High Point University

Successful HPU parents offer advice in a panel with Qubein

By Nicholas Bainbridge// News Editor


High Point University welcomed our community’s loved ones to campus during the traditional Winter Family Weekend on Feb. 1-2. During the event, parents contributed a great deal to the university, participating in various activities and speaking to students about the fields of their expertise. It was the second of these contributions that was featured most prominently during this recent family weekend.

Four accomplished CEOs, all of whom are parents of HPU students, spoke at a panel hosted by HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein in the Callicutt Auditorium in Congdon Hall. The primary focus of the panel was the career paths of the guests’ and what guidance they could offer students pursuing similar routes. Dr. Qubein stressed how important it was for students to heed the counsel of experienced entrepreneurs and how they were proper examples of successful people who reflect not only HPU’s values but the values of the nation as a whole.

“Here at High Point University we believe that this country was founded for a reason,” said President Qubein. “We believe free enterprise works, but that it is hard work. If our students don’t believe this, they should go to a school that believes in socialism.”

Stephen Distante is the Chief Entrepreneurial Officer of the Vanderbilt Financial Group, an independent broker-dealer that trades shares in the stock market. One lesson he sought to impart upon to students was that economic instability and negative situations can yield beneficial outcomes.

“It was a phenomenal year,” said Distante when asked about how his businesses performed during the recent decline in the stock market. “The opportunities are in the volatile moments.”

Distante also announced that he joined a new start-up company that will be selling three-wheel electric vehicles once it officially launches. 

Sue Downes, one of the co-founders of MyEyeDr., was also present and stressed the importance of putting customer service first. Her business was designed around providing better and more reliable care for patients. She has proven quite successful at this when she was awarded the 2018 Prevent Blindness Person of Vision Award. 

 Downes also offered insight into how new entrepreneurs can establish themselves in competitive fields. According to her, demonstrating one’s prowess goes a long way in establishing a position in a company.

“When you walk into a boardroom meeting you need to know your specialty, know your audience and know it better than anyone else.”

It was also revealed that Downes is advocating for HPU to open an optometry school and is considering requests from President Qubein to make donations to support the proposed project.

Christopher Pappas, the co-founder of The Chefs Warehouse, was eager to inform students that employers search for more than just credentials in job applicants. 

“When I hire I look for someone who is authentic,” said Pappas.

According to him, the most important thing for an employer is that he or she feels comfortable when entrusting workers with important responsibilities.

President Qubein, a successful entrepreneur himself, also had words of wisdom to pass on. He set his focus on when and how to handle risk, encouraging prospective entrepreneurs to take chances without being reckless.

“When I am faced with hard decisions I ask myself these questions,” said Qubein. “What is the best thing that could happen? What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the most likely thing that could happen? If the most likely thing will get me closer to my goals, and I can deal with the worst thing then I go for it.”


Left picture: From left to right, Stephen Distante, Nido Qubein, Sue Downes and Christopher Pappas participated in a Parent CEO Panel during Family Weekend, with Qubein serving as the moderator.. Right picture: Students and family members keenly listen to the economic advice of the guest speakers. Photos by Lee Adams