This year’s Arbor Day Celebration will take place at 4 p.m. on April 20.
She talked about potential. She always has ever since her husband became HPU’s seventh president 12 years ago. Her vision helped turn HPU into an academic Garden of Eden that attracts students, awes visitors and brings accolades.
Her vision inspired the school’s board of trustees to give the beauty of the campus a special name: the Mariana H. Qubein Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.
Anyone who comes can see 25 gardens, 500 trees and 3,000 different plants from all over the world. But it’s more than just numbers.
Every 10 steps, the gardens unveil botanical surprises that have turned HPU into an outdoor classroom and earned the school a Tree Campus USA distinction eight straight years.
But like her husband, Qubein never settles. In late April, in the Alumni Avenue Amphitheater behind Cottrell Hall, she told the crowd the area around her will soon be awash in color with plants, fountains, flowers and trees.
For her, such beauty brings inspiration and inner peace, life and hope.
“Just imagine,” Qubein told the audience.
They do. Because of Qubein, it’s not hard.
Planting the Seed
Eleven years ago, where she saw grass and dirt, Qubein dreamed of seeing explosions of natural color that reminded her of a Monet painting.
Today, she still dreams.
She talks to her husband, HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein. She talks to her friends in High Point. She takes notes on her iPhone during her travels.
Twice a month, she walks the campus with other like-minded plant enthusiasts to see what else needs to be done. One of those she walks with is Jon Roethling, HPU’s curator of the grounds.
Roethling came to campus in 2010. He’s a North Carolina native who grew up gardening. He earned a horticultural science degree from N.C. State, worked with renowned botanical experts and traveled the world looking for plants.
He is, as he says today, a “plant geek.”
“There’s something about gardening that connects with people’s souls,” Roethling says. “It offers that refuge, that escape, and when I came here, I told people that if this is the last job I’d ever have, I’d die a happy man.
“I mean, how many times do you get to do this and create a legacy?”
Watching the Garden Grow
HPU’s legacy of green continued this year. Three gardens received new names to highlight the generosity of campus supporters Sandy Rankin, Daphne Horney, and James and Phyllis Morgan, husband and wife.
There’s also a recent addition to Hayworth Park: a Sophora Japonica, a tree with a leaf canopy at least 30 feet wide. It honors the first class graduating in May with doctoral degrees in educational leadership. Its name is apt: the “Scholar Tree.”
Over the past few years, HPU has turned the gardens into a learning lab. Students conduct research, study plants, create sculptures, take photos and draw leaves for class assignments.
This past year, students, faculty and staff stepped beyond campus and planted seven community gardens to help feed families, engage neighborhoods and connect High Point to High Point’s university.
“Gardens help us be thankful,” Qubein says. “It’s hard work. You plant, you water, then, you see what happens. Look at the roses in front of the library. They looked like sticks in the beginning. So, how did that happen? God had to be there.”
HPU students get that. And they help to plant, weed and keep the gardens beautiful. One of those students is Garlan Miles, a senior from Matthews, North Carolina, majoring in video game design.
Her favorite spot is the Woodland Hillside Garden behind Blessing, a residence hall. There, she finds her favorite plant, the Golden Paperbush.
She smelled it before she saw it. It was this sweet perfume.
When she turned a corner, she spotted a bush full of pale yellow flowers the size of golf balls that looked like, as she remembers, “little chandeliers.”
A few steps away is a placard holding the quote from Lady Bird Johnson: “Where flowers bloom so does hope.”
“This place,” Miles says, “feels like a different pocket of the world.”
Mariana’s Vision, High Point’s Gain
Qubein grew up planting roses with her mother. She came to HPU and earned a biology degree. Today, she is a mother of four, a grandmother to three and first lady to more than 4,800 students.
For her, the students are like her favorite flowers. They need to be nurtured to grow. And grow, they do. In the gardens, they study and volunteer, create art and understand science.
Thus, they begin to understand — the true nature of nature.
“God has given us nature as a gift,” she says. “It is our responsibility to take care of it.”
View this story and more in the Fall 2016 edition of the HPU Magazine: