$10 Million Wanek Gift Home

High Point University has been blessed by supportive alumni, parents, and friends. On Thursday, August 8, 2013, HPU announced a $10 million gift from the founder of Ashley Furniture, Ron Wanek and his family’s foundation. The story was covered by many of the region’s newspapers. Below you will find some of these stories for your convenience.


Ashley Furniture chairman donates $10M to High Point University

Sometimes it takes the naming of a big building on campus to wrangle an eight-figure donation to a college. Sometimes it takes a lifelong friendship between the college president and the benefactor.

Sometimes, though, you just need to ask. That’s how Nido Qubein, president of High Point University, said he convinced Ron Wanek, the chairman and chief executive of Ashley Furniture Industries, to write a check for a $10 million unrestricted donation to the the school. It’s the 10th contribution of $10 million or more that HPU has landed since Qubein became president in 2005.

Qubein said he’s known Wanek for only about the past eight years through Ashley Furniture and High Point University’s shared connections in the furniture industry and the High Point Market, and from giving leadership and motivational speeches to Wanek’s employees.

In April, Ashley Furniture broke ground on a 1 million-square-foot piece of what will eventually be 3.8 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution space in Davie County, an event at which Qubein spoke.

“He was here one day on totally different matters and before he left I just told him, ‘I need your help at High Point University,” Qubein said of a discussion that took place in his office about six months ago. “I invited him to prayerfully consider a major gift of $10 million, and soon after that we had meetings, I spoke to his company, he brought his executive team to High Point for me to speak to them. And he decided he’d like to invest in High Point University.”

Wanek was not available for an interview, but he said in a statement provided by HPU that the donation, made with his wife through the Ronald and Joyce Wanek Foundation, recognizes HPU’s efforts to teach students about technology, business, entrepreneurship and the free enterprise system.

“The educational emphasis on communication and leadership that is the focus of High Point University is providing essential skills to tomorrow’s leaders,” Wanek said in a statement.

The donation from Wanek comes with no limitations on its use, Qubein said, and the school’s trustees will discuss potential uses at their upcoming meeting in September. But since large donations have been a fairly regular event at HPU and have already funded a campus facilities renaissance that few schools in the country can rival, he said the new money will simply continue the path charted out in a $2 billion, 10-year growth plan the school adopted in 2010.

“Just because you have some money, you don’t go do something crazy,” Qubein said. “We’re very much adhering to that strategic plan as outlined. You adjust and you realign, but we’re on track to do exactly what we said.”

There is no shortage of places to spend $10 million on campus. Among the costliest priorities at the moment is the ongoing launch of HPU’s health sciences and pharmacy school, which will occupy a $60 million building on the main campus that is now in the design stage and will eventually require an investment of up to $120 million in faculty, equipment, curricula and other costs.

The school is also considering future uses of the half-empty 800,000-square-foot Oak Hollow Mall property it bought two years ago. Ideas floating around range from a convention center to a business incubator, though nothing has been settled on yet.

The resources required to fund the planned growth should be there, Qubein said. According to the school’s 2012 Form 990 filing with the IRS, High Point University had $9.4 million cash on hand at the end of that fiscal year. The 2013 filing is not yet available, but Qubein said that figure will be up to about $36 million for that year, and is projected to top $50 million in 2014.

Fundraising at HPU has always been strong under Qubein but does fluctuate. The IRS filing says the school raised $16.1 million in contributions and grants in fiscal 2012, down from $25.6 million the prior year.

School officials declined to release the numbers for 2013 yet but said they are up substantially from 2012, and the Wanek gift will get 2014 off to a fast start. Both program revenues paid by students and investment income have also been rising, the filing says.

Some financial analysts criticized the school for the debt load it took on early in its building spree and is still paying back.

Qubein says the school is no longer borrowing money and is paying for growth now through donations and operating reserves. The plan is working and he intends to see it through with no thoughts of retirement, though he’s crossing the age of 65 this year.

 Reporter-The Business Journal

Matt Evans covers technology, entrepreneurship, higher education and financial services.


Who else ranks among HPU’s $10M donors?

Ron Wanek, the chairman and CEO of Ashley Furniture, and his wife, Joyce, have donated $10 million through their foundation to High Point University.

With their donation, they join an elite group. Theirs is the 10th of that amount or higher to the school during the presidency of Nido Qubein, totaling $122 million.

