High Point Community Foundation President, Paul Lessard, received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine at the High Point Community Foundation Board Meeting on Tuesday, December 12th, 2023. Speaking and presenting the award at the ceremony were three local past recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, Chris Greene and Jim Morgan.
“We are grateful to Governor Cooper for awarding this most prestigious and well-deserved recognition to our friend and teammate,’ Paul Lessard,” notes Ann Busby, Past Chair, HPCF. “It always takes a team to accomplish great things and I want to thank Chris Greene, Jim Morgan, David Miller and Tom Blount who all played key roles in the nominating process.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is North Carolina’s highest civilian honor given to recognize lifetime achievements of Community Service. Established in 1961 it has been given by the Governor to men and women who have had significant impact upon our State. Past recipients include; Billy Graham, Michael Jordan, Dean Smith, Bob Timberlake, Andy Griffith and many others.
Paul J. Lessard is the Founding President of the High Point Community Foundation which was established in 1998. Under Paul’s leadership the Foundation’s assets have grown from $5 million to almost $100 million under management. In the past 25 years the Foundation has awarded over $107.2 million in unrestricted and Donor Advised Fund grants that have impacted organizations locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally.
Paul earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and History at High Point College where he attended on a soccer/academic scholarship in the mid-70s. He earned his Master of Fine Arts in Communications from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was selected to pursue post-graduate studies in Nonprofit Management at Harvard University Business School in the summer of 2006.
Paul is the Founder and Director of the Lighthouse Project. Established in 1994 with a monetary stipend that accompanied the Carnegie Hero Medal. For over 26 years the Project partnered with the Guilford County Schools Character Education Program to bring in over 50 nationally known role models including; Coach Boone, subject of the film, Remember the Titans, James Bradley, author of the NY Times Best Seller, Flags of Our Fathers, Clifton Taulbert, author of the seminal civil rights classic, Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored, General Chuck Krulak, Commandant of the US Marine Corps A Season of Life, Patch Adams, subject of the film Patch Adams, Robert Woodson, McArthur Genius Grant Recipient, Joe Erhmann, subject of the book, A Season of Life, and many others. To date the Projects has impacted over 650,000 students with their speakers.
Paul was awarded the Carnegie Hero Medal, our nation’s highest civilian recognition for heroism, for saving an elderly woman from drowning in a submerged car in 1993. He received the Congressional Commendation for Heroism in 1994. He was awarded Key to the City, High Point, NC and Resolution of Commendation for Heroism, 1993. He was selected Community Hero Olympic Torch Bearer for the Atlanta Olympics, 1996. He was named Polar Heart Monitor Heart to Believe Success Story Award Winner, 1998.
He was awarded the High Point Chamber of Commerce “Business Advocate of the Year” Award, 2002. He received the inaugural Dr. Kennedy Humanitarian of the Year Award for advocating for children, 2004. On Sept.17, 2020, a special virtual presentation hosted by the Boy Scout of America recognized Paul Lessard as the inaugural 2020 Man of the Year.
Paul has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping Magazine, USA/Today Newspaper, and US News and World Report. He has also been featured on NBC’s Olympic Moments and PAX TV’s It’s a Miracle and the Lifetime Network’s Beyond Chance. Paul writes a widely read newspaper column for the High Point Enterprise, Giving 101 that examines the art and science of giving, he has authored 4 books; The Mean Little Princess (Children’s book), Visions of Philanthropy 1 and 2 (Treatise on Giving) and A Measure of my Heart, Life Lessons from Yogi (Memoir). He has recently completed 2 new books; The Black Moses, (Memoir), a story of his friendship with a former gang leader who received a second chance in life and The Little Devil Who Talked to Angels, (Children’s book).
Paul is the son of Colonel Paul F. Lessard, a 38-year Marine Corps officer (deceased) and Mother, Dorothy who resides in Hampton, NH. He is married to Jayne Isaacson Lessard, a recently retired 42-year private practice psychologist and they have two children; daughter, Taylor Sprague, a Physician Assistant who graduated from the inaugural PA Program at High Point University and a son, Jordan Lessard, who is a financial advisor with Edward Jones and a committed community leader. Along with his two children, Paul is most proud of his five grandchildren; Hadley, Clay, Bond, Weston and Walker. Paul’s goal in life is to be a Godly husband to Jayne and a loving father and grandfather.