Spring 2011 Letter to Students

Dear students,

Welcome back to Wake Forest for the spring semester. The new year is often a time for resolutions, and I hope you will make a renewed effort to take advantage of all the opportunities that our vibrant campus community provides. During the next few months, we will welcome world-renowned speakers such as Al Hunt and Judy Woodruff and be treated to the student production of The Grapes of Wrath, concerts from our exceptional soloists and ensembles, and the annual student art exhibition in addition to the offerings of the stArt Gallery in Reynolda Village. These and dozens of lectures and presentations offered by departments on campus are part of what make the Wake Forest experience so valuable, and I don’t want you to miss it.

These kinds of resolutions often fall by the wayside as we grapple with the demands of our everyday schedules. On that note, I get questions from students (and sometimes our faculty, staff and alumni) about how my schedule works and what keeps me busy. Like all of you, every day is different, but I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things that are part of my days as a university president. The following are just a few of the major topics and projects that I work on during the year.

Meeting with student leaders and staff about new initiatives

During the past year I met with several groups of students and student life staff. We dealt with tough issues such as the Millenium Center incident and hopeful outcomes such as the “Living Our Values” report, which continues to help us construct a more productive and socially active campus life. We worked together to finalize plans for “The Barn,” and we are working on new programs such as “Pro Humanitate in the Mirror” that will create dialogue across campus about how we are to live and serve together. I have met with students brainstorming about the proposed recreation/physical fitness center, which remains a very high priority. These meetings with students are my favorite times of the day, and I look forward to many more in the year to come.

I also hold office hours each semester to meet with students; for more information, contact Wake Forest Fellow Jermyn Davis.

Meetings with senior administration

Wake Forest is fortunate to have some of the most dynamic leaders in the country, and I meet each week with the Provost and our vice presidents to discuss the University’s most critical needs. The group is informally called the “Reynolda Cabinet.” Like the better-known Cabinet in Washington, we consult with each other to create open dialogue across our areas of expertise so that we can come up with creative and bold solutions for Wake Forest. This year, we welcomed Hof Milam as our new chief financial officer. Hof is a Wake Forest graduate—an accounting major—who most recently was the treasurer of Duke University.

Work with the University’s Board of Trustees

Everyone is accountable at Wake Forest, and I am accountable to the Board of Trustees. These volunteer leaders, who have a wealth of experience in business, government and education, are deeply committed to creating a strong future for Wake Forest. The Board is organized into committees, and those groups work between meetings on topics such as academic affairs, fundraising and finance. At a meeting of the Board in February, the trustees will engage in a thorough discussion of our process of undergraduate admissions.

Service in the community

Wake Forest is one of the largest employers in the Triad area, and so the University is an important voice in the community and an key contributor to life in Winston-Salem and across the northern piedmont of North Carolina. As part of our role, I work with groups such as the United Way (I chaired their campaign this year with a goal of over $17 million) for the benefit of our city and region. This is not only a natural role for a large regional employer, it is part of who we are as a university: it comes from our deep orientation to service.

Advancement and fundraising

Every college president spends time with volunteer leaders and donors. It’s not just about raising money; it’s also about keeping the University connected to our alumni, parents and friends. We have a great team of professionals in our development and alumni offices who manage those relationships, but the Provost and I take our roles with alumni and parents very seriously too. As a private institution with modest institutional means, we depend on charitable support to reach our strategic goals and maintain our role as a premier collegiate university.

Leadership and the Medical Center

The Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center leads in many areas of medical treatment and research, and it is a crown jewel of the University. I dedicate a lot of time to supporting the CEO of the Medical Center, John McConnell, to fulfill our vision of the premier integrated medical center. We are also increasing the levels of collaborative research between the Reynolda and Bowman Gray campuses.

Events and ceremonies

My wife, Julie, and I host events at the President’s Home with students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends to thank them for the many ways people contribute to the success of Wake Forest. These events and ceremonies are not about me, but I get the tremendous privilege of representing the tradition and the promise of this great place.

Julie and I invite any student group of fewer than 25 persons to use “the Garage,” a terrific lounge and meeting space that is part of the President’s Home. You can make reservations in the Benson Center.

I hope you’ll join me in working to make the time we have this semester be enriching for us and transformative for this Wake Forest community in which we live. I look forward to sharing that resolution with each of you.


Nathan O. Hatch