High Point Enterprise Citizens of the Year 2012

Jan. 01, 2013 @ 04:19 AM

They met in the cafeteria line at a Methodist retreat. He had just graduated college and asked if she was a senior. She answered, “yes.”

He assumed they were talking about college. But she meant high school.

Eventually they married and began a partnership that led to a family, a successful business and a legacy of service to their community.

Ann and Vann York were voted this year’s High Point Enterprise Citizens of The Year by a board of past recipients. The Yorks will learn about winning this award when they read today’s newspaper. Or when their phone starts ringing this morning — whichever comes first.

Many who know the Yorks say their contributions to the High Point community are too many to list. But some of those efforts include volunteering for and supporting: Open Door Ministries, YWCA, YMCA, Hospice of the Piedmont, The United Way of Greater High Point, High Point Regional Health System, High Point University, Macedonia Family Resource Center, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. They’ve given away a car from their dealership each year to the United Way of Greater High Point, which gives it to a local donor. Their idea has caught on in other North Carolina communities.

Those close to Ann and Vann York say they are a team whose different personalities complement one another. Vann is the visionary, the big-picture guy with enormous drive. Ann is the pragmatic, pensive one who can read people and figure out what is important to them.

Their son, Greg York, said when he was growing up, whenever one of the children was struggling with something, Vann would pump his fist in the air and yell, “You need PMA!” (Positive Mental Attitude.)

Ann would make sure their homework got done.


‘They believe that you give a portion of what you have away’

The Yorks began serving the community early in their marriage.

Ann York helped with the church, her work going beyond tithing. Vann York also started with the church.

When asked about the Yorks, many said their contributions are done quietly. They are humble, unassuming.

But people have been watching. Including their children.

In the early 1960s, before they owned a successful car dealership, Vann read a story in the newspaper about children in western North Carolina who didn’t have shoes.

He went to his Sunday school class and said, “We can do something about this.”

His children remember him coming home one day and opening the trunk of his Chevy to show them a mound of children’s shoes.

“These shoes are for children without any. Think about that. There are children in our state who don’t have any shoes,” he told them. 

“That stuck with me my whole life,” said the Yorks’ daughter, Lynn York.

‘When you do something like that, it’s good for those children, but it was also good for his children. They believe that you give a portion of what you have away.”

The Yorks’ three children have carried on that service of self in their own communities in High Point, Chapel Hill and Cincinnati. From supporting the arts, to hospitals, to the United Way and Scout troops, The Yorks’ children continue serving their communities.



Vann York began his career at GMAC. In 1968 he joined Ann’s father at a small Chevrolet dealership in Pilot Mountain. In 1970 he and Ann bought a Pontiac dealership in High Point. That dealership became the cornerstone of Vann York Auto Group. Today Vann York Auto Group operates four dealerships representing 10 manufacturers

In the early years of running their car dealership, Vann ran the sales and service departments while Ann managed administration and accounting. As the business grew, Vann ran the day-to-day operations while Ann handled human resources, facilities and projects. They made major decisions together.

Now, Greg York is the president and chief operating officer of Vann York Auto Group. Vann is chairman of the group, and Ann is vice president.


Low key

Their ideals of open doors, promoting from within and a family-like atmosphere has generated loyalty.

Several of their employees have been with them for more than 20 years.

“I’ve been there 28 years, but it feels like 28 days,” said Doug Gillespie, a sales associate at Vann York Auto Mall. “Their doors are open. It’s a great environment. ... They’re very big on community and family.”

Many people say when Ann and Vann York learn about this award, they will be thrilled but humbled. What they do for the community, they do quietly.

Charlie Greene , Citizen of the Year in 1990, said, “They are major partners of High Point’s economic and philanthropic engine, pulling us forward, quietly — like a good car’s engine — efficiently but always low key. So low key, that this award should have been awarded them years ago, but it seems that we only think of the Yorks when help is needed — not when giving awards. Now that is low key.”

