Bill Moyers tells 1,002 graduates that ‘in remembrance is the secret of redemption’

At commencement exercises on May 21, Bill Moyers (LHD ’70) urged the 1,002 graduates — including his daughter, Suzanne — not to join the “anxious age of agitated amnesiacs” created by electronic journalism, but to study history to maintain a link with the past.

Moyers, who was President Lyndon B. Johnson’s press secretary, is senior news analyst for CBS News. “The news you get in the evening,” he said, “comes without any context for the procession of crushing problems, fascinating accusations, and confusing contradictions. Sometimes I think that Americans know everything there is to know about the last twenty-four house and nothing about the last sixty years or the last sixty centuries.”

Moyers told the audience that “in remembrance is the secret of redemption” and suggested they think of history as the perpetual conversation among generations — past, present, and future. He said that history provides a context, a basis for measuring today’s events, and, as such, is indispensable to freedom.

University President Thomas K. Hearn Jr. thanked the seniors for their contributions to his first year as a member of the Wake Forest community. “I cannot believe that any freshman received such friendly and understanding treatment as I did, before and after I took office on October 1,” he said. “He also thanked President Emeritus James Ralph Scales and Betty Scales for their advice and friendship, calling them the “epitome of graciousness.” Scales left the presidency on October 1, 1983, and is the University’s first Worrell professor of Anglo-American studies.

Before he awarded the baccalaureate degrees, Hearn conferred six honorary degrees. Writers Eleanor Clark, Robert Penn Warren, and Eudora Welty received honorary Doctors of Letters degrees. Clark won the National Book Award for The Oysters of Locmariaquer, and Warren and Welty have both won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction — Warren for All the King’s Men and Welty for The Optimist’s Daughter. Minister and writer Will Davis Campbell (’48) received the Doctor of Humanities degree. Thomas H. Davis, former chief executive officer of Piedmont Aviation, former University Trustee, and a member of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine Board of Visitors, received the Doctor of Laws. Sherman M. Mellinkoff, professor of medicine, and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles, received the doctor of Humane Letters.

The University also recognized faculty and staff retiring from positions on both the Reynolda and Hawthorne campuses. Provost Edwin G. Wilson (’43) presented citations to:

  • James C. O’Flaherty, professor of German;
  • Franklin R. Shirley, professor of speech communication;
  • Henry Smith Stroupe, professor of history and dean of the Graduate School.

Read more about the Reynolda retirees »

Richard Janeway, vice president for the health affairs at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine, presented citations to:

  • Eban Alexander Jr., professor of neurosurgery;
  • Clyde T. Hardy Jr., associate dean for patient services;
  • Charles M. Howell Jr., professor of medicine (dermatology);
  • Julius A. Howell Jr., professor of surgery (plastic surgery);
  • Isadore Meschan, professor of radiology;
  • Ernest H. Yount, professor of medicine.

Read more about the Bowman Gray retirees »

On Sunday, May 20, Campbell gave the baccalaureate sermon to a capacity audience in Wait Chapel. He told the graduates they should “repent of an educational system that has become a religion itself” and of a religiosity that equates “sixth grade civics with the revolutionary Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Published in Wake Forest Magazine.