This story is featured in the Spring 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Below, discover how President Nido R. Qubein has transformed High Point University and the surrounding community.
They all see High Point University through a different lens.
Students and alumni see the campus as a caring, safe place. Faculty members see the campus as a place of scholarship. Residents in the city of High Point see the campus as a memory-maker, a place to explore gardens, celebrate Christmas and hear global leaders and innovators talk about the why of life.
But HPU is the Premier Life Skills University, and its purple is also seen as green.
It’s High Point’s economic engine that generates $500 million every year for the city.
It’s the city’s philanthropic partner that donates money, provides volunteers, staffs nonprofit boards and spearheads various community service projects citywide.
It’s the place that helps many to dream.
There’s no better example of HPU’s dream-big philosophy than the $135 million project planned a mile west of campus.
The pragmatic dreamer leading it all is an immigrant, a High Pointer, a man who came to the United States with nothing in his pocket and patterns his life after Luke 12:48, his favorite Bible verse: “To whom much is given, much is required.”
That is HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein.
A Humble Beginning
Qubein’s story feels as quintessentially American as the Statue of Liberty.
Came to America at age 17. Arrived 7,000 miles from home with $50. Learned English on index cards. Attended North Carolina’s Mt. Olive Junior College where an elderly housemother helped him buy his first car and an anonymous local doctor assisted with his tuition.
Transferred to then-High Point College. Graduated in 1970, received a master’s degree from UNC-Greensboro, settled in High Point and began his first business with $500.
Married, raised a family and built six businesses. Helped start a local bank. Wrote 18 books on business, leadership and life, became a popular leadership speaker worldwide and joined High Point University’s Board of Trustees.
Left the world of business in 2005 after being approached to become the seventh president of High Point University, his alma mater.
After months of prayer, discussion and thought, he said yes.
The impact of that one decision is not lost on High Pointers.
Take Bob Brown, an HPU trustee and a former advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and two U.S. presidents.
A year ago, before Qubein spoke to a room full of local leaders, Brown introduced him and recalled the time decades ago when the poet Langston Hughes visited a local high school.
Hughes read “Mother and Son,” his famous poem with the memorable line, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”
Qubein, Brown said, knows that line personally.
“Life for him has not been a crystal stair,” Brown told the audience. “But he wants to pass the benefit of opportunity to others.”
The First Step
There was a time when Dr. Dennis Carroll worried constantly.
It was late 2004. He was the dean of HPU’s School of Education, and he saw his school being left behind because its lack of technology, creativity and drive.
The more he worried, the more he asked himself, “Why am I here?”
He saw HPU, in his words, as a “sleepy little campus.” The liberal arts college drew 1,400 students — most from North Carolina — and they enrolled in a school that struggled to find the money needed to complete buildings and renovate dilapidated dorms.
“Dr. Qubein,” Carroll says.
In his first 29 days as president, Qubein raised $20 million. Then, in his first faculty and staff meeting, he vowed to transform his alma mater and brought out billboards that exclaimed, “Are you ready to travel to places you’ve never been?”
Carroll watched from his seat in the back of the Hayworth Fine Arts Center.
“I was almost crying,” Carroll, HPU’s provost, says today. “I felt we had been rescued.”
The numbers tell the story.
Since Qubein became president, HPU has invested $2.1 billion and raised $375 million to help it grow. And grow it has.
HPU has quadrupled the size of its campus, quadrupled its student population, tripled its faculty and attracted students from all 50 states and more than 55 countries.
HPU has expanded the number of academic schools from three to eight, created three doctoral programs and is developing an academic niche focused on public health.
“Life is not about risk avoidance, life is about risk manage-ment,” Qubein tells the freshmen often during the Life Skills Seminars he teaches. “If you take risk out of life, then you take opportunity out of life.”
For the past six years, U.S. News & World Report has named HPU the No. 1 Regional College in the South, and last year, the Princeton Review named HPU one of the country’s top spots for undergraduate education.
HPU also is ranked No. 8 of 100 colleges nationwide where applications are on the rise. In the past decade, applications have increased 333 percent.
What a difference 13 years makes.
Ask Qubein what drives him, and he will point to his heart. Ask him to explain, and he’ll describe himself as a “solution finder.” He wants to make his alma mater — and the world — a better place, and he believes in the art of the possible.
At 69, his passion has yet to ebb.
Not by a long shot.
A Canvas of Opportunity
Two hours later, after bringing out supporter after supporter, he announced that he had raised $50 million and brought in another $50 million in private investment for a $135 million project seen as essential to revitalizing High Point.
Paul Lessard, the president of the High Point Community Foundation, called the project “the most important endeavor of our generation.”
On a 15-acre tract a mile west of campus, the project includes a baseball stadium, an events center, a children’s museum, a hotel, 200 apartments, a park and an educational cinema for families.
The project includes relocating to High Point the Bridgeport Bluefish, a professional baseball team in Bridgewater, Connecticut.
“This is not for the faint of heart,” Qubein told the crowd. “This is for believers.”
Qubein does believe the project can happen. So do others.
“As they say in golf, ‘Nido, you the man,’” Jim Melvin, a longtime community leader in North Carolina and chairman of the Bryan Foundation, told the crowd in September. “Without your vision, we’d end up going nowhere.”
The Result of Reinvention
Qubein’s vision is evident everywhere on campus. Students and alumni can vouch for that.
They write Qubein about it, and their emails, letters, cards and notes fill nearly three feet of files. For Qubein, that is his greatest reward.
They write him about personal transformation. When they do, they talk about his seminar class, their future and mention one of the favorite motivational phrases he uses. And they bring up his favorite Bible verse.
But mainly, they say thanks. Qubein, they explain, helped them become who they wanted to be. They are forever grateful.
View this story and more in the Spring 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine: