Dear Wake Forest community,
Fifteen years ago, Julie and I accepted the call to join the special educational community of Wake Forest University. These years have been the opportunity of a lifetime – a great gift. We are thankful to work alongside such richly talented and committed faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni and parents. It has been a joy to deepen Wake Forest’s mission, expand its reach and enhance its reputation as a collegiate university.
With a grateful spirit for all that we have done together, I share that Julie and I intend to retire from Wake Forest University on June 30, 2021, or until it is appropriate for a new president to take office.
Early last spring, I notified Chair of the Board of Trustees Gerald Roach of my intention to retire as president of Wake Forest. This was part of a transition plan that we have worked on for several years. We set the announcement date for early May, but in March, the world changed dramatically. In consultation with the Board of Trustees, we decided to postpone my announcement until Wake Forest re-established its footing as we managed the many challenges of seeing our mission through the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last six months, the Wake Forest community has taken on the challenges of the pandemic with remarkable creativity, determination and goodwill. I could not be more grateful for this incredible work and dedication. While we still have much work to assure our successful conclusion to the year, we feel it is the appropriate time to move forward.
The last 15 years have been eventful for Wake Forest. Working together, we have weaved strong tradition and high innovation, attracted new talent, defined the vision of a collegiate university, broadened the University’s appeal and built strong leadership teams. Together, we have expanded academic offerings, enhanced diversity and inclusion, deepened our resource base, renewed athletic facilities, pioneered in equipping students to navigate the path from college to career and worked to knit character into the very fabric of this learning community.
Wake Forest has also continued to invest in the Winston-Salem community, developing the Innovation Quarter and launching new biomedical science and engineering programs. Last week, we formalized the affiliation of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center with Atrium Health in Charlotte, powerfully expanding and strengthening our integrated capacities for medical research, teaching and clinical practice.
In these next months, I will fully dedicate my efforts to navigating the path forward through this academic year. We will address the challenges of COVID-19, continue a quest to make Wake Forest more welcoming and equitable, and support our faculty in their admirable vocation of teaching and research. I am profoundly grateful to them – for their creative and exhausting efforts in the current moment and for their unfailing commitment to our students.
At the same time, the Board of Trustees will invest its efforts in the vital work of searching for the University’s 14th president. Starting immediately, the Board will conduct a number of listening sessions to invite our community’s engagement in the search process. Chair Roach will provide more information about the work of the Board and the search committee on a new website that will be launched tomorrow.
I make this announcement confidently, knowing that even as we reclaim our footing after the pandemic, what initially attracted Julie and me to Wake Forest remain the fundamental reasons we still believe in this community.
First, Wake Forest is a place that is academically superb and deeply personal – excellence without pretension. Faculty here take students seriously, one by one, and are dedicated to authentic conversation and face-to-face interaction.
Second, Wake Forest is a place of opportunity committed to welcoming each individual with respect and building a culture where all voices are heard. Wake Forest will continue to broaden its doors of opportunity.
Third, it is a place that believes in educating the whole person, taking seriously the challenge of shaping intellect and character, forming students to live lives that matter – in the spirit of Pro Humanitate.
Fourth, Wake Forest is a place of aspiration. It is an institution that strives to innovate, to never rest on its laurels, to be significantly better tomorrow than it is today.
These are critical days, and there is still uncertainty in our future. It is my great desire to hand over a strong and vibrant community to a highly qualified leader for these unprecedented times. Over the next nine months, I will work with might and main to keep Wake Forest strong and to ensure that Wake Forest’s best days are ahead.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Throughout our careers, Julie and I have been the recipients of that great prize, made even greater still because we have worked alongside so many of you – some of the finest faculty, leaders, professionals, students, alumni, parents and friends in American higher education.
It has been the adventure of a lifetime to lead Wake Forest with you. I continue on in these next months with many of the same emotions that have driven my time at Wake Forest – excitement for what we can accomplish for our students, enthusiasm for the ways we can explore and innovate within higher education, and a strong belief in the core values that have anchored this institution, shaped our community and will see us into the future.
Nathan O. Hatch