HPU Honors Outstanding Alumni During Homecoming Weekend

Nov 05th, 2021

HPU Honors Outstanding Alumni During Homecoming Weekend

Each year, the Top 10 Under 10 Awards honor 10 successful alumni who graduated within the last 10 years. Pictured from left to right are: Dr. Nido Qubein, HPU president; Rosana Filingeri, Class of 2017; Chris Crawford, Class of 2014; Dr. Jeffrey Berwager, Class of 2016; Sarah Covington, Class of 2014; Janay Whittaker, Class of 2013; Lindsay Scott, Class of 2013; Linda Poplawski, Class of 2013, Landon Harris, Class of 2013; and Adam Hatem, Class of 2011. Not pictured is Cydney Hamilton, Class of 2018.


HIGH POINT, N.C., Nov. 5, 2021 – High Point University held the 2021 Homecoming Weekend from Oct. 22 to 24. Hundreds of High Point University alumni returned to campus for a variety of events.

The highlight of the weekend is the annual Alumni Awards Ceremony. Hosted by the Alumni Association, the ceremony honored HPU alumni who have made outstanding accomplishments and demonstrated a commitment to their communities and the university.

HPU Gene Kester

Lifetime Achievement Award – Gene C. Kester, Class of 1966

Kester was born in High Point and lived in a house on Fifth Street, which later became part of the High Point University campus. Cottrell Hall now stands there in its place. Kester graduated from then High Point College in 1966 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. As a student, he joined Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity and was a soloist in the University Choir.

Kester began his career as a salesman in High Point with Rose Furniture, the company owned and operated by his family. In 1974, he was hired as the first salesman for a new furniture company, Councill Craftsman. This began a 35-year career as an independent manufacturer’s representative for Councill, Southwood Reproductions, Yorkshire House and many other accessory lines.

Kester has served on and participated in numerous organizations and community boards, including the High Point Community Foundation, High Point Rotary Club as a Paul Harris Fellow and member for over 25 years, and as a member of the board of BB&T for 20 years. For 30 years, he has been a member of the High Point Historical Society and has served as a board member for seven years. Kester received the Mary Lib Joyce Award in 2016 for outstanding service, including his efforts during the campaign to relocate the Little Red Schoolhouse, where he attended first grade, to the campus of the High Point Museum. Kester is an active member of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in High Point. He has taught Sunday School and has been a member of the choir for many years.

Kester is a devoted advocate for High Point University and is a life member of the Board of Trustees, on which he served as Chairman from 2010-2013. He also served as Chairman for the High Point University Board of Visitors. Thanks to his enduring support and leadership, the university named the International Promenade for Kester and his wife, Jane.

HPU David Smith

Alumnus of the Year Award – C. David Smith, Class of 1981

Smith was born in High Point and graduated from then High Point College with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education. While completing his student teaching experience, Smith helped his brother coach the Ledford High School Football team in Thomasville.

After college, Smith joined his father in the family business, Smith and Jennings, Incorporated, a High Point-based company founded in 1947. Today, it remains family-owned and operated, employs more than 100 people and specializes in all aspects of the grading and utility industry. Currently, Smith is the owner and president. The company has helped HPU transform over the years, from assisting in the construction of Smith Library in the 1980s to the campus transformation that began in 2005 when HPU President Nido Qubein arrived.

Smith has remained active in the local High Point community by serving on various organization committees and boards. He has served with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Westchester Country Day School and the YMCA Advisory Committee. Currently, Smith is the chair for the High Point YMCA Association where he has been a member for the last six years. In 1996, he was named the YMCA Volunteer of the Year and was inducted into the YMCA Hall of Fame in 2002. He is a current board member for Communities in Schools and serves monthly with Feeding Lisa’s Kids.

Smith combines his passion for sports and his love for High Point University as an active member of the HPU Panther Club and a regular attendee at athletic games. The Smiths have supported HPU in various ways, including through the Spirit Garden at Millis Athletic Center and the annual HPU Prayer Breakfast.

