1985: President Hearn

CHARGE TO THE GRADUATES

1985 WFU Commencement
May 20, 1985
Dr. Thomas K. Hearn, Jr.
President, Wake Forest University


My freshman year at Wake Forest coincided with the celebration of our Sesquicentennial. We gave that milestone the honor and ceremony our rich heritage deserved, but we were restless also to prepare for that future yet to be made. Frost said that “the fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.” The fact that is the sweet dream of our labor is a Wake Forest which builds its future upon those particular strengths that come from our goodly heritage.

This was then my sophomore year—the time when the newness is over and one settles down to the facts of the labor of electric moments this year—Elie Wiesel’s parables of redemption at Founder’s Day—Jimmy Carter’s forthright interchange in a Wait Chapel packed to the rafters. However, I shall mostly recall from this year a greater sense of familiarity with Wake Forest and its people, and a larger sense of sharing rather than studying and observing. Many of you here assembled have been my sophomore advisors—I am grateful to each and all of you. In the swimming pool, the tennis courts, the quad, group meetings—everywhere in fact except in the pages of the Old Gold & Black—you have made me feel at home among you.

Schools of all sorts have been subjected to public criticism recently. It is said that we have lost our sense of the fundamentals, that we do not teach our students to write or read well, or to think in numbers or concepts with sufficient clarity.

Wake Forest can blunt that sort of criticism. We have not done much tinkering with the fundamentals of our curriculum. Our faculty members realize that the skills of communication are basic to all else.

“Commencement” means not an end but a beginning of a new period in your education. That process should continue throughout your lives. When it does, you brighten the name of Wake Forest as well as your own, and verify the quality of your experience here. The diploma is not a certificate to adorn a wall. It is a passport.

The Sesquicentennial Celebration concluded with a stunning sound and light show in this spot. I hope most of you saw it. This year may have had a less dramatic conclusion, but we have continued to go about our business, which is celebrating the life of the mind. That celebration—of the life of the mind—is what Wake Forest calls upon you to translate into productive, useful lives—lives which exhibit our guiding purpose: Pro Humanitate.

In my message to the graduates last year, I thanked them for helping me understand the Wake Forest spirit. This spirit is a mixture of friendliness and curiosity and fierce independence, coupled with a determination to make real our great visions for this school. I repeat that word of thanks to this class.

I will go on learning about the Wake Forest spirit, and I think each of you will, too. The places of our lives change in remembrance. May your memories of Wake Forest cause you to serve and honor the values of education all your days.