Foundation honors its 1st chairman

Mar. 29—HIGH POINT — The High Point Community Foundation created a new award to recognize for those who have performed extraordinary service to the foundation, and it presented the first one on Thursday to the organization's founding chairman.

When accepting the Legacy of the Foundation Award, longtime High Point lawyer and philanthropist Jim Morgan called it "a very emotional day for me," his voice sounding the slightest quaver. He also played down his own importance in the foundation's start.

"Most of you know I am not very smart, so I needed a lot of help starting this foundation," he said, and he read out the names of all the founding board members as well as Jim and Jesse Millis, whose $5 million donation launched the foundation in 1998, and he talked about all those who have worked for the foundation over the years. "Thank you, God, for all the help you gave us."

The foundation's board room also has been named in Morgan's honor, foundation President Paul Lessard said.

Lessard said that Millis and Morgan first got the idea for creating a community foundation in High Point around 1990.

"It took eight long years of hard work of pulling together the support of key leaders in the community to launch this endeavor," he said. "The two men then went to work, and the rest, as they say, is history."

The award was presented at the foundation's 26th annual Grants Celebration, where the foundation spotlights the organizations that received its annual grants for the year.

Lessard also used the occasion to announce that the foundation is nearly halfway to its initial goal of raising $800,000 to underwrite a literacy tutoring program for students in public schools in High Point.

Lessard first announced The Students First Literacy Initiative last Sept. 1. The tutoring will be done in partnership with Guilford County Schools. GCS has been operating high-dose tutoring throughout the school system, but the federal COVID-19 relief money that has been used to pay for it expires this spring.

Currently only one in four third-grade students in High Point's public schools read at grade level. The goal of Students First will be to have all third-graders reading at grade level.

"One student out of four reading at grade level is a disaster," Lessard said, explaining that those students tend to remain behind throughout their education and then enter the workplace without adequate reading skills as well. "We must fix this, and we must fix it now. ... This initiative has the potential to change everything in High Point."