In recognition of their most recent philanthropic gift, along with their long-time support and advocacy, HPU named the David and Amy Smith Hospitality Suite in the new Nido and Mariana Qubein Arena and Conference Center in honor of the family’s success in business and commitment to HPU.

HPU Danita Harris

Alumni Service Award – Danita M. Harris, Class of 1999

Harris graduated from High Point University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in home furnishings marketing. During her time at HPU, she worked in the campus bookstore. She has continued her leadership with High Point University post-graduation as a member of the Alumni Board of Directors. With High Point University Athletics, Harris volunteers her time as the financial consultant for student-athletes to help guide them through future sports careers with the new name, image and likeness era.

Harris began her career in High Point with a local furniture design company as a lead interior designer. After several years, she started a landscaping and design company. Later, she joined New York Life Insurance as an agent in New York City. In her first year, Harris received the New York Life Career Life Success Award, one of the most coveted awards for new agents. Currently, Harris is the managing partner of GUICE Wealth Management in New York City, where she leads the overall daily operation, including the origination and management of business development opportunities, client cultivation and retention, recruitment of staff, and long-term business growth.

In her community, Harris has been involved with various organizations. She has spoken at numerous events, conferences and for charities including the Steve Harvey Foundation; Boys and Girls Clubs of America; Women’s Basketball Coaching Association; St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York; Dallas Children’s Cancer Society; the YMCA; University in Grenada, Spain; and many more. She actively works with numerous professional athletes and their foundations to teach financial literacy.

HPU Megan Oglesby

President’s Award – Megan E. Oglesby, Class of 2015

Oglesby graduated in 2015 with a Master of Business Administration degree from High Point University.

Oglesby began her career with Old Dominion Freight Line, a national LTL freight leader and global transportation company headquartered in Thomasville. After six years, she transitioned to Business High Point – Chamber of Commerce as the senior director of leadership and events, where she was responsible for Leadership High Point, Robert McInnis Golf Tournament, Women’s Business Luncheon, along with many other major Chamber events and sponsorships.

Since May 2019, Oglesby has served as executive director of the Earl and Kathryn Congdon Family Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to invest in organizations within the greater High Point area that promotes improved quality of life by reducing barriers to opportunity.

In the community, her service to others began early. Oglesby earned her Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards in 1999 and 2005, respectively. She is a 2016 graduate of the Leadership High Point and she received the YMCA Emerging Leader Award in 2018. Currently, Oglesby is a board member with Forward High Point, High Point Discovered, the High Point Community Foundation, the Greater High Point YMCA, High Point University Say Yes and First Generation Scholarship Committee, and the High Point University Board of Visitors.

Each year, HPU also honors 10 young alumni who graduated within the last 10 years. This year’s Top 10 Under 10 are:

  • Adam J. Hatem, Class of 2011, Associate Director of Athletic Academic Services at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina
  • Landon C. Harris, Class of 2013, Co-founder of Harris Family Holdings in Mocksville, North Carolina
  • Linda J. Poplawski, Class of 2013, Medical Physicist with West Virginia University Medicine in Morgantown, West Virginia
  • Lindsay D. Scott, Class of 2013, Talent Development Manager for Coca-Cola Consolidated in Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Janay M. Whittaker, Class of 2013, Associate Clinical Counselor for CHRIS 180 in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Sarah N. Covington, Class of 2014, Physician Assistant with Duke University Health Family Medicine in Burlington, North Carolina
  • Chris M. Crawford, Class of 2014, Sports Reporter for Spectrum News One and Radio Host/Producer for WDBO in Orlando, Florida
  • Dr. Jeffrey D. Berwager, Class of 2016, Anesthesiology Resident with Atrium-Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Rosana K. Filingeri, Class of 2017, Vice President of Business Development for Cybersafe Solutions in New York, New York
  • Cydney C. Hamilton, Class of 2018, Manager of Innovative Programs for Heart to Hand in Largo, Maryland