September Extraordinary Leader: The Eagle Scout and Budding Professor

Zach Quimby starts and ends each day the same way — walking across the red-brick bridge behind the Slane Student Center.

He sees the hanging plants at his shoulder, hears the cascading fountains on either side of him, and he’s reminded once again that he’s at the right place.

At High Point University, he’s discovered his passion for politics, tapped into his yen for teaching and built upon leadership skills he first learned as a Boy Scout in New Kent, Virginia, his tiny hometown 30 minutes east of Richmond.

He also feels embraced.

“As a student, I’m not a number,” says Quimby, a senior majoring in political science and history. “The professors know my name.”

Quimby is one of two Extraordinary Leaders for the month of September. He has done well. And to think, he found the university because of a horse.

 

The Holistic Appeal of HPU

It was August before his senior year in high school when Quimby came down with his mom for a horsemanship event at a farm just south of HPU.

Quimby’s mom went to see her horse, Chablis, which she keeps at the farm. When they arrived at a nearby hotel, the clerk asked Quimby a question that changed his life.

“Are you all here for Move-In Day at HPU?” the clerk asked.

“HPU what?” Quimby asked.

The clerk told him about the university, and Quimby found an HPU magazine in the lobby and began thumbing through it. The graphics and the photos caught his eye as well as the stories about the students and the professors.

The students he read about were doing something they believed mattered, and they worked alongside  professors who had become their mentors.

By December, Quimby came back for a tour.

Quimby, a big NASCAR fan, met racing legend Richard Petty at the Richmond Raceway in 2012.

That’s all it took.

HPU reminded him of what he found at Buckskin, a weeklong program at Camp T. Brady Saunders where Boy Scouts learn how to become an effective leader.

Scouts take part in hands-on exercises that push them beyond what they expect they can do. They learn how to work as a team and trust one another, even when they’re blindfolded and standing on a skinny log a few inches above the ground.

Quimby, an Eagle Scout, first went to Buckskin as a participant in 2013. He went back six straight summers, always as a staff member. He rose from troop instructor to Buckskin’s senior patrol leader.  

That’s what made HPU feel so familiar.

“It’s HPU’s holistic approach to learning,” Quimby says. “It all comes back to life skills. That’s what High Point is all about.

“See, I could know everything there is to know about political science, but if I don’t have these life skills like how to communicate or how to work with people, I couldn’t be effective in anything I did, you know?”

 

Beyond The White Board

Quimby has made the dean’s list every semester, he’s a member of two honor societies, and his academic excellence helped him earn the distinction of being a Junior Marshal at graduation last May.  

Quimby became a peer mentor this year. In this photo, he poses with the crew of first-year students he has worked with this year.

For the past two years, he’s been an academic tutor in political science, history and philosophy. He tutors students on the expansive bottom floor of the Wanek School of Natural Sciences.

It’s known around campus as “The Hive.” The name fits. Students work in pods against the wall that look like telephone booths, or they gather around tables in the middle or huddle in the study rooms that ring the floor.

When Quimby walks through “The Hive,” he remembers his own white board back at home. When he was much younger, he’d bring it out and teach what he learned in elementary school to his mom, his dad, his great aunt and great uncle and his maternal grandmother he called “Nonnie.”

The white board is gone. But not Quimby’s passion for teaching. He first came to HPU as an education major. He switched to political science because of one class – or really one professor.

Dr . Ali Yanus.

 

‘He’s The Whole Package’

Quimby was a freshman when he took Dr. Yanus’ course on American politics. The course captivated him, and he liked it so much he’d go to Yanus’ office to talk politics and history.

That impressed Yanus.

Quimby, an Eagle Scout, went back six straight summers to work at Buckskin, a weeklong leadership program in Virginia for Boy Scouts.

“He gave me and everyone else in our department some of the best work we’ve seen in a long time,” says Yanus, an associate professor of political science.  “He’s the whole package.”

He has collaborated with Dr. George Simpson, a history professor at HPU, on research about Egypt during World War II. Last spring, he presented a paper on the research he did on President Jimmy Carter and the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980.

This past summer, HPU’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works published his paper in its periodical.

Quimby’s growing interest in politics led him to become part of a local campaign. Ask him about it, and he’ll circle back to how he found HPU in the first place.

“This all goes back to the horse,” he says.

 

A Chance Encounter

In the spring of 2017, Quimby went to a horse show with his mom and met John Faircloth, the longtime North Carolina legislator.

Faircloth, a Republican and a former police chief, was running for his fifth term in the N.C. House of Representatives. Quimby and Faircloth talked about politics, and Faircloth asked him if he could help with the campaign.

“We’re going to take the high road, right?” Quimby asked Faircloth.

Quimby became close with John Faircloth’s family when he worked on Faircloth’s campaign last year. This photo became the Christmas card for the family.

“We’re going to take the clean road,’” Faircloth told him.

Throughout that summer of 2018, Quimby joined Faircloth as his campaign management intern and started working on his social media presence. That fall, Quimby accompanied Faircloth to various campaign events throughout High Point and met scores of voters. There’s one he’ll always remember — the retired teacher, a longtime Democrat.

“John is the only Republican I’ve voted for,” the teacher told Quimby. “He’s the only one who helped get my healthcare back.”

That one moment helped Quimby understand the importance of Faircloth’s work – and his work as well.

“I’m doing something for the right cause,” he told himself.

Faircloth won by a 14-point margin in November, and Quimby became part of the family. He even ended up on the Faircloth family’s Christmas card.

“Being part of something bigger – a campaign – I found a second family,” Quimby says. “I came from a divided family. My parents divorced when I was 2, and my work on the campaign reassured me what I had always known my whole life. You don’t have to be blood to be family.”

 

Quimby’s Next Step

Quimby and his Relay For Life team raised more than $11,000 for the American Cancer Society last year.

Quimby’s interest in politics has continued to grow. He’s the vice president of HPU’s College Republicans, and last spring, he was elected to be

 

the finance and fundraising director of the North Carolina Federation of College Republicans.

This fall, he’s working on High Point Mayor Jay Wagner’s re-election campaign.

Quimby also has resurrected the club, Colleges Against Cancer. He recruited 17 students for an executive board, and last year, the club raised more than $11,000 for American Cancer Society during its Relay For Life.

Quimby had a personal connection to cancer. He lost “Nonnie,” his maternal grandmother to the disease. Her name was Lyn Tubbs, and she was 72 when doctors discovered she had Stage 4 lung cancer. Three months later, she was gone.

Quimby resurrected the club, Colleges Against Cancer, partly because of the death of his maternal grandmother, Lyn Tubbs, better known to him as “Nonnie.”

“I still have the last birthday card she sent me,” Quimby says. “She wrote, ‘I love you forever.’ I’ll always remember her handwriting. I can’t get rid of that.”

Quimby will graduate in May, and he wants to pursue a PhD in American politics and study political theory and public policy. After he receives his doctorate, he wants to teach in higher education.

It isn’t because of his white board anymore.  It’s because of HPU.

“High Point has given me so much,” he says. “It’s made me who I am.”

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