HPU Breaks Ground on Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences

Pictured from left to right are HPU Provost Dennis Carroll, HPU Board of Trustees Chairman Jack Finch, High Point Mayor Jay Wagner, HPU President Nido Qubein, Karen Wanek, Todd Wanek, Cameron Wanek, Joyce Wanek and Ron Wanek officially breaking ground at the ceremony.

HIGH POINT, N.C., April 12, 2018 – High Point University continued its major transformation today when it broke ground on the Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences, named in honor of Karen and Todd Wanek, to house the university’s growing science programs.

The $65 million, 128,000-square-foot facility will open in fall 2019. It will feature four stories of innovative lab and classroom space, as well as the Culp Planetarium.

The Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences is named in honor of Todd Wanek, the CEO of Ashley Furniture, and Karen Wanek, the president of Superior Fresh. It is HPU’s eighth academic school and the fifth school established on campus since Nido Qubein became university president in 2005. The school is focused on biology, chemistry and physics, which complement HPU’s new graduate programs in pharmacy, physical therapy and physician assistant studies. A dean will be hired to facilitate the expanding programs.

“We gather here today for a very important reason,” Qubein told a crowd of 500 people today at the school’s construction site on HPU’s campus. “We celebrate this momentous occasion as our academic programs continue to flourish, and we celebrate Todd and Karen Wanek. Their family loves anything that honors America and the values and principles that build a solid organization. One does not have to look far to see the world’s largest furniture company, which many of you represent here today. It isn’t easy to run a $5 billion company with 27,000 employees and locations everywhere. It takes a person with a growth mindset. This facility will provide a new home to our ever expanding science programs while honoring a family who is devoted to education, achieves a high level of success in their careers and believes deeply in HPU’s mission to prepare students for the world as it is going to be.”

Ashley Furniture, headquartered in Wisconsin, is the largest furniture retailer in the United States and one of the world’s largest furniture manufacturing and distribution facilities. The company employs 27,000 people worldwide, remains a major presence at the High Point Market and has a distribution facility in Advance, North Carolina.


Superior Fresh raises Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout through sustainable agriculture. The water for the fish is filtered through a connecting greenhouse that grows a variety of leafy greens, both of which are sold within a 400-mile radius of company headquarters in Hixton, Wisconsin.

The Waneks are strong supporters of HPU. Ron Wanek, chairman of Ashley Furniture, and his wife, Joyce, have been previously honored with the naming of the R.G. Wanek Center. They are the parents of Todd Wanek.

“We’re very proud of this School of Undergraduate Sciences, and I want to thank HPU for everything the university is doing for the great citizens of the United States and for upholding the values of this country,” Todd Wanek said at the ceremony. “HPU is a God, family and country school, and my family holds those values dear. President Qubein told us HPU was going to pursue a path that would make a difference. We believe in the objectives and the vision of this organization. I’m incredibly proud of my family’s relationship with HPU, where both of my children were educated, and everything we’re achieving together.”

High Point Mayor Jay Wagner also presented the Waneks with a key to the city of High Point.

“The Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences is a demonstrated commitment to higher education that will be a beacon that draws scholars to our community to live and study here,” said Wagner. “This week is the opening of the High Point Furniture Market. The city is blessed to receive 80,000 visitors this week. The Wanek family are icons to the furniture industry, and their presence continues to enable us to be known as the Furniture Capital of the World. We are grateful for your presence in High Point and the many contributions you are making to our university and to our city. The city of High Point will receive increased notoriety and prosperity as a byproduct of your dedication to both the university and the furniture industry.”

The groundbreaking marks another milestone for HPU, which has transformed from a quiet college campus in 2005 to a nationally recognized university in 2018. Enrollment has more than tripled, the size of the campus has increased from 91 acres to 440 acres, and a total of $2.1 billion has been invested into new faculty, new academic programs and state-of-the-art facilities.

“We are thrilled at the opportunities that the new Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences will provide for High Point University students,” said Dr. Angela Bauer, professor and chair of the biology department. “Not only will our new state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities accommodate rapidly growing undergraduate programs in the natural sciences, but they will allow us to expand on the experiential learning opportunities that are a hallmark of a High Point University education. Whether our science majors are studying astronomy in our new planetarium, learning human anatomy in our cadaver lab, or determining the factors that contribute to cancer cell growth in our expansive cell culture facility, the new Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences will allow us to build on what we already do so well. We will now offer an even broader array of innovative learning opportunities that impart to students the technical skills and scientific mindset that allow them to emerge from our programs as poised, confident professionals, and that ensure success in their chosen fields.”


About the Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences:

The Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences is named in honor of Todd and Karen Wanek. Todd Wanek is the CEO of Ashley Furniture, and Karen Wanek is president of Superior Fresh. The $65 million, 128,000-square-foot facility will open in fall 2019. It will feature four stories of innovative lab and classroom space, as well as the Culp Planetarium.The 6,000-square-foot planetarium and lecture room space will include 125 seats and a 50-foot dome with a 4K projection screen and a state-of-the-art surround sound system. The facility will be equipped with programming to teach astronomy, earth science, anatomy and a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lessons for university students, as well as elementary, middle and high school-age groups in the community.

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