They stepped up and stepped out, these members of the university’s extended family.
They contributed to a new fund that will help support High Point University through the aftershocks of a global pandemic that has affected every aspect of campus life – and life in general.
North Carolina and 41 other states are telling everyone to stay at home to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus. This order affects more than 300 million Americans – and every student on the campus of High Point University.
Students are now taking classes online. Some ran into unexpected expenses. The university is helping students with those expenses.
And many families have helped, too. They have responded by giving HPU money. Faculty and staff, students and alumni have offered donations as well.
They contributed because they wanted to help students and the university weather what HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein has called “unimaginable times.”
From their generosity sprang the HPU Cares Fund.
Since its creation in mid-March, the fund has received more than 550 gifts and at least $170,000 from families and individuals impacted and transformed by HPU in some way. The fund will help HPU students as well as the city of High Point.
Behind every gift is a story. Here are two.
Beyond A Bible Verse
Fred and Doreen Miller knew right away their only child, Chelsea, made the right move.
On their campus visit, the Millers saw the university offered the majors that sparked Chelsea’s interests. But the little things they noticed also drew them to HPU.
They noticed how welcoming the staff and faculty were and how all the students they met would make eye contact and greet them with a smile. Then, while walking beside the Slane Student Center, they saw a carload of students pass and shout to get their attention.
“You’re going to love it here!” one of the students yelled.
She’s now a senior, a Presidential Scholar from Woodbridge, Virginia, and she’s majoring in political science with a minor in criminal justice. At HPU, she has put her future to work.
She’s a Student Justice and seen firsthand the importance of redemption.
This semester, she has interned at the Family Justice Center in High Point. That opportunity came after two internships in her home state – one with the office of U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly; the other at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
She’s a tutor at the Writing Center, past president of HPU’s Panhellenic Council and a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority as well as two honor societies.
At HPU, Chelsea discovered a wealth of friends from all walks of life, and her dad discovered a day of service he’ll always remember.
Fred Miller is a retired police captain, a 40-year veteran of the Prince William County Police Department. In November, he drove from his home in Virginia to volunteer a few hours at HPU’s Veterans Day Celebration.
He always wanted to because he was moved by what he read about the event. So, he came. He stood in the back, near tables where disabled veterans sat, and helped servers with refills. At the end of the ceremony, he handed veterans blankets emblazoned with the American flag.
“I would do it again any time,” he says. “It sets High Point University apart, and I think there are far too many things that sets HPU apart from other universities.”
When the coronavirus impacted HPU, the Millers wanted to contribute in some way. They have contributed twice to the HPU Cares Fund.
For the Millers, their gift reminds them of the Bible verse found just inside the main entrance to the university’s Hayworth Fine Arts Center.
It’s Qubein’s favorite verse. It’s from the Book of Luke, Chapter 12, Verse 48: “To whom much is given, much will be required.”
“Chelsea and Doreen agreed with me that donating to this fund was the right thing to do,” says Fred, a senior program manager of training for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “‘To whom much is given, much will be required’ could not be more true than in these challenging and uncertain times. “
‘I Feel Like I’m Home’
Shawn and MaryLisabeth Rich have a deep connection to HPU.
From 1993 to 1996, she led HPU’s Founders’ Campaign and worked as the university’s director of development. In the 1950s, her mom attended then-High Point College. Nearly a decade ago, her nephew played baseball at HPU.
Then there is their son and HPU student, Grey. He’s now a freshman, a media production and entrepreneurship major. He wants to become a filmmaker, and he always knew he wanted to come to HPU.
Grey first felt that pull in May 2009. He came to HPU’s graduation. He came to meet the commencement speaker, the man who in 1969 joined the Apollo 11 mission, rocketed into space and made history by walking on the moon.
That man was retired astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Grey was a fan of the Apollo 11 mission because of the movie, and he came with a list of prepared questions that day. At the time, Grey was 9; Aldrin was 79. They talked for 45 minutes.
Today, in his bedroom in Cary, North Carolina, Grey has a photo of him and Aldrin together along with Aldrin’s autograph. It’s in a frame, in a spot he can’t miss, between two windows near his bed.
