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The Special Event Company Team

Our team comprises talented producers with expertise across all meeting and event disciplines. With various backgrounds in design, technology, marketing, A/V, video production, webcasting, strategic planning and finance, each member brings their experience, creativity and drive to deliver outstandingly successful programs for our clients. With over 30 years of experience producing award-winning programs across the globe, we have been recognized with 40 international awards, with Special Events magazine naming us one of the Top 50 Global Event Companies in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Sally Webb Berry, CSEP

Sally Webb Berry, CSEP

Chief Executive Officer

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Sally formed the company in 1987 originally in London, England then moved to the US in 2005. Over the past three decades, she has produced events in over 30 countries throughout Europe, USA, Africa, South America and Asia.

Her personal accolades include International Event Producer of the Year by Event Solutions Magazine, Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Live Events Association (ILEA), Business Leader Magazines Top 50 Women Extraordinaire Award,  Special Event Magazines Top 25 Greatest Industry Influencers of the past 25 years. In 2018 she was the recipient of the Special Events Industry Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to the Special Event Industry.

Sally is the founder of AEP, Academic Event Professional Conference, now in its 15th year and she chaired the Special Event Industry Certification (CSEP) examination restructure committee. She is a founding board member of Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend’s Teen Cancer America organization.

She lives in Cary, NC with her husband Grant Berry, who is a professional caddie on the PGA Tour.

Susan Fishel, CPA

Susan Fishel, CPA

President

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Susan joined the Special Event Company in 2015 as Chief Operating Officer and was promoted to President in 2021.  Her exceptional leadership and financial knowledge has been key to the growth of our Company as our markets continue to grow, change, and evolve. 

Susan began her career with KPMG as a Certified Public Accountant and has held leadership positions in several industries including events and tradeshows, financial institutions, non-profits and more for the last 30+ years.  Her expertise extends across business strategies, organizational development, operations, corporate finance and employee enrichment.  Her dedication and enthusiasm to our team is contagious and strives to make The Special Event Company the best it can be. 

Hunter S. Gray

Hunter S. Gray

Vice President

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Hunter Gray has more than 20 years of communications and event production experience across U.S. and international markets serving a diverse client base. Since 2010, he has worked with The Special Event Company as Creative Director, Chief Strategy Officer and most recently Vice President. His strong background in communications and video production served to lead TSEC’s mid-pandemic-transition from primarily live events to virtual communications. Hunter was instrumental in the design and fabrication of a custom 5,000 square foot studio space which now serves our customers creative and communication needs.  The resulting effort has expanded  business offerings, providing a full-service event and communication solution while also serving as our new corporate headquarters.

Sara Ellis

Sara Ellis

Director of Finance

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Sara Ellis has a background in business policy and procedure and more than fifteen years of experience in the event industry, including eleven with The Special Event Company. In Sara’s role as Director of Finance, her primary responsibilities include preparing client and vendor contracts, creating, maintaining and reconciling program budgets, and managing company financials. Before joining TSEC, Sara got started in the events industry with pharmaceutical meeting planning and charity events while traveling with the PGA Tour. Sara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Heels!!) and is a native of Dunn, N.C.

Ciara Connolly

Ciara Connolly

Director of Operations

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Ciara Connolly joined The Special Event Company as the Director of Operations, with over 23 years of global experience in building and creating event management teams. As a seasoned and award-winning events professional, Ciara’s background includes operational excellence and best practices. Ciara was previously based in NYC and London, and locally with BASF Corporation for eight years in RTP. 

Lee Branscome

Lee Branscome

Director of Business Development

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Lee Branscome brings years of executive business development experience and has garnered multiple awards for revenue production throughout his career. As Director of Business Development, Lee will create new business opportunities for The Special Event Company by fostering valuable relationships in the business community.

Lee graduated from Chowan University in 2012 as a 4-year letterman on the Men’s Basketball Team and has lived in Raleigh since 2016 with his Fiancé’, Alyssa.

Keri Gloth

Keri Gloth

Executive Producer

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Keri Gloth, the Immediate Past President of ILEA Raleigh Durham, is a passionate and energetic Executive Producer here at The Special Event Company, bringing 12+ years of experience to our team and our clients.
Keri thrives on empowering teams, leading event strategies and processes, building trust with clients to help create the most
memorable, authentic, and engaging experiences, and making a positive impact on everyone around her.

