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The APEX Institute Offers Civil Right Fellows a Platform to Spark Meaningful Change.

The APEX Institute administers a Civic Fellows Program for 8 rising Juniors from Memphis-area colleges and universities each year. The program trains and cultivates the intercollegiate cohort of undergraduate students to address and examine Memphis’ most pressing civil rights challenges.


The Civic Fellows program is conducted over 10 months with the following general outline:

  • Summer Research Institute – 2 months
  • Community Learning Placement – 8 months


Civic Fellows are trained to drive positive change in Memphis and across the Mid-South region. Civic Fellows are inspired to develop actionable policy recommendations and create research-based whitepapers in three of the seven impact areas listed below.

  • Education
  • HealthCare
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Aging
  • Criminal Justice Environment
  • Natural World

The three impact areas of focus for the 2019 cohort are


Board of Directors

We are extremely fortunate and proud to have the guidance, support, and dedication of a wonderful group of individuals that make up our Board of Directors and staff.

Mr. A C Wharton, Jr.


Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. was born on August 17, 1944 in Lebanon, Tennessee. In 1966, he graduated from Tennessee State University with his B.A. degree in political science. Wharton then received his J.D. degree in 1971 from the University of Mississippi School of Law, where he graduated with honors and was one of the first African American students to serve on the Moot Court Board and the first to serve on the Judicial Council.


Dr. Anthony C. Siracusa


Inspired by the challenges left unresolved by the black freedom struggles of the mid-twentieth century, and convinced that Memphis is uniquely poised for a devoted program that encourages fresh perspective and a mix of innovative ideas applied to the seemingly intractable issues facing the city of Memphis and the nation, Dr. Siracusa co-founded Memphis’ first civil rights fellows program. Known for promoting urban initiatives that improve the quality of life for citizens and inspire community engagement, Dr. Siracusa is the...


Ms. Diane Rudner

Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Plough Foundation

Ms. Diane Rudner has been on the board of the Plough Foundation since 1990 and has been chairman since 1997.  She is also a member of the Memphis board of directors for SunTrust Bank. In 1991, she began Insight Associates, which specializes in corporate and strategic planning, primarily for family businesses and partnerships.


Dr. Douglas Scarboro

SVP/Regional Executive at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis - Memphis Branch

Dr. Douglas Scarboro is senior vice president and regional executive of the Memphis Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, serving western Tennessee, northern Mississippi, and eastern Arkansas. Dr. Scarboro is a member of the Diversity and Inclusion, Enterprise Risk Management and Innovation bank-wide committees. Previously, Scarboro served in dual roles with the city of Memphis: executive director of the Office of Talent and Human Capital and chief learning officer.   Dr. Scarboro is active in the Memphis...


Mr. Gary Shorb

Executive Director at The Urban Child Institute

Mr. Gary Shorb is the Executive Director of The Urban Child Institute. Mr. Shorb retired as CEO from Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in 2015. Before his tenure with Methodist, he served as president of the Regional Medical Center in Memphis.   In addition to his work at The Institute, Mr. Shorb also serves on the boards of Shelby Farm Park, the Soulsville Foundation, Crosstown High School, and The University of Memphis Foundation Board, Overton Park Conservancy, and Tennesseans for Early...


Ms. Ruby Wharton

Attorney at The Wharton Law Firm

Attorney Ruby R. Wharton graduated from Boston College Law School in 1969 and began advocating for indigent clients in housing matters working for Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C. Ms. Wharton thereafter served as an assistant public defender in Memphis, Shelby County Tennessee in the Juvenile and Criminal Courts. Ms. Wharton joined the firm of Adams and Wharton as a partner which then became Wharton & Wharton & Associates when A C Wharton Jr. joined as a partner. Ms....



Ms. Éthele S. Hilliard

Counsultant & Executive Director

Éthele S. Hilliard is an accomplished management professional who brings broad experience to the non-profit organization, drawing on her distinguished corporate, management, and consultancy career that includes leadership roles of nonprofit presidency, executive management for a multi-national corporation, and senior management for both major regional and national banking organizations.  She is known for her being an engaging leader with the ability to establish relationships with people at all levels and with diverse backgrounds.    She joined the Apex Institute during its...

Ms. Martha Jackson

Program Director

Martha M. Jackson is an accomplished educator and curriculum specialist who has over ten years’ experience in direct instruction, curriculum design, and cultural diversity.  In January 2019, she joined the Apex Institute and brings passion for innovation and cultural inclusion the organization’s Civil Rights Fellows Program. Martha is a consummate teacher, who known for her ability to motivate and engage teachers in the development and implementation of innovative curriculum designs.  She has a reputation for helping teachers expand their teaching...