With Grateful Heart

Letter to the campus about 2009, a year of gratitude

As we close the fall academic term and reflect on the year 2009, I wanted to write and express deep gratitude. Julie and I have much for which to be grateful. Our lives at Wake Forest and in Winston-Salem are fulfilling indeed. There is no greater privilege than serving at a university and being involved in the intellectual and personal formation of so many young people. This year also brought into our family two wonderful new grandchildren: Charles Nathan Hatch, born in Charlotte in April; and just last week, Julia Grace Hatch, in Seattle.

I am grateful for so many special people, like you, whose lives are intertwined with this university, and who help to pass on to today’s students the distinctive educational weave of Wake Forest. Thank you for helping us renew the legacy that has nurtured students for the last 175 years. We continue our vital aspiration to bring together academic quality, personal formation, and commitment to the common good.

I am thankful that Wake Forest is able to continue and enhance its mission, investing to strengthen student learning and engagement. I feel blessed to work with so many talented leaders among our trustees and other volunteer councils, and among our vice-presidents and deans.

I am grateful for Wake Forest traditions and for the deep respect of faculty for students and students for faculty. I rejoice in the open exploration for truth and insight on our campus and the freedom that we have to express deeply held convictions.

I am indebted to colleagues — faculty, staff, administrators, and coaches — who embody the values of Wake Forest in thousands of daily encounters with students and with each other. People are the magic of this community, and it is a deep privilege to see so many at this university live out the spirit of Pro Humanitate every day.

I have great appreciation for those who built international study programs in Venice, London, and Vienna — as well as our project in Nicaragua. I am grateful for the life of the late Ross Smith and others who built our debate program into one of such national stature. I am thankful that Wake Forest blends the arts so wonderfully into a liberal arts curriculum, giving students rich experience in music and dance, drama and the visual arts. I deeply appreciate our art faculty and students who, since 1963, have been going to New York and collecting contemporary art — now being wonderfully displayed at an exhibit called “Now/Then” at Reynolda House Museum of American Art (whose affiliation with Wake Forest is another good gift).

I am delighted with the vitality of student leaders at Wake Forest. I love their challenges, their out-of-the-box thinking, and their refreshing ideas about improving the university they have come to love. I am delighted that they have worked to “take back the Quad” and turned the biennial President’s Ball into such a festive and encompassing community occasion, this fall hosting over 4000 students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

I am thankful for our wonderful professional schools and the generations of principled lawyers, physicians, business leaders, and ministers Wake Forest has educated. In a time when the norms of professional life are brought into question, it is encouraging to see professional schools that continue to emphasize the moral dimensions of professional life.

The renewed spirit of cooperation between the Medical School of Wake Forest and the North Carolina Baptist Hospital is a great gift, promising enhanced clinical care. At the same time, we are also witnessing striking advances in biomedical research by our faculty.

I am grateful for the beauty of the Reynolda campus and for those who made it a reality. I feel indebted to so many benefactors and friends in Winston-Salem who have made Wake Forest their own. This is a community of great goodwill and community spirit. We are blessed to be a part of it and to give back to it.

I am thankful for the spirit of Wake Forest. We have celebrated the Christmas Lovefeast for the last 45 years, fought cancer through the Brian Piccolo Fund for 30 years, and reached out to young people through Project Pumpkin for over 20 years.

I relish singing the Alma Mater — and think of students who have done so for generations. I love the jubilation of our cheerleaders, the Demon Deacon standing in a sea of tie-dye, our band striking up the fight song, the roar of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle before football and basketball games, and the rolling of the Quad.

At this special time of year, Julie and I send our warmest greetings of the season to all in the Wake Forest community. May you and your family know a full measure of peace and joy as you reflect on good and often unexpected blessings.

May all of us, with grateful hearts, take courage to face our own difficulties and challenges. And may we work to lighten the burdens of our neighbors, near and far, who “toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow.”

Nathan O. Hatch