According to High Point University, other donors in that group are:

• Fred and Barbara Wilson

• Earl and Kitty Congdon

• Mark and Rena Norcross

• David Hayworth

• Pauline and Charles Hayworth

• Family of Jim and Jesse Millis

• Nido and Mariana Qubein

• Family of Plato Wilson

• President’s Leadership Council (total of anonymous donations from PLC group which is comprised of parents of current students)

Matt Evans covers technology, entrepreneurship, higher education and financial services.


HPU gets $10 million donation

HIGH POINT — The leader of the nation’s largest furniture company has given High Point University a multimillion dollar gift.

The university announced on Thursday that it has received $10 million from the Ronald and Joyce Wanek Foundation in Arcadia, Wis. Ron Wanek is the chairman of Ashley Furniture Industries, which makes furniture for the living room, dining room, bedroom, home office and other home uses.

Wanek’s gift is unrestricted, which means it will go into the university’s general fund. President Nido Qubein said the university does not yet have a specific use for Wanek’s gift. The school said in March that it plans to build a $60 million facility on campus for its current health sciences school and a new pharmacy program. The university also owns most of Oak Hollow Mall but doesn’t have any definite plans for converting the retail space into college use.

Thursday’s donation was the university’s 10th gift of at least $10 million in the past six years.

Unlike many major university donors, the Wanek family has no personal ties to High Point University.

Qubein said the gift came in part from a professional relationship he developed with Wanek.

Qubein and Wanek met about 10 years ago when Qubein, a noted motivational speaker, spoke to an American Home Furnishings Alliance conference. The company later invited Qubein to talk to executives and sales representatives in both High Point and Las Vegas.

Qubein attended the ground-breaking of Ashley’s expansion in Davie County. That same day, Qubein spoke to about 500 Ashley employees in the Hayworth Fine Arts Center on campus.

Ashley Furniture knows the city of High Point. It has a downtown showroom and a large presence at the twice-yearly High Point Market.

Earlier this year, when Wanek visited Qubein’s office, “I asked him for his support,” Qubein said. “He thought about and considered it, and several months later, he sent us a check.”

In a statement put out by the university, Wanek praised the university’s emphasis on entrepreneurship, technology, business and the free-enterprise system.

“The educational emphasis on communication and leadership that is the focus of High Point University is providing essential skills to tomorrow’s leaders,” Wanek said.

Wanek’s company — his son, Todd, is the president and chief executive officer — is a giant in the industry. Ashley Furniture Industries had an estimated $3.51 billion in sales in 2012. The company sells its products through independently owned Ashley Furniture HomeStore, which Furniture Today magazine ranks as the nation’s largest furniture retailer. Ashley has more than 400 U.S. stores, including locations in Greensboro, Burlington and Winston-Salem.

Ashley broke ground in April on a 1-million-square foot expansion of its warehouse and distribution center in Advance. Furniture Today reported that the expansion, the first of two planned, will add more warehouse and distribution space and convert about a fourth of the site’s existing 1.7 million square feet to upholstery and case goods manufacturing.

The expansion is expected to be finished sometime next year. The facility is expected to eventually employ about 500 workers.

By John Newsom

High Point Enterprise





HPU gets $10 million gift from Ashley furniture founder

HIGH POINT — An elated new grandfather also had good news for his beloved hometown university this week. High Point University President Nido Qubein, who also celebrated the birth of his first grandchild, announced that a friend had given $10 million to HPU.

The Ronald and Joyce Wanek Foundation gave an unrestricted gift of $10 million to HPU. The foundation is connected to Ashley Furniture Industries and Ron Wanek, who started manufacturing furniture with only 35 employees in 1970.

“Ron is a good friend of mine,” Qubein said. “I visited with him and shared our vision for the future and told him I needed his help. His investment will be multiplied. Ron believes in the American Dream and High Point University. The gift from the Waneks and their foundation is a wonderful example of philanthropy and outstanding citizenship. We are deeply grateful for their friendship and generosity.”

Wanek’s gift is the 10th commitment of $10 million or more in the last six years, mostly from families who have High Point connections and know HPU and Qubein, who also will give $10 million.

“We are grateful for the philanthropists who believe in our mission and support our work with their contributions,” Qubein said.

Ron Wanek, speaking on behalf of the Wanek Foundation, praised HPU for its educational efforts in entrepreneurship, technology, business, and most importantly, the free enterprise system.

“The educational emphasis on communication and leadership that is the focus of High Point University,” Wanek said in  a statement, “is providing essential skills to tomorrow’s leaders.”

