1984 WFU Commencement
May 21, 1984
Dr. Thomas K. Hearn, Jr.
President, Wake Forest University

You are, of course, a special class. You have a unique place in the history of our school because this has been our Sesquicentennial Year. You have played a key role in the almost uncountable events—both solemn and carefree—which began last September. I had not taken office as president then, but already from a distance I had begun to follow your journey carefully. Many of you have worked hard and freely given your insight and imagination and candor. I think you will not easily forget this final, taxing year of study and celebration.

I know that I shall not. I cannot believe that any freshman received such friendly and understanding treatment as I did, before and after I took office on October 1. What can I say except to thank you for the many tokens of affection given Mrs. Hearn, our children, and me on the day of my inauguration and on other days thereafter. I do not, however, thank those of you who sang Christmas carols in the front yard—at 3 a.m. The voices I heard were not angelic.

This is my proper opportunity to thank the seniors and graduates, and I gladly take it. But I would like to say again that I am most grateful to President Emeritus Scales. He became my friend quickly. He has given me good advice, and is in all respects the ideal predecessor. He and Mrs. Scales have been gracious beyond the call of duty or even beyond the higher call of friendship.

I thank the University community for helping me understand the Wake Forest spirit. It is a mixture of friendliness and curiosity, and it is fiercely independent. And always there is the determination to make our great visions for this school into reality. I have yet to comprehend our special Wake Forest mystique, but this year has been a grand induction. Just as a new journey begins for you today, one began for me last fall.

I hope we all do well.

I have one observation. In 1934 when Wake Forest was 100 years old, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, and the College was hard put to keep body and soul and student body together. During the intervening 50 years, there have been enormous changes. There have been three explosions—the nuclear explosion, the population explosion, and the knowledge explosion. The world has lost some of its stability. That is all the more reason we should retain ours.

In the year 2034, Wake Forest will celebrate its 200th birthday. In the name of some future Wake Forest president, I invite you back to Wake Forest to help the University celebrate its bicentennial. In the meanwhile, join me in the works which we must do together to make that future occasion a celebration of our stewardship of dear old Wake Forest.

Again, I thank you for being my friends.