HPU gets $10 million gift from Ashley furniture founder
An elated new grandfather also had good news for his beloved hometown university this week. High Point University President Nido Qubein, who also celebrated the birth of his first grandchild, announced that a friend had given $10 million to HPU.
The Ronald and Joyce Wanek Foundation gave an unrestricted gift of $10 million to HPU. The foundation is connected to Ashley Furniture Industries and Ron Wanek, who started manufacturing furniture with only 35 employees in 1970.
“Ron is a good friend of mine,” Qubein said. “I visited with him and shared our vision for the future and told him I needed his help. His investment will be multiplied. Ron believes in the American Dream and High Point University. The gift from the Waneks and their foundation is a wonderful example of philanthropy and outstanding citizenship. We are deeply grateful for their friendship and generosity.”
Wanek’s gift is the 10th commitment of $10 million or more in the last six years, mostly from families who have High Point connections and know HPU and Qubein, who also will give $10 million.
“We are grateful for the philanthropists who believe in our mission and support our work with their contributions,” Qubein said.
Ron Wanek, speaking on behalf of the Wanek Foundation, praised HPU for its educational efforts in entrepreneurship, technology, business, and most importantly, the free enterprise system.
“The educational emphasis on communication and leadership that is the focus of High Point University,” Wanek said in a statement, “is providing essential skills to tomorrow’s leaders.”
Ashley Furniture grew to become the largest furniture manufacturer in the world and the largest U.S. furniture retailer with headquarters in Wisconsin. In April, Ashley Furniture broke ground on a 1 million-square-foot piece of what will eventually be 3.8 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution space in Davie County.
“The Wanek gift is a cash unrestricted gift,” Qubein said, “and we can do what we want with it.”
Overall, HPU has a $2 billion, 10-year growth plan the school adopted in 2010. The next big project is a $60 million state-of-the-art facilities for Health Sciences and Pharmacy, which will open in 2016.
“We are grateful for the little gifts too,” Qubein said. “We have had $25 million come in during the last 90 days. It is remarkable. Despite the Great Recession, we have continued to grow. The High Point families paved the way so we could transform this institution and it is pleasing to see that donations are coming from outside North Carolina.”
Other families who have contributed to HPU:
• Businessman and philanthropist David Hayworth who pledged the single largest gift in the school’s history, bringing the total investment from his family to more than $25 million
• Pat Norton, La-Z-Boy Corp.chairman: Norton Hall was built with $3.4 million in contributions by companies and individuals.
• L. Paul Brayton, president of Paul Brayton Designs and member of the university’s board of trustees, gave HPU light industrial real estate, valued at $2.3 million, in support of the School of Education.
• The Millis family, led by the late Jesse Millis and Jim Millis: The Millis Athletic and Convocation Center is named for them. Molly Millis Hedgecock gave HPU a Davidson County country home valued at $2.3 million.
• Retired furniture salesman Plato Wilson and his daughter, Susan, gave HPU a large unrestricted gift.
• The families of Earl E. Congdon, Fred E. Wilson Jr., Mark A. Norcross and Nido Qubein each contributed $10 million.
• President’s Leadership Council, anonymous donations from nine families, $14 million.
• The estate of Pauline Hayworth, widow of David Hayworth’s brother Charles Hayworth, donated $2 million.