Who We Are

View a short bio about each current member of our team

Edmund Tiryakian

Ed Tiryakian, J.D., MBA, founded Dying Right NC in 2015 and is its Executive Director. He previously worked in international banking in Asia before retiring to his native NC.

He believes End of Life issues are one of society’s most pressing challenges as we all live longer and the medicalization of the dying process continues to conflict with the individual’s right to choose his or her end.

Mary Jo Speer

Board Member
Mary Jo Speer Ed.D., RN, is a board member of Dying Right NC, a diploma graduate RN, practicing Emergency Medicine for over 3 decades. She completed her Doctoral work at UNC Charlotte with a focus on end of life care.

She had the privilege of caring for her Mother for the last 2 months of her life. She died in her home with family all around her throughout the dying process. Mary Jo’s intention now is to enable others to have that same peaceful end of life experience.

She also founded and is Executive Director of the Keener, Midgley, Speer Institute for Ethics and Social Justice to educate persons on “end of life care choices”!

Dr. William Hazzard

Board Member
Dr. Hazzard is an academic gerontologist and geriatrician at Wake Forest School of Medicine with a long-standing interest in Dying with Dignity based upon his experience in Oregon with a beloved sister, a victim of the last American polio epidemic, who died at 81 by self-administering a lethal dose of prescribed medicine, at her home, as he held her hand as she took her last breath.

Jay Niver

Media Relations
Jay Niver is a retired journalist and public relations consultant who became involved in the right-to-die movement by supporting and documenting his father's "final exit.” An Ohio native, Jay worked 30 years in the Carolinas before moving to Canada and returning after his wife's long, drawn-out surrender to terminal disease. He has extensive experience in corporate and healthcare communications, as well as editing newspapers and specialized publications.

Dr. Frans C. Verhagen

Board Member
Frans C. Verhagen, M.Div., M.I.A., Ph.D., a sustainability sociologist, worked as a missionary priest in Ghana in the 1960s, after which he studied international affairs and the sociology of international development at Columbia University. After teaching in New York City for 30 years, he “retired” to Carolina Meadows in Chapel Hill, NC, where he is working on the sequel to his 2012 book: " The Tierra Solution: Resolving the Climate Crisis through Monetary Transformation ".

He is not only interested in sustainable living, but also sustainable dying with its emphasis on the social context of dying, the economics of dying today in light of the medicalization of End of Life and the attendant exorbitant funeral costs.