Ashley Furniture grew to become the largest furniture manufacturer in the world and the largest U.S. furniture retailer with headquarters in Wisconsin. In April, Ashley Furniture broke ground on a 1 million-square-foot piece of what will eventually be 3.8 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution space in Davie County.

“The Wanek gift is a cash unrestricted gift,” Qubein said, “and we can do what we want with it.”

Overall, HPU has a $2 billion, 10-year growth plan the school adopted in 2010. The next big project is a $60 million state-of-the-art facilities for Health Sciences and Pharmacy, which will open in 2016.



Other families who have contributed to HPU:

• Businessman and philanthropist David  Hayworth who pledged the single largest gift in the school’s history, bringing the total investment from his family to more than $25 million

• Pat Norton, La-Z-Boy Corp.chairman: Norton Hall was built with $3.4 million in contributions by companies and individuals.

• L. Paul Brayton, president of Paul Brayton Designs and member of the university’s board of trustees, gave HPU light industrial real estate, valued at $2.3 million, in support of the School of Education.

• The Millis family, led by the late Jesse Millis and Jim Millis: The Millis Athletic and Convocation Center is named for them. Molly Millis Hedgecock gave HPU a Davidson County country home valued at $2.3 million.

• Retired furniture salesman Plato Wilson and his daughter, Susan, gave HPU a large unrestricted gift.

• The families of Earl E. Congdon, Fred E. Wilson Jr., Mark A. Norcross and Nido Qubein each contributed $10 million.

• President’s Leadership Council, anonymous donations from nine families, $14 million.

• The estate of Pauline Hayworth, widow of David Hayworth’s brother Charles Hayworth, donated $2 million.

By David Nivens



Ashley Furniture owners donate $10M to High Point University

The family owners of Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. have chosen to deepen their financial commitment to the Triad and its home-furnishings heritage by making a $10 million gift to High Point University.

The university said Thursday it is receiving the gift from the Ronald and Joyce Wanek Foundation. The gift is an unrestricted donation to the university, spokesman Roger Clodfelter said.

Wanek serves as chairman of the nation’s largest furniture manufacturer, at $3 billion in annual sales, and the largest furniture retailer. The Waneks have been married 52 years.

The company, based in Arcadia, Wis., broke ground in April on the latest piece of an $80 million home-furnishings complex in Davie County.

The 507,000-square-foot distribution center, the second phase of what could be a 2.8 million-square-foot facility, “is fundamental to what we believe in, continued reinvestment in our company, our brands and our employees,” said Todd Wanek, Ashley’s chief executive and Ron and Joyce’s son.

Counting more than 140 current Ashley employees in Advance and the 410 projected to be hired as production ramps up, the majority of its 22,000 global workforce is based in the United States.

Ron Wanek said in a statement that the couple was motivated to make the gift in part because of the university’s educational efforts in entrepreneurship, technology, business and the free enterprise system.

“The educational emphasis on communication and leadership that is the focus of High Point University is providing essential skills to tomorrow’s leaders,” he said.

Nido Qubein, the university’s president, said the gift from the Waneks’ foundation “is a wonderful example of philanthropy and outstanding citizenship. We are deeply grateful for their friendship and generosity.”

It is the 10th gift of at least $10 million that the university has received in the past six years. The university did not say where the Waneks’ gift would be dedicated. Other givers of at least $10 million are Fred and Barbara Wilson, Earl and Kitty Congdon, Mark and Rena Norcross, David Hayworth, Pauline and Charles Hayworth, the family of Jim and Jesse Millis, Nido and Mariana Qubein, the Plato Wilson family and the president’s Leadership Council, which represents parents of current students who want to remain anonymous.

Earl Congdon is chairman of Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. of Thomasville.

It’s not the first time that the university received a major gift from a leading furniture manufacturing executive.

In 2000, the university named its new business building after Pat Norton, then-chairman of La-Z-Boy Inc. Norton was credited with helping the university attract donations worth more than $1.5 million for the new building and scholarships for students majoring in home furnishings. The Norton scholarship, established in 1992, is worth $500,000.

In March, the university announced plans to build the first pharmacy school in the Triad as part of a $60 million project to accommodate an expansion of its School of Health Sciences.

A 170,000-square-foot, four-story building would be built on land contiguous to campus. Construction is slated to begin in 2015, with a goal of enrolling the first class of 65 pharmacy students in the fall of 2016. Students would be on a six-year track for a doctorate degree, including two years of pre-pharmacy school education.

As a private university, High Point would not be required to get legislative approval to open a pharmacy school. It does need the approval of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, which can be a lengthy process.

By Richard Craver