Tuesday, May 28, 2024

NC portraits: Professional women, empowering lives


If there’s one thing that can be learned from the group of women we profiled this year, it’s that relationships matter. Each woman emphasized the importance of prioritizing people personally and professionally as something that has contributed to their overall success, passion and happiness. In industries including higher education, law, accounting, banking and transportation, women are creating real change in their communities and for North Carolina as a whole.

Drive into High Point and you’ll see her name.

It’s on the new children’s museum and the new arena and conference center. It’s also on the sign at High Point University describing the 29 gardens and arboretum that have won awards and wowed young and old.

Yet, she shies from the limelight. Talk to her about her work, and she uses words like “we” instead of “me.” But she doesn’t mince words about why she supports her city and her alma mater. She knows it will help nurture the next generation. Her instruction manual for life springs from a short verse in the Book of Luke: “To whom much is given, much is required.” Mariana Qubein believes that.

“It’s always a group effort,” she says. “And without God, nothing happens.”

Qubein is part of High Point’s most influential team. She is the wife of HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein. Dr. Qubein has led the $3 billion transformation of HPU, his alma mater, since coming onboard in 2005.  More recently, he has raised $110 million to reinvent a city he’s called home for more than a half century.

With most everything he does, Dr. Qubein looks to his wife for guidance.

Their friends see Mariana as her husband’s North Star, his moral compass. Together, they inspire one another, and they’ve helped High Point grow.

Qubein is HPU’s First Lady. She advocates for students, hosts HPU’s Arbor Day and works diligently behind the scenes. She’s helped design the interior of university buildings and create the campus gardens and arboretum that bear her name.

In her own quiet way, though, her altruism stretches far beyond HPU’s 500-acre campus. Those efforts mirror how she raised four children, with love, an attention to detail and a sense of grace. She shares those same values with her grandchildren.

She has served on numerous boards, including the N.C. School of the Arts and Family Services of the Piedmont. She’s active in her church, a major participant in the United Way of Greater High Point and her family has endowed one of the largest stewardship funds at the High Point Community Foundation. She sees her work as nurturing a community for generations to come. She knows why: her faith.

“It’s like a light,” she says. “It guides you through your life.”

Alisa Moody is in a unique position as the CEO of Bernard Robinson & Co., LLP, not only because she’s serving as the firm’s first CEO, but because of her long-term experience with the firm. Moody has been with BRC since graduating from UNC Chapel Hill with her master’s degree in 1991 and joining as a staff accountant.

Moody is particularly proud of the many varied roles she has assumed over the years. She was only the second female partner in the firm 20 years ago and has helped pave the way for many to follow. Now, 11 of the firm’s 23 partners are female as well as 100% of the firm’s executive committee and 59% of senior leadership.

“It’s really quite wonderful,” Moody says. “It’s all about creating that flexible environment where we not only feel valued for our individual contributions but also where we are able to see the value in being part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Moody’s vision for the firm remains true to its long history. She is committed to its people first, community-minded culture. “I believe strongly in supporting our people. It’s our people who support the success of our clients and our firm,” says Moody. “My number one priority is to give our people what they need to succeed both in their careers and in their personal lives.”

Outside of work, Moody loves to spend time with her family, including her three teenage daughters. They’ve been active in Girl Scouts for over a decade, allowing her family to spend time together and volunteer with area nonprofits and schools.

“We always encouraged staff to be active,” Moody says. “Any activity you have in your community not only brings value to the group and to yourself but also creates the people connections that fuel our lives.”

Moody is a Triad-area native and has settled in Kernersville. She primarily works out of the firm’s Greensboro office. It’s a community where everyone knows each other and feels like family, she says. Between that and the people she’s known at her firm for longer than she’s known her husband, Moody has never felt the desire to move companies or towns.

“I think what keeps everyone where they are is the people you work with,” she says. “We’ve always had the best people in our firm, and I think it makes a tremendous amount of difference.”

Cecelia Anderson will tell you juggling responsibilities comes naturally to her. This helps in her role as vice president-investments at Davenport & Company LLC.

Anderson was among the founders of Davenport’s Greensboro branch in 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis. This was no easy feat.

“Given the state of the economy at the time, it wasn’t the best time to transition to a new firm,” Anderson says. “However, we knew Davenport was a better fit for our team and, more importantly, our clients.”

Davenport, a Richmond, Virginia based wealth management and financial services firm, was founded in 1863 and has offices throughout the mid-Atlantic. Greensboro is the firm’s fourth office in North Carolina.

After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2001, Anderson, a natural planner, considered a career in event management. Instead, as an economics major, she turned her sights to the financial services
industry, starting in administrative and sales assistant roles before working her way up to financial advising and a position in management. She credits this start in the industry with her ultimate success.

