Dr. Nathan O. Hatch became Wake Forest’s 13th president on July 1, 2005. In his eighth year at the helm, U.S. News and World Report named Wake Forest 23rd among 281 national universities – the highest ever ranking for the University.
His time leading Wake Forest has been characterized by achievements on five fronts: 1) clarifying Wake Forest’s mission and strategic plan, 2) assembling a remarkable team of leaders, 3) making significant realignments in business and medicine to better position the University, 4) undertaking bold initiatives to make standardized tests optional for applicants, develop new programs to educate the whole person, reinvent the 21st century liberal arts education with personal and career preparedness a key focus and build greater community through a three-year residency requirement, and 5) leading Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest, the largest fundraising effort in the University’s history.
The strategic plan, approved by the Board of Trustees and embraced by the college community, strengthens Wake Forest’s position as the nation’s premier “collegiate university.” This approach to education integrates an undergraduate liberal arts tradition with the vitality of a research university.
Additionally, Dr. Hatch completed a master planning process to ensure the physical development of the campus is aligned with the University’s strategic goals. That plan also takes on important challenges in making the campus more sustainable. Since Dr. Hatch assumed leadership, the campus has added three new residence halls, the Porter B. Byrum Welcome Center, Farrell Hall, the Barn, the Garage at the President’s House, Zick’s, the Arnold Palmer Golf Complex and Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park.
Under Dr. Hatch’s leadership, Wake Forest has also completed two major integration projects. Wake Forest’s separate undergraduate and graduate business programs have been combined into one under the leadership of Steve Reinemund. Farrell Hall houses the School of Business. He also was instrumental in merging Wake Forest University Health Sciences and North Carolina Baptist Hospital – each with revenues of some one billion dollars – into a single entity with common management under Dr. John McConnell.
With the idea that leadership starts at home, Dr. Hatch has assembled a remarkable team of academic and administrative leaders. Throughout his academic career, he has been drawn to challenges that involve people and building organizations. “A university is a very complicated organization in modern society,” he notes, “and it is critical to have outstanding leaders in all spheres, from academic programs to athletics, from investments to student development.” Most recently, Penny Rue, former vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of California San Diego, was named Wake Forest’s vice president for campus life. Rue, who joined the senior administration in July 2013, is nationally known for her creative leadership in strengthening campus communities.
Dr. Hatch has also undertaken bold steps to make the Wake Forest experience more personal and to challenge students to lead lives that matter. A student can apply to Wake Forest without standardized tests, but all applicants are encouraged to have a personal interview.
On campus, students are given opportunities to learn in and out of the classroom. With dedicated teacher-scholars, Provost Rogan Kersh (’86) leads the effort to educate the whole person.
Dr. Hatch established the Office of Personal Career Development under the leadership of Vice President Andy Chan. The mandate of that office is to develop mentoring programs, course offerings, lectures and retreats that will help students think through larger questions about how one’s deepest values should shape professional choices.
In a world that is increasingly linked via technology, Dr. Hatch emphasizes the art of face-to-face connection. In implementing a three-year residency requirement, he is building greater community by ensuring there are opportunities to collaborate, engage in conversation and solve problems together.
In one of Dr. Hatch’s boldest moves to date, he publicly launched Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest in October 2013. This represents the largest fundraising effort in the University’s history. Wake Forest University and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center will collaboratively invest $1 billion into our community over the next five years. Six hundred million dollars will support Reynolda Campus students, faculty and enhancements to campus life. Wake Forest Baptist will devote $400 million to its blended mission of patient care, research and education in a campaign to be shared with supporters in the near future.
“With this investment, we will strengthen our ability to provide opportunity for worthy students, we will forge an even stronger community of learning, and we will extend our reputation in American higher education,” Dr. Hatch said. “We have the ability and the will to step forward and confront the challenges of our time. My vision for the future of Wake Forest is that we may prepare students to lead lives that matter for generations to come. This is our calling, our purpose, our mission.”
Dr. Hatch is an active leader in American higher education and in local and community affairs. He served on the board of the American Council on Education, and as Chair of the Division I Board of Directors of the NCAA. He is the immediate past chair of the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. In 2014, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected Dr. Hatch among its newest members. He has also been very active in community development in Winston-Salem. A board member of the United Way of Forsyth County, he also served as Chairman of the 2010 United Way Campaign.
Often described as affable, approachable and a lively conversationalist, Dr. Hatch has established a strong rapport with students; he can occasionally be found taking a coffee break with them at Starbuck’s in the Z. Smith Reynolds library or having lunch in the Pit. He made an early positive impression when he arrived at his student-sponsored Inaugural Ball on the back of a motorcycle driven by the Demon Deacon.
He and his wife, Julie, a former public school teacher, have three children: Gregg, a 1997 graduate of Notre Dame, is a hospital administrator in Seattle, WA; David, a 2000 Notre Dame graduate, received an MBA degree from Duke University in 2007 and works in finance in Charlotte, NC; and Beth, a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame, recently completed a Master of Divinity at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C. The Hatches also have five grandchildren.
Dr. Hatch grew up in Columbia, S.C., where his father was a Presbyterian minister. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, he received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and held post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities. He joined the faculty at Notre Dame in 1975. He was named provost, the university’s second highest-ranking position, in 1996; a Presbyterian, he was the first Protestant to ever serve in that position at Notre Dame.
He is regularly cited as one of the most influential scholars in the study of the history of religion in America. He received national acclaim for his 1989 book, The Democratization of American Christianity, in which he examines how the rise of religious groups in the early 19th century helped shape American culture and foster democracy. The book was chosen in a survey of 2,000 historians and sociologists as one of the two most important books in the study of American religion. He is also the author or editor of seven other books on American history.