Reach Editor Megan Ward at 888-3543

More about Ann and Vann York

The Yorks recently received the Tocqueville Award for their work for United Way of Greater High Point. Each year, the Yorks award a new car to United Way for a give-away to a local donor. The 2012 winner was High Point Firefighter Darrin Tucker. This incentive has been replicated by several United Ways in North Carolina.
Besides the United Way of Greater High Point, Ann and Vann York’s service to the community includes:
Open Door Ministries, YWCA, YMCA, Hospice of the Piedmont, United Way of Greater High Point, High Point Regional Health System, High Point University, Macedonia Family Resource Center, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.

Ann York, originally from Winston-Salem, attended Agnes Scott College with a Daughters of the American Revolution scholarship. Vann, from High Point, attended UNC Chapel Hill. All of their children attended Duke University.
Every year, Ann and Vann return to Lake Junaluska, where they met, to attend the annual conference of the Methodist church.
Ann and Vann have three children: Beth Schiff, Lynn York and Greg York. They also have eight grandchildren.

Known to say:
Ann: “If there aren’t disagreements in the family then someone isn’t speaking up.”
Vann: “You need PMA! (Positive Mental Attitude)

Words used to describe the Yorks:  “humble,”  “consistent,” “generous,” “committed,” “kind”

Biggest flaw: “They’re chronically late,” said daughter Lynn York. “My mother might say that’s mostly dad’s fault, but I’m not sure that’s true. Really it’s because they are always doing so much.”

What others say about Ann and Vann York:

Our Citizens of the Year are humble people who genuinely care about others. They see a need, and they work on a solution to meet the need. Both of them have been a part of many of the philanthropic endeavors of our community for the past 45 years and have been so quiet about their good works that many were unaware of their efforts. They are willing to do the work to improve our community as well as contribute money. They exemplify the adage that “Much good can be accomplished if one does not care who gets the credit.” Their fingerprints are all over this community, from the YMCA to the YWCA, United Way, Open Door Ministries and most especially with their church, Wesley Memorial. They moved here about 1968 and have established a business that is successful but also a business that gives back to our community’s needs. Our community is better because this couple lives and works here. They exemplify good citizens every day.

Christine Greene, Citizen of the Year” 2001


They are generous supporters of HPU, where the residential facility is named in their honor — York Hall. Vann is a trustee. Vann is also a trustee of the Qubein Scholarship Foundation and helped in granting hundreds of scholarships to High Point area students.

Ann and Vann perfectly symbolize the essence and vitality of all America stands for: faith in God, commitment to family and love of country. They worked hard building a successful business, and they invested themselves in service to humankind. They are active members of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.

Ann exudes an aura of elegance and responsibility, and Vann possesses an abundance of wisdom and experience. Together, they are the perfectly compatible couple.

Words that describe them: smart, generous, engaged, loyal and humble.

Dr. Nido R. Qubein, Citizen of the Year 1995, president High Point University


I think the phrase ‘solid citizens’ characterizes Vann and Ann York. For many years they have consistently, quietly operated a successful industry in High Point — started and continued with vision, hard work and excellent service. The Yorks have generously shared their success with High Pointers in multiple ways, both through financial gifts, stimulating contests with winning United Way participants and Guilford County School students receiving cars and in personal service. Ann York’s work with the local YWCA has benefited countless young women. The Yorks are a true team extraordinaire in our city.

Dot Kearns, Citizen of the Year 2011


Ann has been so instrumental with the YWCA and all the good it does for the health and well being of men and women alike.

Vann took a leadership role along with Jim Millis to build our Open Door Ministries and has remained active with it for the past 20 years. Countless lives have been saved and comforted by his quiet leadership, compassion and generosity.

David S. Miller, Citizen of the Year 1997


The Yorks are very fair people. Their doors are open. They treat everybody great. Her office is right in front of his. He handles one thing, she does the other.

I spend a lot of time with these people … They have a lot of workers that have been here a long time. They’re very big on community and family. Their kids, grandkids are involved with the company.

Doug Gillespie, sales associate at Vann York Auto Mall  


Vann and Ann are humble people who applied Christian principles and effective business skills to build a highly successful business. They are great supporters of their church, the United Way, YWCA, Hospice and many other community activities.

