Wente became the 14th President of Wake Forest on July 1, 2021. The Founders Day Convocation is held annually to observe the founding of the University in 1834. She recognized that the University has a history which, “as that of our state and our nation is linked with slavery, segregation and major injustices. We should not be afraid of these aspects of our past. Instead, we should confront them. And more importantly, as an institution whose knowledge creation is our heart, we must learn from them. »
She cited Wake Forest’s inclusion in Universities Studying Slavery, a consortium of nearly 90 colleges and universities examining the role slavery played on their campuses, and Wake Forest’s Slavery, Race and Memory project.
She also highlighted other important University milestones: the law school was founded in 1894, the medical school was founded in 1902, and Wake Forest began playing collegiate sports in 1923 under the nickname Demon. Deacons. In 1942 the first women were admitted to the college, and in 1956 he moved to Winston-Salem from his original home near Raleigh. Wente continued the story of Wake Forest, mentioning that in 1962 the board of trustees voted to admit African-American students, Ed Reynolds became the first full-time black student enrolled at Wake Forest and the leader of the civil rights, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the same location where she delivered the Founders’ Day speech.
“Wake Forest is a place where a lot of things started, where the founding act is ongoing,” Wente said.
Former Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch, who served from 2005 to 2021 and successfully led the billion-dollar Wake Will Lead campaign, received the University’s highest honor, the Medallion of deserved. Prior to receiving Wente’s award, a seven-minute video chronicling his tenure was released. The Medal of Merit is awarded to individuals who have rendered distinguished service to Wake Forest.
Angelou was appointed the University’s first Reynolds Professor of American Studies in 1982 and taught at Wake Forest until her death in 2014. A residence hall is named after her.
Last year, it was announced that Angelou would become the first African-American woman whose image would grace the American Quarter. Founders Day attendees received quarters.
Still began his tribute by quoting the final stanza of Angelou’s famous poem, And Still I Rise.
“As the first African-American woman featured in the quarter, Dr. Angelou joins and expands a well-known cast of founders,” Still said. “She took what was all around her, the ordinary things in her life, in our lives, and she made them extraordinary. In her art and her wisdom, she emphasized beauty and pain, of course, in the mundane. She taught us to see the extraordinary possibilities of life, to see that we ourselves are extraordinary possibilities.
Senior prayers have been part of Founders Day for 187 years. Bea Pearson, a senior history major from Mount Holly, New Jersey, was the winner of the 2022 Senior Oration Contest.
In her “Seized at the Root” speech, she spoke about some of the tumultuous times the Wake Forest campus went through in her four years and the challenges she faced as a black student.
“Being uprooted allows you to flourish, to take hold of fertile new ground… I have been stretched by these moments and stretched into the figure of the strong and proud person Deacon Demon that I am today. “
The Founders Day program ended with a blessing from the Dean of the School of Divinity, Jonathan Lee Walton.