5 Things that Made HPU’s Commencement Unique

May 21st, 2015

5 Things that Made HPU’s Commencement Unique

Another High Point University Commencement celebration is behind us. With degrees in hand on May 9, HPU seniors crossed the stage that serves as a bridge from their undergraduate educational journey to their next big steps in the world.

It’s a time for the Class of 2015 to reflect on their past four years at HPU – strangers who became lifelong friends; international experiences that changed their lives; academic achievements that set them apart; and a bittersweet excitement to take on new challenges.

It’s also a time to reflect on the uniqueness of their university. High Point University holds a Commencement unlike any other and sends its graduates into the world with an event that is as exciting as their first moment on campus. Once again, HPU is receiving national media attention for the event, as well as praise from students and parents who will forever be a part of the HPU family.

Here are five aspects of HPU’s 2015 Commencement that made it, in a word, extraordinary:


  1. Tom Brokaw inspired the graduating class.

Tom Brokaw HPU 2015Every year, High Point University brings inspiring national and international speakers to campus. Broadcast legend Tom Brokaw challenged this year’s graduates to be a new generation that sees past race, gender and superficial lines that divide. Brokaw was even named a top commencement speaker by the Huffington PostUSA Today and Entertainment Weekly. Not only did students hear an inspiring message from the influential journalist; they also shook his hand and had their photo taken with him as they received their degrees.

Past Commencement speakers at HPU have included former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell; Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak; Former First Lady Laura Bush; Chairman of the Board and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company Muhtar Kent; NASA Astronaut Dr. Buzz Aldrin; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Queen Noor of Jordan; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and more.



  1. President Qubein challenged the soon-to-be-graduates and parents at the senior send-off.

Dr. Qubein Senior Send-Off“Onward with Faithful Courage” – that’s what HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein charged the seniors with the day before commencement.

“The world is anticipating your arrival. Do your part to make our world a better place,” said Qubein during the event. “I have no doubt that you will rise to the occasion, and that you will become all that God intended you to become. Step out, and step up. Stand up and be counted. Do the best of your best every day.”

Immediately following the session, seniors gathered for a class photo and toast.




  1. A bald eagle soared over graduating seniors and guests.

As is tradition, the eagle offered a symbolic reminder to the seniors: the future lies ahead of you. Their parents gave them roots – roots that grounded them in values and ideals. HPU gives them wings – wings to soar into a future filled with success and framed with significance. The tradition of the eagle signifies the ideals of free enterprise, independence and the ability to pursue new opportunities in America. While the eagle flew, Dr. Marc Foster, chair of the Department of Music, sang “America the Beautiful.”



  1. Ron Wanek, founder of Ashley Furniture, was given an honorary doctorate.

Ron Wanek HPU 2015HPU recognized the lifetime achievements of Ron Wanek, founder of Ashley Furniture, and his countless contributions to business and philanthropy with an honorary doctorate at the ceremony. At HPU, Wanek is a philanthropic investor and a mentor to students studying business, sales and home furnishings.

Qubein says about Wanek: “Ron Wanek exemplifies the promise of the American dream. His distinguished career in the furniture industry has been earned through hard work and determination coupled with his belief in free enterprise and service to humankind. It is for these reasons that High Point University bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate of business administration.”




  1. The graduates received a blanket to give to their mothers.

It is tradition for HPU students to receive blankets at the end of their freshman Convocation Ceremony. Four years ago, Dr. Qubein encouraged the young students to give the blanket to someone who made an impact in their life, such as their parents, a teacher or a friend. This year, HPU brought that tradition full-circle. In honor of Mother’s day, the day after Commencement on May 10, the graduates gave an HPU blanket to their mothers as a small “thank you” for all they’ve done.