Sam Carr walked into the President’s Club, saw one long table surrounded by 20 men in suits, and held his nerves in check.
“God will help you with your words,” he told himself. “You got this.”
He was a local high school senior, and he came to High Point University to be interviewed for a Qubein Foundation Associates scholarship. He knew his family needed the financial help to pay for college. So, he came ready.
He wore his one black suit and bought a purple tie from T.J. Maxx. He knew a suit can define you, and he figured the purple would be a nice touch. He sat down at the head of the table. and right there on his right was a man never he’d met before.
HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein.
Qubein had the first question. He asked about what he heard from Andy Bills, the senior vice president for enrollment.
“Andy Bills told me that you’re the kind of student who belongs at HPU,” Qubein said. “Can you explain that?”
Carr did, and he got the scholarship. It’s one of five he received to pay for college. Since then, Carr has excelled at HPU.
He is now a junior, a political science major from High Point, and he’s been named one of two Extraordinary Leaders for the month of August.
He got the award for more than the answer he gave three years ago.
To understand how, start in Scott Davis’ accounting class.
The Roots of a Campus Leader
Davis has taught accounting at HPU since 1995. He’s a no-nonsense professor, the son of a Marine who practices tough love with his students. Last year, Carr was one of his students.
Carr was a business major – and he was busy. He worked as a resident assistant, better known as an RA, and served as a Student Justice.
He also was incredibly active in Alpha Kappa Psi, HPU’s business fraternity. He gained confidence in himself by participating in mock interviews and elevator pitch competitions. His participation paid off. The fraternity selected Carr as its Freshman Brother of the Year.
That’s not all.
Carr also served as the president of Young Americans for Freedom, a non-party affiliated conservative club known around campus as “YAF.” The club works to provide a safe space for students to talk about matters that interest them.
When Carr became president, YAF was struggling. So, he staffed a table once a week at the Slane Student Center to increase membership.
He also collaborated with the College Democrats and College Republicans to hold a campus ceremony that remembered the lives lost during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Carr was emerging as a campus leader — but not as a stellar student in Davis’ class.
The Impact of Mentorship
After class one day last fall, Davis told Carr to come to his office.
“He’s going to wail on me,” Carr thought.
Davis didn’t. He talked to Carr about the class and his goals in life.
“Finish strong and show me your passion,” Davis told Carr.
Davis’ approach amazed Carr.
“I saw a different side of him,” Carr said. “He cared about me and my personal goals, and I relaxed. He did tell me to take care of my grades. But that came with encouragement.”
A semester later, Carr came back to Davis’ office. He had news.
Carr had been taking a political science class from Dr. Brandon Lenoir, and he had just gotten back from Washington, D.C. where he and five other students attended the American Israeli Policy Conference with Lenoir.
That one class and that one trip changed Carr’s college journey. After talking with Lenoir several times, Carr decided to switch majors from business to political science, and he wanted Davis to know.
That’s when Davis says he saw Carr’s passion.
In his accounting class, Carr’s slumped shoulders and head down told Davis everything about Carr’s take on accounting.
But in his office last spring, Carr’s eyes lit up, and he leaned forward as he talked about his dream of working in politics in school and after graduation.
“That’s the best decision you’ve ever made,” Davis told him. “I just hope and pray I’m still alive when I see your name on the ballot box.”
“Once he found his passion, I knew Sam could do great things,” Davis said. “I believe he has the potential to be invited back to campus in 30 years to be the graduation speaker or someone sitting onstage being interviewed. He has that impact.
“I don’t know how you define ‘It,’ but he has ‘It.’”
HPU: A Leadership Incubator
Carr is the youngest of three from a faith-rich family. His mom is a hairstylist, and his dad is an assistant pastor who also owns his own wallpaper company. His older sister is a special education teacher, and his brother is a mechanic.
As for Carr, he was once the shy kid who played with Hot Wheels by himself. It wasn’t until his high school years at Wesleyan Christian Academy, a private Christian school a minute from HPU, that he discovered his leadership potential.
He started as the chaplain of his soccer team. By his senior year, he was the team captain.
Today at HPU, he is the junior class president. He sits on two student advisory boards – one with the Phillips School of Business, the other with the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication.
He’s also an RA for the York Hall/Point Place community on campus, and he’s still the president of YAF. When he started as president, the club had 25 members. YAF now has more than 150.
He’s also still active with Alpha Kappa Psi. Last semester, he was selected as the fraternity’s Sophomore Brother of the Year.
This fall, he’s helping High Point Mayor Jay Wagner with his re-election campaign. Meanwhile, Carr continues volunteering with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Central Piedmont.
Since his freshman year, Carr has befriended a local Palestinian boy named Sharby.
When they first met, Sharby could barely speak English. Today, Sharby chatters away with Carr. Sharby is now a fourth-grader at a local elementary school, and every week, they play games, read and talk about cars, family and life.
Carr knows firsthand the importance of mentorship. He thanks Davis for that.
“I came in as a wide-eyed freshman, and the people and the professors here saw something in me, took me by the hand and helped me grow,” Carr said. “My dad always told me growing up that no matter your age, you’ll always need great people to go to, and here at High Point, everywhere you go, you’ll find somebody.”
One Defining Moment
Now, back to the President’s Club – and the answer that started it all.
Carr sat at the top of a long table with Dr. Qubein to his right and a host of men in business suits in front of him. After Qubein’s question about why he fits at HPU, Carr didn’t hesitate.
“Other schools believe grades make you who you are, but at HPU, they see you as a person and show you how you can make it in the world,” he said. “Yes, grades matter, but they don’t define you.”
“That’s exactly right!” Qubein responded.
Qubein then got up from his chair, put his hand on Carr’s shoulder and looked at the men lining either side of the table.
“Guys, you’d better watch out,” Qubein said. “He’s coming for my job one day.”