Who's Who in Admission

Meet the Office

Admission Team
Palmer Straughn, Mike Payne, and Coco Parham



Palmer Straughn
Director of Admission and Financial Aid
828-684-6232 ext. 118
Mike Gardiner
Associate Director of Admission
828-684-6232 ext. 162
Coco Parham
Admission Office Manager
828-684-6232 ext. 106
Mike Payne
Assistant Director of Admission
828-684-6232 ext. 117


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Admission Staff

After a decade and a half in finance, Mike Gardiner has found his calling in admissions, serving as Associate Director.

Mr. Gardiner comes to Christ School from Virginia Episcopal School, where he was an admissions officer, served in the junior/senior dorm, and coached boys lacrosse. Before his career in education, he worked for 15 years in finance, with 10 of them in New York City. Mr. Gardiner grew up in New York and went to boarding school at St. George’s School in Newport, RI. He is a 1996 graduate of Lehigh University, where he majored in finance and history.

Mr. Gardiner lives on campus with his daughter, Maddie, and their black lab, Lily.

Coco Parham has been an Office Manager at Christ School for 15 years now, the past two in Admissions. 

Mrs. Parham previously worked for 13 years in the College Guidance Office as an administrative assistant and testing coordinator.

Mrs. Parham graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with a B.A. in 1987. Her hobbies include hiking, reading, and watching a great movie. She prides herself on being an animal advocate, and has volunteered in the past with the Asheville Humane Society.

Mrs. Parham is married to Christ School Associate Athletic Director and Strength Training Coach Duncan Parham. They have two children, Ellsworth ’13 and Emma.

After coming here every summer for the past 12 years to work at Camp Ridgecrest in Black Mountain, Assistant Director of Admission Mike Payne was delighted to finally be a first-time resident of the Asheville area in 2018.

Mr. Payne was born and raised in Warrenton, Va., with a family tradition of boarding school; one of his grandfathers is a graduate of Virginia Episcopal and a great grandfather was a headmaster at Northfield Mount Hermon School. Mr. Payne himself graduated from Virginia’s Christchurch School, where he served as a prefect, played baseball and soccer, and was a head tour guide. He graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. in English from the University of Mary Washington.

After college, Mr. Payne lived in Charleston, S.C., and Chatham, Va., where he served as an admission counselor, presidential ambassador coordinator, and varsity baseball coach at Hargrave Military Academy.

Mr. Payne’s hobbies include playing guitar, watching sports, being active in the gym, and traveling.

A seasoned fly fisherman and backpacker, Palmer Straughn could not have picked a better school to continue his work in admissions and fuel two of his greatest passions. Christ School’s location offers world-class fly fishing and some of the southeast’s best hiking. After heading the Outdoor Program at Wofford College, Mr. Straughn graduated with a B.A. in History in 2004 and began as an Admission Counselor at Lees-McRae College. After three years, Mr. Straughn advanced to Associate Director of Admission at his alma mater and has worked at Wofford for the last decade. In 2015, Wofford promoted him to Senior Associate Director of Admission.

Recently, Mr. Straughn co-presented “Navigating the NCAA and Admission” at the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling (SACAC) Drive-in Workshop (2015), and followed that effort the next year by co-presenting “Application Case Studies.” At the SACAC’s annual conference in 2014, Mr. Straughn co-presented “Not Just a Small School: The Benefits of a Liberal Arts College.” Mr. Straughn and his wife Sara live on campus at Peachtree House.