High Point University focuses on ‘WOW’

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — As a perk, every student at High Point University with a car can get it washed for free every weekend.

Applying the soap and water are members of fraternities the school pays for the work.

“The students with cars learn the importance of a gift,” says John Lefler, vice president for institutional advancement. “Students that wash the cars get a job.”

The service reflects both the school’s philosophy that every aspect of campus life should yield a value lesson, and also the strategy of its president, Nido Qubein, to endow every facet of the institution with a “wow” value, Lefler says.

Qubein, who even has created the position of “director of WOW,” has ramped up fundraising and campus improvements, says Lefler, who retires in June and will be succeeded by Don Scarborough, currently vice president for administration.

On taking office in January 2005, Qubein announced he wanted to generate $10 million in new commitments to the school in his first month.

New commitments that month actually totaled $20 million, part of $71.8 million the school has raised since Qubein became president.

And the school expects to raise another $30 million over the next two years.

Lefler, who will continue working two days a week with major and planned-giving donors and prospects after he retires, says

Qubein ushered in a new way of doing business.

Under Qubein’s predecessor, Jacob Martinson, who became president in August 1985, “we did one thing meticulously at a time,” says Lefler, who had headed the development office at Brevard under Martinson before following him to High Point.

By comparison, Lefler says, Qubein “has 100 projects underway at one time.”

In boosting contributions, Lefler says, Qubein is building on dramatic growth in fundraising that Martinson helped spur.

When Lefler began his job in January 1986, the school did not have an annual fund.

With Lefler serving as the only professional fundraising staff for most of those years, the school now has an annual fund expected to total $800,000 this school year.

High Point also has nearly tripled its endowment, to $52 million from $17.5 million, and raised $135 million in gifts and pledges, nearly half of it through a series of “major-gift campaigns” before Qubein arrived.

Based on strategic planning Martinson initiated, the school is building or planning new schools of business, commerce, communications and education, and a new student center, field house, baseball stadium, soccer stadium, lacrosse field, track and outdoor pool.

It also has purchased land and 70 houses near the campus, increasing it size by one-third.

And last summer, 1,000 workers renovated every residence hall and built a new 240-unit residence hall, with the number of residential students is expected to grow to 2,000 within about five years from about 1,000 in the mid-1990s.

Reflecting the “wow” factor, Lefler says, is live music that is performed daily in the school cafeteria, and classical music that is piped through speakers set in trees throughout the campus.

“This is all about students,” he says. “It’s not about buildings. It’s about programs in those buildings. Buildings are a means to an end.”

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