“I quickly realized it is not just about the financial aspects of the business, but rather the relationships you build and sustain with your clients,” she says. “My clients may not remember each and every financial decision I help them with every year, but they’ll remember the little things, like a call to wish them happy anniversary or reaching out just to say hello.”

Anderson has been instrumental in Davenport’s outreach efforts in the Greensboro community through its involvement in Backpack Beginnings, a local nonprofit that accepts donations for children in need
of nutritional food over the weekends and school breaks. Her clients have enjoyed getting involved in the organization now too.

Involved in her community, Anderson co-chaired the Greensboro Children’s Museum annual gala in 2018 and 2019, the museum’s largest annual fundraiser. She serves on the Board of Directors as first vice
president of the Women’s Professional Forum, an invitation-only organization for professional women. The group and its nonprofit, the WPF Foundation, focus on supporting young girls and women in
their professional and leadership goals.

“That’s really important to me, especially as a woman in a male-dominated industry,” Anderson says. “I’m all for anything that supports women furthering their growth in these types of leadership roles.”

For Stephanie Bryant, working as the senior vice president and private banker at TowneBank means going beyond providing a loan for customers. It means nurturing relationships and contributing to a culture of caring. In fact, Bryant considers many members of the bank her friends.

She wants all members to have a personalized experience where they don’t need to wait in a voicemail tree to get an answer to a question. Her goal is to serve others, enrich lives and tell the TowneBank story.

“I serve as the quarterback of the relationship,” Bryant says. “I have folks that assist me, but my goal is to make sure my members are happy and taken care of in whatever they need.”

TowneBank was founded in 1999 with three banking offices, but has since expanded with offices across North Carolina and Virginia. The bank focuses on commercial, private and personal banking and also has mortgage and insurance companies to offer a comprehensive set of services to its members. It’s a nationally ranked bank, landing 16th on Forbes’ America’s Best Banks 2021 listing.

Bryant, a Charlotte native, joined the bank 9 years ago as the vice president before getting promoted to her current role approximately a year later.

Having lived in the Charlotte area for her life, Bryant enjoys traveling with her husband in her spare time and spending time with her 20-year-old son who attends Appalachian State University.

She currently serves on the finance committee for Parkinson Association of the Carolinas and previously served on the board for five years. The nonprofit raises money to support those living with Parkinson’s as well as their caretakers. She’s also the treasurer of the Executives Association of Charlotte, a group of 50 business owners who network together and support each other’s businesses, and has served as the head of the United Way Pacesetter Campaign for the Charlotte region for TowneBank for the last three years.

Bryant’s favorite part about working for TowneBank is the professional but warm environment. She says that even though everyone works hard and has an impeccable attention to detail, they also know how to have fun.

“The culture of the bank is very caring,” she says. “Everyone really tries to help everyone; everyone tries to do the best job for our members. It’s a great, fun atmosphere to work in that comes from
the top down.”

When Anna Lea Moore joined the North Carolina Railroad Company as the vice president of economic development six years ago, she had a long history in economic development, but she didn’t know anything about railroads.

That has since changed. Now, she speaks of railway infrastructure and the essential role it plays in job creation so passionately it could interest just about anyone.

The NCRR is a private company responsible for the 317-mile rail corridor that runs from Charlotte to the Port terminal in Morehead City. Their goal of job creation through rail investments across the state remains the same more than 170 years later.

Not long after joining NCRR, Moore launched NCRR Invests, which addresses rail infrastructure needs of companies looking to locate or expand in North Carolina. Through NCRR Invests, NCRR was part of recently announced projects like Nestle Purina and EGGER Wood Products among several others, all resulting in 2,700 jobs and capital investments by the companies totaling more than $2 billion.

“If the state is recruiting a new company and it uses rail, we don’t ever want the rail part of it to become a dealbreaker,” Moore says.

Her team’s latest initiative, Build-Ready Sites, speaks directly to this. Essentially, Moore’s team will accept applications from sites with active rail across the state to apply for up to $500,000 for land preparation, speculative building construction and water and sewer updates.

These sites can become a selling point for companies looking to relocate or build operations in North Carolina. If a potential site isn’t ready for development or doesn’t have the proper research completed so questions can be answered, companies might look elsewhere.

“You have to lay a foundation to grow,” Moore says. “You’ve got to have good dirt. Yes, you need to water it and till it, and the quality of whatever seeds you put in the ground is important, but without good dirt, without a good foundation, it’s next to impossible to yield a crop.”

Moore is as passionate about North Carolina as she is her work. She’s a Rocky Mount native who lives in downtown Raleigh now and enjoys the city, which she describes as an eclectic mix of old and new.

“The spirit of the people of North Carolina is something that will never stop amazing me, and I’m hoping we can continue to be a catalyst for forward movement,” she says

Click here to view the full PDF.

Related Articles