Paul Lessard, Founding President of the High Point Community Foundation, has been recognized as one of the most influential leaders in North Carolina. He is one of 4 High Pointers who have been honored this year in the inaugural Business North Carolina 2021 Power 100 list.
The Power 100 List features biographies and commentary on the state’s most influential leaders. Lessard is recognized as the Founding President of the High Point Community Foundation established in 1998 and for his role in growing their assets from $5 million to today’s $100 million under management. The Foundation has granted over $85 million to nonprofits and community initiatives through unrestricted funds and Donor Advised Funds, over the last 23 years. Lessard also worked with David Miller and Ann Busby to raise $11 million for Say Yes Guilford, a last dollar scholarship program that serves qualified High Point and Greensboro high school students. The High Point Community Foundation’s mission is dedicated to “Meeting the Unmet Needs” of the greater High Point community by managing a permanent endowment for the community, running an annual grants program and overseeing a large collection of Donor Advised Funds.
Lessard was awarded the Carnegie Hero Medal, our nation’s highest civilian recognition for heroism in 1994, for saving an elderly woman from drowning in a submerged car. He has received the Congressional Commendation for heroism, the Key to the City of High Point, recognized as a Polar Heart Rate “Heart to Believe Success Story” award winner and selected as a “Community Hero” Olympic Torch Bearer for the Atlanta Olympics. Paul used the monetary stipend that accompanied his Carnegie Medal to establish the Lighthouse Project in 1994 which has, for over 27 years, brought in nationally known role-models to speak to and inspire students in Guilford County. To date the project has impacted over 500,000 students.
An alumnus of High Point University, Lessard attended HPU on a soccer scholarship, served as Team Captain in 1980 and double majored in English and History. He attended UNCG where he received an MFA in Communications and later did post-graduate work in Non-Profit Management at Harvard University. He has been named the Alumnus of the Year at both HPU and UNCG and he remains very involved with the HPU Men’s Soccer Program.
Lessard has served on many Boards over the years, including; Board of Visitors at HPU, the HPU Panther Club, the HPU Varsity Club, Wells Fargo Board of Advisors, Say Yes Guilford, Young Life, FCA, YMCA, the High Point Town and Gown Committee and many others.
Lessard received the inaugural Dr. Kennedy Humanitarian Award for his advocation for children, he was the recipient of the Yogi Yarborough “Spirit of the Community” Award for his commitment to serving High Point. He has been named the “Business Advocate of the Year” by the High Point Chamber of Commerce and both Paul and the Foundation received the “Excellence in Community Support Award.” In December of 2019, the HPU Men’s Soccer Locker Room at Vert Stadium was named in Paul’s honor.
He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping Magazine, USA/Today Newspaper, Our State Magazine and the US News and World Report. For over 20 years, Paul has written a widely read column, “Giving 101” that examines the “art and science of giving.” He has also authored 3 books and is currently completing his 4th, a memoir of his friendship and partnership with a former gang leader and their shared passion for keeping young men of color out of gangs.
Paul is married to Jayne Isaacson Lessard and they have 2 children, Taylor and Jordan, 2 grandchildren, Hadley and Clay with 2 more grandsons on the way!