PFEIFFER SPOTLIGHT: Building homes is where his heart is

By Emma Kate West, for Pfeiffer University

1968 Pfeiffer graduate Al Waddell is a Carolina native through and through. His roots are in Charlotte, where he first understood the value of community, but his business has also taken him to York County, South Carolina, and between the two, he has helped create homes and community for more than 1,400 families.

Al Waddell

Waddell was introduced to Pfeiffer by his minister at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Charlotte. He recalls finding comfort in the fact that the university community shared his personal values, and he quickly settled in as a new freshman on Pfeiffer’s Misenheimer campus.

Waddell was active in student life and academics, serving as treasurer of his class and business manager of The Pfeiffer News. He also enjoyed playing intramural basketball and softball.

“Pfeiffer was so important to me. It provided values and education that have helped me through life. My religion professor, Mary Floyd, was so kind and considerate. She gave new meaning to studying the Bible,” he said. “And Col. James Williams was a demanding economics professor in the business department who made me want to do well. He could certainly embarrass you in class if you weren’t prepared.”

Shortly after he graduated from Pfeiffer with a degree in business administration, Waddell was drafted into the U.S. Army in September 1968. Upon his return to North Carolina after two years of service in the States and in Germany, Waddell began working in property management. His entrepreneurial journey began in 1974 when he and his business partner opened Rutenberg Waddell Homes.

As a fourth-generation homebuilder who spent his summers working for his father’s company, Waddell always enjoyed the tangibility of building and found great joy in creating people’s dream homes. He knew early on that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and continue creating safe, comfortable places for people to raise their families.

In 1993, he founded Waddell Homes, Inc., which would eventually become Waddell Custom Homes in 2012. Since then, Waddell has built homes in the Charlotte metro area, customized for the lifestyles of hundreds of families. Waddell says the most important thing to him as the owner of a business is integrity,

“I have always focused on trying to do things right. There is no cutting corners.”
Waddell says his approach to homebuilding has been an evolutionary one that reflects what his experience has taught him, what clients are telling him, and what leaders in construction technique and materials are recommending. And while he has seen lots of changes, some things, he says, have not changed at all.

“When I started building homes in 1974, there was only one national homebuilder in Charlotte. It was easy to compete and find lots on which to build. As more national builders came into the market, it became difficult for custom builders to compete. That challenge led me to York County, where I came to learn that home styles and the market may change, but my hands-on process remains the same,” he said.

Throughout his career, Waddell has built more than 1,400 homes, developed more than 1,000 lots and constructed 250,000 square feet of commercial space. He has earned many accolades for his work, including Charlotte Home Builder of the Year and York County Home Builder of the Year.

“I have the honor of creating homes for families across the Carolinas. From an empty lot to a home full of love. It’s been very rewarding,” Waddell said.

In addition to helping build communities for others through his work, Waddell has served his own community in numerous ways. He served as president of the UNC Charlotte Athletic Foundation, president of the Home Builders Association, director of Mecklenburg County Boy Scouts and as a member of Pfeiffer’s Charlotte Advisory Board. Waddell and his wife are also active members of the Community Church at Lake Wylie, where he serves on the Leadership Council and chairs the Building and Grounds Committee.

In 2022, Waddell named his long-time business partner as the new CEO of Waddell Custom Homes, though he still works for the company. Yet the most important thing to him right now, he says, is spending time enjoying the lake with his children and grandchildren. When he’s not on the lake or in the office, Waddell enjoys hunting across the Carolinas and beyond.

Waddell is still close with several Pfeiffer classmates, often enjoying time together over a meal. He describes his graduating class as “innovative” and recalls their unconventional fundraising methods as one example.

The Class of 1968 used life insurance policies, for example, to benefit its alma mater. One policy was eventually cashed out to help create the University Welcome Center, and the other, issued on the lives of two classmates, will benefit the University in the future. In addition to other special projects, the Class of 1968 has also funded an endowed scholarship in celebration of its 50th reunion.

Waddell’s advice to today’s students is simple, but a testament to how he has lived his own life.

“Get involved. Reach out, make friends and build community. Take advantage of everything Pfeiffer has to offer,” he said.