He’s Not Broken

As an autistic man working in a non-STEM, empathy-driven field — a quality society often wrongly assumes autistic people lack — Eric Garcia recognized how little neurotypicals grasped autism’s diversity.

Great Adaptations

What does it take to study the deepest places on Earth? The same kind of mettle required to survive them. Tim Shank has spent a lifetime doing both.

Relevance Rediscovered

At 49, Greg Michie gave it all up. His tenure-track position. His flexible schedule. His unhurried lunch hour. (His lunch hour, period.) In 2012, as a citywide teacher’s strike loomed, Michie left the relative comforts of higher education. He returned to the undervalued but indispensable work of public school teaching in America.

The Banghart Way

Last spring, Courtney Banghart earned the job of a lifetime when she was named the first new Tar Heels women’s basketball coach in 33 years, replacing a coach and taking over a program whose shine had faded under the tarnish of scandal and disconnection. The role is tailor-made for Jim Banghart’s daughter: An opportunity to repair a beloved thing that has fallen out of favor, to patch its holes and mend its stitches — and then go out and win with it.

Holding Onto Herself

For the first time in the almost two years since she began dating Alex Honnold, the most accomplished free solo climber in the world, she allows herself to think about all the things that could go wrong on El Capitan the next day — when Honnold would attempt to become the first person to climb Yosemite’s monolith with no ropes or safety gear.

Why Not? The Art of Believing

When Katie Ziglar believes in the power of an idea or a project, it persists — across the decades, across continents, through the halls of the Smithsonian, in the mansions of maharajas, over the demolition of gender barriers and through her polite-but-persistent, lifelong takedown of the phrase, “That can’t be done.”

The Guiding Light

Cancer can magnify the darkness and light we all walk around with — the electricity that fuels a good day with our kids, and the bottom floor of our souls where we struggle with all that we are and all that we could be. The forces are always competing. But the crazy, beautiful thing about Sam Anthony is that he finds a way to let the light win.

Converting the Shot

Charlotte Smith's already spent part of a June evening in her Elon University office talking about the stuff that really matters: the lessons she’s learned since one improbable shot, a mere seven-tenths of a second in time, changed her life. How a win for the ages can turn into a long, expectant shadow, following you around for years after the last piece of confetti has fluttered to the court. How the world can shake you to your core, present death and divorce to you in a single year and dare you to keep your competitive edge, dare you to somehow grow from deep loss.

How to Mend a Sole

She was preparing to leave a remote Liberian village last June when a boy named Henroy appeared. He was barefoot and thin, wearing a soccer jersey and an expression too broken for a face that was only 9 years old. Someone had sent for him so that Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld could see his condition, but walking across the muddy earth from the road was a terrible balancing act. How could it not be? Henroy’s left foot twisted inward and upward. The sole of his foot faced the sky.

Don’t Lecture Me

Kelly Hogan’s new normal began one day in 2010 when Bob Henshaw, an instructional consultant at UNC’s Center for Faculty Excellence, placed a troubling collection of statistics on her desk. They showed that underrepresented students — blacks and first-generation college students — were disproportionately scoring Ds and Fs in her classes.

The Missionary

“Isn’t this a great view?” Shirley Ort asks in her elegant, lilting voice of the scene outside her Pettigrew Hall window. Ort’s office is modest, but the world beyond it is indeed spectacular, an October burst of yellow and orange across the expanse of McCorkle Place, with ruddy brick walkways crisscrossing the fading summer grass, all paths paved with opportunity. This view was unthinkable to Ort at 17, a world of higher consciousness closed to a girl from an impoverished rural family.

The Man Who Knows Too Much

Dan Ariely spent his first year of college in a hospital burn unit inside a tight, brown elastic suit that covered everything but his eyes, ears and mouth — the better to protect the tissue still healing underneath. There, a universe apart from all the behaviors he used to know, he began to watch others as though he were an immigrant in a foreign land — all these strange and wondrous ways that people lived their lives and made their decisions.

The Champion and Runner-Up

Karen Shelton’s cap, as always, was pulled down low on her forehead, and her ponytail sat at attention through the adjustable band at the cap’s back. She rested her arms at 90-degree angles on the table in front of her and listened calmly as her players, raw and emotional, fidgeted their way through the torturous ritual of crystallizing for a handful of media the meaning behind the moment: What were you thinking when you fell to the ground, sobbing, as time ran out? Can you talk about what it has meant to be a part of this team for four years, to play in four title games and win only one of them?

What’s Wrong With Letting It Slide?

The task of defrocking an American hero did not have many takers — or believers. To let Lance Armstrong ride away free — he of the hero worship, the good works and the arm-twisting — would have been easy. But Travis Tygart knew it wouldn’t have been fair.

Soul Catcher

This skittish child, whose inclination is to blend into the wallpaper, one day will become one of the most remarkable public school teachers not just in his state, but in the country; a man who will connect with students on levels so bottomless and with such skill that the most intimidating children of all — teenagers — will crowd into a room in which there are more heartbeats than chairs and sit upon a stack of books just to hear him talk.

Magic Mary

Even 12- and 13-year-olds, often boys, will sheepishly make their way to Mary Pope Osborne at a signing table, mumbling and apologetic for their presence among young kids. She is swept up by their “sweetness and their sincerity.”

“I love them,” Osborne said in a whisper. “I feel like I’ve been given this extraordinary lesson. Their vulnerability — and their parent’s vulnerability, because they are so excited for their child — is all over their faces. Over and over, it breaks my heart. I have tons of these moments, and they add up, you know? And I go, ‘Mary, you’re pretty lucky, you know that?’ ”

The Client She’ll Never Give Up On

While they waited for Superior Court Judge Howard Manning to read the court’s finding — minutes that seemed almost as long as the six years Christine Mumma had worked to free Greg Taylor — Mumma became more convinced they had lost, while Taylor simply prayed that his heart would not give out. They waited together for a moment that had never before happened in the history of the judicial system, neither of them daring to believe.