Alumni Profile: Charlie Atwater

When Charlie Atwater enrolled at Hill School as a sixth-grader in 1986, there was no Board of Directors. Charlie would eventually serve on the Hill Board of Directors for 9 years, offering his unique perspective as first a student. Charlie continues to be a strong advocate for Hill, its students, teachers, and outreach programs.

Charlie attended Hill School in sixth and seventh grade while attending Sherwood Githens Middle School, and returned for eleventh and twelfth grades while attending Jordan High School. He graduated in 1993, went on to Emory University where he earned a Bachelor’s in Business. Charlie also holds an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Charlie was awarded Hill’s Road Less Traveled alumni award in 2003, and in 2019 was the recipient of the Charles S. Atwater Star Award. Awarded annually, the Star Award is given to individuals who have exhibited exceptional volunteer service and leadership within the Hill community and whose efforts will have a lasting and profound impact on Hill, its students and teachers.

In addition to improving his reading and writing skills, Charlie believes Hill helped him develop confidence in his abilities. He learned that “adversity is normal. Problems are just problems. You can face anything.” As his confidence grew, so did his ability to self-advocate, knowing what accommodations he needed and how to obtain them. One highlight of his experiences as a Hill student is the attitude of acceptance of others that is the basis of relationships among students and between students and teachers. “We looked out for each other. Others were different but not really.” Charlie adds that students were allowed to be themselves, and teachers provided love and support, “reading the class and balancing fun with seriousness.”

As a Board member, Charlie listened to various constituencies and learned about parents’ struggles and parents’ desires for the school as well as the teachers’ point of view. He formed a broader understanding of the organization. “Now I know all the work teachers do!” His impact as a Board member included helping find ways to support Hill teachers in any way possible. “Who is the influence that touches and shapes lives every day? Hill’s teachers.”

Charlie took what he loved – travel – and for several years made it part of his career. He advocated for jobs he wanted which sent him to Germany and Australia. He is happy to bring those experiences home to Durham where he lives with his wife Tracy, daughter Sydney, and son Snipes. In 2020, Charlie was named CEO of Hydro Service and Supplies.

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