top of page
Audience in Lecture






Director, Educating Character Initiative


Wake Forest University


Dr. Beth Purvis has over 33 years of experience in teaching, research, and leadership. Currently, she Directs the Educating Character Initiative (ECI) at the Center for Leadership & Character at Wake Forest University. The ECI awards grants to faculty and institutions, organizes major international conferences on character, and develops new resources that can help others educate character in their own contexts.

Dr. Purvis was a Senior Program Director at the Kern Family Foundation from 2017 to 2023 and served as the Illinois Secretary of Education from 2015 to 2017 where she chaired several councils focused on advocating for high quality education from cradle to career for every child. Most notably, Dr. Purvis chaired a bipartisan commission that produced landmark school funding legislation, providing more adequate and equitable funding for all Illinois children.

Dr. Purvis was CEO of Chicago International Charter School (CICS) from 2003 to 2015, leading growth from six to 16 schools serving 8,800. During her tenure, students attending CICS outperformed their peers in neighboring schools, and 14 of the 16 campuses had significant waiting lists. From 1999 to 2003, Dr. Purvis was an assistant professor of special education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was also a special education teacher and early interventionist in Maryland and Tennessee.

Dr. Purvis earned her undergraduate degree from Bucknell University, her master’s degree from Columbia University, and her Doctorate from Vanderbilt University. A 2012-2014 Broad Academy Fellow and a 2023 Pahara Fellow, she lives in Wisconsin with her family.

bottom of page