Keri was born and raised at the Jersey Shore and is a proud alumnus and former cheerleader of Coastal Carolina University. Go Chants! She currently resides in Raleigh, NC with her husband, super fun two-year old son, and their two labs.

What else gets Keri up in the morning?! Peloton and fitness, being outside, college football on Saturdays, a good kitchen dance party, leadership and motivational-focused books or podcasts, tracking sharks via the Ocearch App (don’t knock it ‘til you try it!), traveling, and of course, making memories with her beautiful family and friends.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” -Jennifer Lee

Tracy Adams

Tracy Adams

Executive Producer

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With 20+ years of experience in the events industry, Tracy brings a level of detail to planning meetings and events that are unmatched. Tracy excels in asking the right questions and getting clients to open up about their programming needs; she leaves no stone unturned. To Tracy, the details always matter!

Having owned her own social event planning company for several years, transitioning to the corporate world was a challenge for which she was ready. As Executive Producer, Tracy plans multiple programs simultaneously, including budgeting, sourcing, coordination, organizational/communication skills, and leading teams. Tracy is versed in live and virtual events with any level of client she’s assigned, including executives and senior management. Tracy has been called the “one who gets things done.”
Tracy hails from OH and is a graduate of Bowling Green State University (Go Falcons!) and has called NC home for the last 25 years. She and her husband are huge foodies and can be found checking out new and exciting area restaurants during their downtime.

Joy Matheny

Joy Matheny

Senior Producer and Marketing Manager

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Joy thrives on building meaningful relationships with our clients. Her 15 years of experience have provided her with a solid relationship, organizational and communication skills. She enjoys telling stories, crafting messages, and seeing a detailed event come to life – from content to décor and entertainment to overall experience. In her role as Senior Producer and Marketing Manager, she can leverage her passion for marketing and communications through the development and execution of experiential events while showcasing the team’s involvement and execution.

A proud native of Cary, Joy is a graduate of the Queen’s University of Charlotte, where she studied corporate communication with a concentration in studio art. Before joining The Special Event Company, she provided strategic thinking and oversight for a PR firm on projects and accounts by writing, pitching media, and providing direction and execution on social media.

She also worked for a private business and social club, planning and executing their member events and managing the Club’s marketing and communication efforts.

In her free time, Joy enjoys spending time with her French Bulldog, Butterbean, travelling to places with turquoise blue waters, enjoying a good country music concert and exploring the ever-growing foodie scene in the Triangle.

 Heather Blanken, CMP

Heather Blanken, CMP

Senior Producer

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Heather comes to us with a wealth of agency, non-profit and corporate experience working with various organizations, such as ProQuest, GlaxoSmithKline, NC Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Syngenta. She has managed continuing education conferences, tradeshows, media summits, receptions, product launches and milestone corporate and association celebrations.

Heather has 20 years of experience working with both the development and creative design aspects of projects. Most recently, she was the Senior Producer for an alumni celebration for Princeton University and the Academic Event Professional Conference, bringing together planners from universities across the country for the most successful conference in its 15-year history.

Heather is a North Carolina native and holds a BA in Journalism from Elon University. She lives in Cary with her husband and twin daughters.

Maryann Smith

Maryann Smith

Associate Producer

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Maryann Smith joined The Special Event Company in August of 2022 with 20 plus years of progressive experience in the food and beverage industry. As the food and beverage specialist, Maryann brings experience in organizing food and beverage and an excellent knowledge of food allergens and food safety guidelines. She is Serv Safe Certified and Fare Check Food Allergy Certified.

Maryann was raised in Cary, North Carolina and moved to Raleigh to attend North Carolina State University. She graduated Cum Laude from NC State (Go Wolfpack) with a degree in Public and Interpersonal Communication and a minor in Anthropology. After college Maryann moved on to planning weddings and large corporate events for a Chapel Hill based restaurant group. In 2014, she was hired to a high-end sector of Compass Group, Flik Hospitality, where she was contracted as the Catering Director for a large corporate portfolio. There she spent eight years as a trusted partner in planning large corporate events and catering for the portfolio.

