Joining the fight

Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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Staff Reports

University Relations

MURFREESBORO – Creating solutions to problems is what Dr. Mitchell Henke, Associate Professor of Graphic Communications, does every day in the classroom at Chowan University.

One of his primary roles is to teach package design to Graphic Communication majors. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an enormous problem to be solved; the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

With this concern, Henke headed to the production lab “to figure out a way to help those on the frontline.” With Chowan’s ArtiosCAD software for package design and Kongsberg cutting table for prototyping and production, Henke was confident he could be part of the solution. His first design step was to create a mask comfort strap made from triple black e-flute corrugated paperboard donated from Packrite in High Point.

“This makes the mask more comfortable for those wearing them for extended periods,” says Henke.

From there, he created a face shield frame out of the same material. After multiple prototypes, he found a feasible solution.

Dr. Henke’s design was “battle-tested” by Denise Futrell, a registered nurse at Southampton Memorial Hospital in Franklin, VA.

From these existing materials, Henke created frames for the face shields. A donated roll of mylar from Fuji is in transit to assist in supply needs. Each face shield takes around four to five minutes to produce.

Charles Futrell, Director of Printing Production at Chowan University, assisted in production tasks and his wife, Denise Futrell, a registered nurse at Southampton Memorial Hospital in Franklin, VA, gave consulting advice. Denise is on the frontline every day, ‘gearing up’ to keep herself and patients safe. She happily tested designs and provided invaluable feedback helping Henke create a more durable and comfortable face shield.

Along with providing face shields for Southampton Memorial, Henke contacted Minister to the University, Rev. Mari Wiles, to identify other areas of need. Rev. Wiles suggested that members of Chowan’s Public Safety staff could use this equipment. Wiles also reached out to Tom Beam, Disaster Relief Coordinator at NC Baptist on Mission (NCBM) who Chowan Campus Ministry regularly partners with NCBM for disaster relief and mission trips.

Beam was thrilled to learn that Chowan was donating these needed supplies. Some of the face shields will go to meet critical needs in New York City by way of NCBM and additional face shields will go to the NCBM warehouse for distribution to local hospital systems.

“Dr. Henke’s work reminds us to take inventory of our own talents. We can all find ways to help during this crisis,” says Rev. Wiles. Henke feels fortunate to have the skills to help during this crisis and as long as he has the materials, he plans to keep making face shields.

For more information about the project contact Lou Ann Gilliam, Director of Church and Community Relations at For more information about Chowan University, visit or call 1-888-4-CHOWAN.