I made it! I finally got to take a tour of the Nido and Mariana Qubein Arena and Conference Center and the Jana and Ken Kahn Hotel at High Point University. My previously scheduled tour in November had been rained out, so I had been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.

Still a construction zone, so instructions were that long pants were required and we should wear comfortable, closed-toe walking shoes. We were to meet over in the College Village Shopping Center, where our host, Darren Hill, the HPU Athletic Department’s director of major gifts, met us and divvied out the required sanitized hard hats and safety vests. The shuttle took us across Lexington Avenue to the splendor of this magnificent new building adorning the campus.

As we rode, I began chatting (and in my inquisitive manner asking questions) with the girl sitting next to me, was Cynthia “Cindy” Strickland Graham. She is the daughter of Elizabeth “Betty” Miller Strickland, who last August gave $12 million to HPU, the largest endowment gift in its 97-year history.

Both Cinny and I were in awe throughout the tour of the $179 million, almost 300,000-square-foot complex. Our host pointed out that no money has been borrowed to fund this building. Just last week the Triad Business Journal gave its readers a “sneak peek” into the complex. Now I will give you one.

I really can’t tell you my favorite part of this complex. It is all fabulous. We maneuvered among the 250 workers diligently constructing, sanding, painting, etc. I can hardly wait until the next basketball season begins, and I will take great pleasure in ascending the grand marble staircase waterfall as I rush to my seat to hear the HPU fight song.

The staircase is still under construction, so we took a path to the arena via several hallways, making sure to avoid any construction obstacles. All at once the purple seating came into view. There will be luxury boxes, a presidential suite. As my eyes scanned the 4,500-seat arena, I daydreamed a second and wondered where my seat will be. Then I remembered back a few weeks when I was privileged to be among those who witnessed the HPU girls’ basketball team win the conference basketball title. It was exciting to watch each team member climb the ladder and cut a part of the net as a souvenir. What a moment.

I looked into the Amy and David Smith (oh, those dancing feet!) Hospitality Room for the Panther Club and just hoped I will get a chance to nosh a bit in there.

As we continued our tour, Cinny and I continued to chat. I remember that her mother had been honored as the HPU Alumnus of the Year. She was named Miss High Point College in 1952. She and her husband, Bob, who passed away in 2018, met when she was 12 years old at a Boy Scout party, and they married in 1952. Bob had a 40-year career with Lowe’s and retired as chairman of the board.

In the early 1980s Betty created Oxford Antiques and Gifts, staffed almost exclusively by volunteers. All profits were donated to charity. When it closed in the mid-2000s the store gave over $1 million to local charities, including the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival.

As we walked to the conference center, I learned that Cinny acted in the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival. How High Pointers miss the Festival and Pedro Silva.

Then the doors to the conference room opened, and it was spectacular. This space and the Jana and Ken Kahn Hotel, including a Mediterranean restaurant, will be known as an “experiential” education, meaning that it will be used for students to learn the hospitality business. To quote HPU President Nido Qubein, “We are a life skills university, so we ensure the students are learning life skills. If you are a hospitality major, how much better is it for you to have a hotel, a restaurant and a conference center?”

We then made our way to the hotel, which will accommodate up to 60 guests. What can I say? This is truly extraordinary. We all should be proud. HPU represents our city and vice versa.

As we began to end our tour Cinny told me the Strickland Foundation just had been meeting to award the HPU Trailblazer Award to a graduating female student who epitomizes the qualities of hard work, passion for service, perseverance and determination. In that philanthropic spirit, the winner will be required to donate a portion of the cash award to a charity of her choice.

That reminds me, Martha Jobe told me about another remarkable HPU student. Nicole Prince was the 2020-21 High Point Literary Scholarship recipient. Oh, how I (and everyone else) miss the Literary League meetings. Prince is from High Point and plans to graduate in 2022 with degrees in biology, English and French. Wow! She is editor-in-chief of Campus Chronicle, co-editor-in-chief of Apogee, English Club vice president, and vice president of the National Society of Leadership and Success. She hopes to have the first article written completely in French in “Innovation.” She is a student editorial assistant for Threadsuns and has also volunteered at the Community Writing Center, all while making the Dean’s List.

Jobe added, “The Literary League would like to thank Dr. Virginia Leclercq and the English Department of HPU for nominating this outstanding young woman.”

I’ll end with a quote from Strickland: “I want to be a part of the values being taught and fostered at the university. I deeply believe in High Point University and want students to realize their dream of attending a ‘God, Family and Country’ university can come true. My husband, Bob, and I have always believed that you don’t go to college to simply learn how to make a living, but you also go to college to learn how to live. HPU’s mentorship model and practice of equipping students with life skills allow that to happen.”