Anna Ponder, PhD

One of the Lowcountry’s Most Accomplished Women in Higher Education to Share Insights About “The Power of Forgiveness” at Upcoming TEDxHiltonHead


October 2022 Issue
by Ellen Linnemann
Photography courtesy of Anna Ponder

As both the Vice Chancellor for Advancement at the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) and Executive Director of the USCB Education Foundation, Dr. Anna Ponder knows what it takes to help a university and its students succeed. She also knows a great deal about the power of forgiveness—a topic close to her heart, which she will share when TEDx Hilton Head makes its much-anticipated return to the stage this fall.

Dr. Ponder is one of 12 dynamic speakers who will present their “Ideas Worth Spreading” at TEDxHiltonHead, which will take place on November 4 at the Seahawk Cultural Center on Hilton Head Island from 6:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. This year’s TEDxHiltonHead, “Making Waves”, will feature speakers who not only represent the movers and shakers in their communities, but also those who are committed to “making waves” by creating real change to make a positive impact in the world—a perfect description of Dr. Ponder’s work throughout her career.

In her role as Vice Chancellor at USCB, Dr. Ponder oversees development, marketing, communications and press and alumni, community and government affairs. Additionally, as Executive Director of the USCB Education Foundation, her duties include supporting the university in all of its educational, instructional, scientific, literary, research, service, charitable and outreach endeavors. She also works tirelessly to maximize private-sector opportunities and support, empowering the University to provide a margin of excellence beyond what is achievable with state, county and municipal funds alone.

Her leadership roles provide the opportunity to “make waves” in making a difference for USCB’s students and the larger community. Dr. Ponder spent nearly two decades in New York and played an instrumental role in a number of well-known and high-profile organizations, including serving as the Executive Director of the Tribeca Film Institute from 2015 to 2017, Director of Marketing for several hedge funds, and Director of Leadership Gifts at the Robin Hood Foundation. However, being back in the Lowcountry and being able to make a difference here has special meaning for her.

“I grew up in Columbia and my family has been coming to Hilton Head Island since I can remember,” she noted. “We bought our house more than 30 years ago, and, before anyone lived here full time; it was where we spent holidays, birthdays and vacations. Especially after my sister and I were out on our own, living in other parts of the country, the house became our family meet-up spot. So, it’s always been special.”

Dr. Ponder is quick to point to what is perhaps the most important benefit of being back in the Lowcountry: Being close to her family.

“My favorite part of every week is Friday lunch with Dad,” says Dr. Ponder, who lives on Hilton Head Island. “We go out for lunch every Friday. When I left New York City to come to Hilton Head Island, I hoped that I’d have a lot of special moments with my parents. Fridays are the most treasured. Sitting across from my father, talking, laughing and just being together on a regular day is as special as it gets.”

For her upcoming talk at TEDxHiltonHead, Dr. Ponder will share her insights on “making waves” in human interaction by forgiving and focusing on the future. Her presentation—The Power of Forgiveness—stems from an idea that was formulated over many years as it played out in her life. This talk promises to be enlightening, engaging, entertaining and inspiring.

“I hope that some people will recognize the incredible courage in forgiveness,” she said, reflecting on what she hopes audiences will learn and put in place from her idea worth spreading. “I believe we often imagine bravery, boldness, power and empowerment as big or loud. But some of the most powerful moments are quiet and seemingly small on the surface. Also, we often try to make forgiveness about other people, make it into a magnanimous gesture. It isn’t.”

“Forgiveness is about you,” she said, stressing the key message and goal of her upcoming talk. “It’s about having the courage, the strength of heart, to face your fears and walk through that fire, leaving the past behind. I hope someone might be encouraged to try.”

Visit to learn more about Dr. Ponder’s upcoming TEDxHiltonHead talk The Power of Forgiveness. You will also find this year’s exciting roster of speakers and topics!

Don’t Miss TedX Hilton Head
Friday, November 4th | 6:30 p.m. until 9:45 p.m.
Seahawk Cultural Center | Hilton Head High School | 70 Wilborn Road, HHI
Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at
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