Grey is now working on a feature film inspired by Aldrin. He’s given it the working title, “Above and Beyond.” He’s written the screenplay, cast fellow HPU students, and he’s working with HPU professor Joe Michaels, the university’s Broadcaster in Residence.
But Grey’s link to HPU is more than academic. It’s also emotional.
“I feel like I’m home,” he’s told his parents.
Grey has volunteered as an elf at HPU’s Community Christmas celebration, and he’s involved with the HPU Rocketry Team, College Republicans and a comedy troupe known as Past the Breaking Point, which can be seen on HPU’s You Tube channel.
He also sees Dr. Dennis Carroll, the university’s longtime provost, at least once a month. He meets with Carroll for 30 minutes, and they talk about life on and around campus.
Grey, the youngest of the Rich family’s two sons, has changed since his arrival at HPU. His mom has noticed.
He has become more mature, more culturally aware, more academically oriented and more adept at carrying on conversations about a multitude of subject matters and current events, particularly conversations that matter.
So, when Dr. Qubein informed parents about receiving a pro-rated refund for campus housing, Shawn and MaryLisabeth responded by offering to donate the equivalent of the refund back to the university.
That money, she says, was already allocated out of the family budget. But it is bigger than dollars and cents for them.
As president of the CEO Roundtable on Cancer — a nonprofit commissioned by President George H.W. Bush that works in partnership with employers to drive initiatives to reduce the burden and risk of cancer — MaryLisabeth understands that.
“This a reflection of the HPU culture,” she says. “It’s what we want our children to learn when they are at HPU – the importance of people helping people,
“The students make up the core of what HPU is, and if the students aren’t there, then it’s up to us to make sure that the people the students count on daily aren’t impacted in a negative way by all this.
“And when Grey returns to his home it is extremely important – We all see the same faces in the same places.”
Reaching Out, Helping Out
The Rev. Dr. McKennon Shea has had a front-row seat for the importance of the HPU Cares Fund.
He’s the assistant vice president for development at HPU.
“We have students, faculty, staff, and community members whose world was upended,” Shea says. “They are in need of additional support We had people asking, ‘How can we help?’, and we brought those two together to make sure we were staying true to our mission.”
The fund has received more than 550 gifts ranging in contributions from $25 to more than $50,000. Families have gotten involved.
A handful of High Point University parents, both past and present, have even offered matching gifts to both increase the impact of every gift made, as well as to encourage as many as possible to join in the effort.
“It’s a collection of support from people who care about High Point University,” Shea says. “Current parents and alumni, staff and students. Just people who have all different kinds of connection with the university. They want to help out and make a difference.”
And help is needed.
The coronavirus, which causes the deadly disease known has COVID-19, has upended the lives of millions of people and affected almost every facet of the world’s economy.
That includes HPU.
On Friday, the university shared multiple ways families could apply a credit based on unused room and board fees due to COVID-19.
While most colleges issued a pro-rated refund, HPU also offered an innovative and relevant alternative — a Master’s in Communication and Business Leadership.
It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from HPU, the Premier Life Skills University.
“These are times when we have to forget about all the things we must do and think about the things we must be,” Qubein says in a recent video to HPU employees. “We need to think, ‘Who must I become in a time like this?’”
“We need to reach out with both hands to support our brothers and sisters in this world, and we as a university, as an academic institution, must continue its service to its students.”
Qubein has kept employees updated on the virus’ effect on the university — and kept them connected to the HPU family — through emails, videos and campus-wide conference calls.
And like he does always with students, Qubein urged employees to step up, step out and support “our brothers and sisters of this world.”
“Goodness, gracious, everywhere you look people are losing jobs and businesses are closing down,” he says. “Restaurants can’t operate, and hotels are shutting down their operations completely. I never imagined I would imagine a time such as this.
“But here we are. We must deal with the present and deal with it, with faith, with courage and with grace.”
The HPU Cares Fund is an example of that grace.
“Together,” Qubein says, “I believe we can move forward and come out of this mess we are in.”
Want to Donate?
The HPU Cares Fund has been established to meet the university’s most pressing needs and to support faculty, staff, students, and the community of High Point. Your 100 percent tax-deductible gift will be directed to what can make the greatest impact.
To find out more, visit https://engage.highpoint.edu/hpucares