Van and Ann York have inspired so many to help make High Point the great city it is.

Bill McGuinn, Citizen of the Year 1992


Vann and Ann are very dedicated to HPU. He’s on the board of trustees.

They’re very much involved in Open Door Ministries. They put their time in it, collecting money, They’re patrons.

When you see them together you can see they are partners who have been together almost 60 years. They are a working class team. Ann is very focused. She’s the person who keeps her eye on the details. Vann is the visionary, the big-picture guy.

If you’re having dinner with them, Ann will be more quiet. She’s always thinking. She’ll be smiling. He’s a dreamer and he’s a doer.

Mark Norcross, business partner and friend


Ann and Vann York are true community leaders in every way — involved in many projects — planning and working to execution. From United Way (the gift of the car which brings untold numbers of donors up to fair-share givers) to the YWCA, where Ann’s deft hands can be felt but not seen in all its projects

They are major partners of High Point’s economic and philanthropic engine, pulling us forward, quietly (like a good car’s engine!) efficiently but always low key.

So low key that this award should have been awarded them years ago, but it seems that we only think of the Yorks when help is needed — not when giving awards. Now that is low key.

Charlie Greene, Citizen of the Year 1990


We could never understand the full measure of their contributions to the High Point community because they’ve done and continue to do so much.

They do this because that’s where their hearts are. They are genuinely giving people, and they love the High Point community.

Paula Barkley, executive assistant, Vann York Auto Group


“I’ve seen Vann’s compassion and willingness to give people second chances.

He has had employees in the past who struggled from addictions. Instead of simply firing them, Vann York brought them to Open Door for help. He worked with them and their families. He doesn’t give up on people. He helps some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

Steve Key, executive director of Open Door Ministries


Ann’s been so instrumental in making sure the YWCA continues to thrive. Yes, she gave money, but she gave them her time and wisdom.

We had struggled with having a lasting leader. She was instrumental in getting Heidi Majors, the executive director of the YWCA. Now Hedi’s been there for over 10 years.

In difficult meetings, Ann can come in and in a very quiet manner, get people to agree, even if they adamantly disagreed at one point.

She does this in a kind, Southern, gentle manner. You almost want to say thank you for making you understand.

She really is a leader.

Pam Greene, served on the YWCA board with Ann York



The High Point Enterprise Citizens of the Year are nominated and chosen by previous winners, except for P. Hunter Dalton, who was chosen by Holt McPherson, then Enterprise editor.

1966 - P. Hunter Dalton

1967 - James H. Millis*

1968 - Leo J. Heer*

1969 - T. Lynwood Smith*

1970 - George A. Covington*

1971 - Holt McPherson*

1972 - Henry A. Foscue*

1973 - Ed Mendenhall Sr.*

1974 - Dale Montgomery*

1975 - R.T. Amos Jr.*

1976 - Meredith Slane*

1977 - Charles Hayworth*

1978 - Robert B. Rankin*

1979 - Nancy Lyles*

1980 - Herman Smith*

1981 - Roy B. Culler Jr.

1982 - Herman Bernard*

1983 - Thomas S. Haggai

1984 - William A. Horney

1985 - Fred Alexander*

1986 - Elizabeth Wall*

1987 - George Erath*

1988 - John Thomas

1989 - Esther Culp*

1990 - Charles A. Greene

1991 - James F. Morgan

1992 - J. William McGuinn Jr.

1993 - John C. and Marsha B. Slane

1994 - Rebecca Smothers

1995 - Nido R. Qubein

1996 - William G. Ervin*

1997 - David S. Miller

1998 - Judy Mendenhall

1999 - Dr. Otis Tillman

2000 - Earl N. “Phil” Phillips Jr.

2001 - Christine J. Greene

2002 - George Marsh*

2003 - Max Meeks

2004 - C. Jeffrey Horney

2005 - Robert J. Brown

2006 - Jeffrey S. Miller

2007 - David R. Hayworth

2008 - Arnold Koonce

2009 - Ed Price

2010 - Coy O. Williard Jr.

2011 - Dorothy K. “Dot” Kearns

2012 Ann and Vann York

* deceased