HIGH POINT, N.C., Nov. 2, 2020 – High Point University’s 2020 Annual Homecoming Weekend was held virtually from Oct. 23-25 due to the global pandemic, but that didn’t stop the university from honoring 13 outstanding alumni and engaging HPU graduates in a wide variety of events.
Homecoming Weekend included a variety of events, such as a virtual 5K, Cooking Collaborative with HPU Dining, worship service and virtual tours of new areas of campus, like the Nido and Mariana Qubein Arena and Conference Center.
The Annual Alumni Awards Ceremony is always a significant part of Homecoming. This year, HPU presented three major awards to alumni who have made a difference on campus, in their communities and on a national and global scale. The 2020 award winners are:
HPU Lifetime Achievement Award: James H. Millis, Jr., Class of 1976
James H. “Jim” Millis, Jr. was born in High Point in 1947 to Jesse and the late James Millis, Sr. He came to High Point College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1976. As a student, Millis was a staff writer for the Hi-Po campus newspaper and served as art editor for the Apogee, HPU’s literary magazine. He pursued graduate education at the Naropa Institute, now University, in Boulder, Colorado; Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan; and the Executive Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Millis owned a furniture company, Raspberry Fence, located in High Point. After selling the business, he began a career with the Adams Millis Corporation, the world’s largest hosiery company. He served as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Product Development, where he provided strategic long range planning for domestic and global growth. Following his career at Adams Millis, he was the CEO of Micromarketing OMO and worked as a consultant for new product launches, marketing research and product testing. Millis also served as CEO of Millbrook 1, LLC, working with Diversified Trust Company to grow and manage assets. He actively serves as the CEO of the James Millis, Jr. Foundation. During his career, he has mentored many individuals, providing them with encouragement, education and guidance along their journey.
He and his wife, Debbie, have provided philanthropic support to positively impact the local community through several foundations and churches. In addition to serving on numerous organizations and community boards and organizations, Millis served as the President of the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers.
HPU Alumna of the Year: Elizabeth “Betty” Miller Strickland, Class of 1952
Elizabeth “Betty” Miller Strickland attended High Point College, where she was crowned Miss High Point College in 1952. She strongly believes in investing in an education that equips students with the values HPU upholds. Earlier this year, she established the Elizabeth Miller Strickland Women’s Leadership Fund and the Elizabeth Miller Strickland Endowed Scholarship Fund through a $12 million gift.
This transformational gift is the largest to HPU’s endowment in its 96-year history. The endowed scholarship will support students of all genders, with a focus on students returning to HPU who demonstrate both financial need and a background of success on campus in their early college years. The leadership fund will provide a platform to inspire the achievement of gender equality by providing inspiration, mentorship and opportunities for young women to achieve their dreams through the establishment of a Women’s Leadership Council.
Strickland and her late husband, Bob, who passed away in 2018, met when she was only 12 years old at a Boy Scout party, and later married in 1952. After serving in the United States Navy, Bob began a two-year commitment as Lowe’s director of advertising that turned into a 40-year career, with Bob retiring as chairman of the board of Lowe’s in 1997. He was named chairman emeritus in 1999. Together, the couple embodied a love of learning and the transformative power of education.
In the early 1980s, Strickland developed, designed and operated a unique retail venue, Oxford Antiques and Gifts. It was staffed almost exclusively by volunteers in the community, and profits of sales were donated to charities. When it closed in the mid-2000s, the store had gifted well over $1 million to local charities, including Crisis Control Ministries, NC Shakespeare Festival and the Winston-Salem Symphony.
HPU Alumni Service Award: Janet Riley-Wright, Class of 1983
Janet Riley-Wright graduated from High Point University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science while pursuing a pre-law track. She was involved in several campus organizations as a student, specifically as a founding member of the Black Unification Movement. This organization later became Black Cultural Awareness, an active campus group today. She continued her leadership post-graduation with HPU by serving on the Alumni Board of Directors for the past six years.
She began her career as a Domestic Violence Court Advocate and Coordinator with Family Services of the Piedmont. Through this role, Riley-Wright worked with judges, attorneys and members of law enforcement by advocating on behalf of victims and their families in domestic violence situations. She became an expert in the field, published a book entitled “Women of Justice” and coordinated the Domestic Violence Task Force in the High Point community.
She continued her service of advocacy for others as a Prevention Early Intervention Community Engagement Coordinator with Alcohol and Drug Services, Inc. in the Piedmont. Currently, she serves as Child Protective Services Investigator and Senior Social Worker for Forsyth County Family and Children’s Services in Winston-Salem.
Riley-Wright is also involved in her community in numerous other ways. She is a Class of 2018 participant in both Leadership High Point and the High Point Police Citizen Academy. She serves as an ambassador to both Business High Point and the High Point Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. With the YMCA, she is a Community Builders Initiative member and currently serves as vice-chair for the Macedonia Family Resource Center. For the city of High Point, she serves as the chair for the African American Initiative.
“High Point University and the Alumni Association are very proud to honor each of these extraordinary High Point University alumni for their outstanding achievements, demonstrated leadership within their respective career fields, involvement in their local communities and generous support and service to their alma mater,” said Bradley Taylor, director of Alumni Engagement. “Each recipient is a stellar representative of High Point University and our values rooted in God, family and country. We commend each of them on their selection and celebrate this great honor.”
Each year, HPU also honors 10 young alumni who graduated within the last 10 years. This year’s 10 Under 10 are:
–Jeremy D. Hiatt, Class of 2010, Assurance Senior Manager with Smith Leonard in High Point, North Carolina
–Amber L. Williamson, Class of 2014 and 2016, Director of Leadership and Program Development for Business High Point – Chamber of Commerce in High Point, North Carolina
–Derrell T. Edwards, Class of 2014, Over-the-wall Crew Member for Richard Childress Racing, Austin Dillon team, in Welcome, North Carolina
–Robin P. White, Class of 2011, Compensation Leader for National General Insurance in the Piedmont Triad, North Carolina
–Dr. Graham W. Howard, Class of 2012 and 2017, Vice President of Business Development for Kaufman Trailers in Lexington, North Carolina
–Taylor Z. Jamieson, Class of 2012, Human Resources Manager for Cornerstone Research in Washington, D.C.
–Timaura E. Barfield, Class of 2013, Attorney with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP in Charlotte, North Carolina
–Alicia N. Berry, Class of 2013, Head of Teaching and Learning at El Alsson American International School located in Cairo, Egypt
–John A. Ongaro, Class of 2013, Pacific Retail Planning Lead for Campbells Snacks, in Greenwich, Connecticut
–Charlotte G. Thompson, Class of 2018, Director of Sales and Business Development for Bain Creative Agency in New York City