Delivered in Wait Chapel on Feb. 15, 2024. Remarks as prepared.

Good afternoon, and welcome to Wake Forest’s annual Founders Day ceremony. 

There are so few dates on our calendar that bring this many cross-sections of our university community together — students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and family.

And today, in the midst of pressing and complex problems in our world, including the devastating loss of life and violence in the Middle East and other war zones; to the shooting that occurred just yesterday in Kansas City, I encourage us to pause and reflect on our shared hope for peace and on how important traditions like today are for acknowledging our shared humanity and uplifting and connecting our community. 

We come together on Founders Day in February each year to mark the beginning of Wake Forest College, on February 3, 1834. 

For 190 years, Wake Forest has grown and flourished, faced challenges and embraced change, and aimed for continual improvement, all to ensure the education of generations of alumni to be leaders and exemplars of Pro Humanitate in the world, all to ensure we are catalysts for good in society.

While this Founders Day event might be viewed as only a way to mark our University’s inception, in my view, it is also intended to honor our people — all of our people — for I believe that “founding” is a verb, continuously happening; and that all students, faculty, and staff members who choose to live, work and study at Wake Forest are founders, each capable of leaving a legacy that enhances our community as a whole. 

In the short days of February, I often stand at my office window in Reynolda Hall and look out onto our beautiful campus. Even in winter, the magnolias that ring the lower quad stand steadfast and evergreen — constant and true. 

These magnolias were grown from seeds harvested from the original campus in Wake Forest, North Carolina, cultivated and nurtured by Ms. Monnie Louise McDaniel Wiley, wife of alumnus Dr. Walter Wiley; and gifted to the University upon its move to Winston-Salem. 

And they have towered over generations of Wake Foresters on the Reynolda campus, a consistent backdrop to countless campus events, photos, and memories — and yet, when spring arrives and those white, fragrant flowers burst open, we are surprised and delighted every year, as they transform the quad with their beauty. 

When all is dormant, or the rain is falling like earlier this week, their presence, with those verdant green leaves, serves as a reminder that winter will pass and spring will come, and with it, hope for our future. 

Our magnolias, like Wake Forest, are strongly rooted, and yet, they also grow and transform over time, right along with us. 

We came together last year through our Strategic Framework process to define together what is steadfast and evergreen about Wake Forest and where we have room to grow and change. 

The Strategic Framework conversations yielded our shared commitments as a community of lifelong learning, a community of inquiry, and a community of meaningful, mutual partnerships. 

And we reaffirmed our North Star, constant and true, in our motto, to embody Pro Humanitate at home and in the world. 

Today, we connect our past, our present, and our future together

We honor Wake Forest’s origins — our strong roots — as we celebrate who we are today and the milestones and achievements of our community. And we look forward to how we will grow, and who we will become for future generations. 

For we are all founders for the future, united by our shared purpose as Wake Foresters, strengthened by our individual, complex identities, and joined together by our commitments to this place and our deep respect and care for one another. 

Thank you for being here and celebrating Wake Forest with us. 

Categories: Speeches