2009. She is also involved in numerous volunteer positions in the community, regionally and nationally.

“We stand here today on the shoulders of the women who have come before us who have been the impetus for change,” she told the crowd of supporters gathered at the private reception at the museum. “I am so honored to be a member of this amazing group of women who are being recognized tonight.” 

One of the current exhibits on view at the museum is “Women of Change: The Legacy of the 19th Amendment,” and it chronicles the quests for equal suffrage in 1920 and what women did with the vote over the next century. 

“Today we are honoring women of change in Raleigh who have made our community a better place,” explained Becky Holmes, a member of the Friends of COR executive board. “Congratulations to our 2021 Women of Change. A permanent plaque will be installed at the museum bearing the names of our inaugural class of women leaders.” 

In addition to Essary, the other honorees are:

Gina Stephens, publisher of Raleigh Magazine

Maggie Kane, executive director of A Place at the Table

Dr. Paulette Dillard, president and CEO of Shaw University

Megan Cain, create and owner of the ZEN Succulent

Angela Thorpe, director of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission

Nancy McFarlane, former mayor of the City of Raleigh

Sabrina Goode, executive director of Friends of Oberlin Village

Sophia Woo, managing director of District C

Angela Salamanca, chef and activist and owner of Centro restaurant

The finalists were nominated by the public and voted on by the Friends of COR Board members. A reception was held at the museum followed by a dinner at Cafe Luna, one of the sponsors of the event. Other sponsors included Campbell Law School, Weaver Street Market, Dix Park Conservancy, United Restaurant Equipment and North State Bank.


Since its founding in 1976, Campbell Law has developed lawyers who possess moral conviction, social compassion, and professional competence, and who view the law as a calling to serve others. Among its accolades, the school has been recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) as having the nation’s top Professionalism Program and by the American Academy of Trial Lawyers for having the nation’s best Trial Advocacy Program. Campbell Law boasts more than 4,300 alumni, who make their home in nearly all 50 states and beyond. In 2021, Campbell Law is celebrating 45 years of graduating legal leaders and 12 years of being located in a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of North Carolina’s Capital City.