Matt Arnold

Matt Arnold

Associate Producer

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Matt is a relative newcomer to the event world. He has worked as a contractor on events for the last few years and decided to move full-time into the event world, joining TSEC as a Producer starting in 2022. He is a high-energy worker who performs on task no matter the job size. He volunteers at Chapel Hill High School as a mentor for FIRST Robotics team 4829, the Titanium Tigers. He mentors business development and strategy students and helps develop community relations and business sponsorships. Matt is an avid sports fan. In his free time, he enjoys playing and watching almost any sport.
Hampton Short

Hampton Short

AV Technician and Systems Engineer

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Hampton has a diverse background in production in Recording Studios, TV broadcasts, Live Events, Musical Theater, Virtual Events, Hybrid Events, and Esports productions. He is continually working on his depth of knowledge in Audio, Video, and Networking. He looks forward to working in the changing landscape of clients’ production needs, pushing for innovation and new experiences.

Carolyn A. Ent

Carolyn A. Ent

Academic Sales Consultant

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Carolyn is an academic event professional highly skilled at planning and executing events that align with public and private universities with expertise in determining ROI for the institution. Adept at turning ideas into action, as director of development special events for Duke University, she created and produced events supporting the “Campaign for Duke,” from kickoff, high-end donor relations events to the finale.

She served as director of events in the campaign office at Cornell University, producing the kickoff event for the university’s $4 billion campaign, “Far Above – The Campaign for Cornell,” which won a Circle of Excellence award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

During the last fifteen years as the Director of Presidential Events at Elon University, she designed and managed all aspects of Elon’s Presidential Inauguration Week (2018-2019), including numerous farewell events for the outgoing President and welcoming events for the new President.

Carolyn has served as a Board Member of the International Live Events Association – Triangle Chapter in North Carolina and holds an Event Management Certification from the George Washington University School of Business and Public Management.

Steve Whyte

Steve Whyte

Academic Sales Consultant

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Steve has spent the last 36 years in the Special Event Industry. For many years, he owned a special event production company focused on producing large festivals, concerts, and corporate and non-profit events. Steve was Director of University Events and Ceremonies at his alma mater, the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, from 2006 until he retired in 2022.

There, he produced events for donors and alumni, galas, groundbreakings and building dedications, presidential inaugurations, commencements, convocations, events for prospective students, heads of state and visiting dignitaries, fundraisers, homecomings, conferences, and live internet virtual programs. Branding, messaging, storytelling, clear outcomes, meeting ROI goals and treating every event as a business are hallmarks of a successful business. Steve graduated from the Protocol School of Washington, earning the Protocol Officer Certificate.

Karen Cochran, CFRE

Karen Cochran, CFRE

Strategic Partner, Philanthropy Innovators

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A seasoned event strategist and sought-after expert on higher education and healthcare philanthropy, leadership development, and innovative solutions, Karen S. Cochran, CFRE, is the founder and chief philanthropic innovator for consulting group Philanthropy Innovators. After leading and mentoring teams that have directly raised more than $1 billion during her three-decade career, Cochran launched Philanthropy Innovators to help organizations reimagine what’s possible in fundraising and advancement.

Cochran worked with the Duke team that delivered the inaugural Coach K/Fuqua School of Business Leadership Conference—and led the team that created the Duke MBA International Retreats. These global retreats, held in key international cities, galvanized business school alums and strengthened the Fuqua brand by featuring highly sought-after faculty and industry leaders. In addition, she served in multiple leadership roles at the Duke Cancer Institute. She secured the largest single-family donation in the organization’s history—a cumulative $34.5 million that transformed brain tumor research and patient care. Cochran also provided vision and leadership for the institute’s $200-million comprehensive campaign spanning seven years.

Today, Cochran specializes in organizational strategy, innovative practices, and leadership development to help teams reimagine what’s possible in higher education and the non-profit sector.

Grant Berry

Grant Berry

Golf Event Strategist

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Grant Berry is a leading PGA Tour caddie, having worked for over 70 golf pros in his 35+ year career in over 1,000 tournaments. Grant has the unique distinction of caddying the winning putt on both The Ryder Cup team for Henrik Stenson and The Presidents Cup team for Daniel Berger. In addition, his knowledge and network bring outstanding expertise to TSEC’s customers for their golf-related events.