A fine morning

Their daily lives tossed on a global sea of chaos and civil strife, some 1,200 graduates and 9,000 of their relatives and friends cast anchor on a peaceful patch of Wake Forest earth May 16 to celebrate the University’s 151st Commencement.

Under a pristine sky and the protective branches of flourishing quad ash trees that seemed to project full stature for the first time at graduation, former congressman Jack Kemp’s hope-filled message to the Class of 1994 was that the world still needs America’s example of democracy and the power of democratic capitalism, and this country should not close its eyes and its shores to the world.

“There’s one very disturbing message in our country and our world today,” he said. “It’s one given to so many young people. It’s a message of pessimism and gloom and doom, the decay of culture, the downward spiral of change, the failures of previous generations.”

Pointing to the birth of democracy in South Africa and the fall of Communism in eastern Europe as positive signs, Kemp said this message conflicts with reality. “The challenge of your generation is to build the structures of democracy that inspire the young as well as the old, liberate the captive as well as the captor, and save the single lamb as well as the flock,” he said. “This is a nation not at the end of an era but at the beginning of a vast new enterprise. It’s now 1776 all over the world.”

More than 700 bachelor’s degrees were conferred, and nearly 500 diplomas were awarded from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Law, Bowman Gray School of Medicine, and the Babcock School of Management.

Honorary degrees were presented to:

  • Gertrude B. Elion, scientist and co-winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Medicine;
  • Clarence E. “Bighouse” Gaines, longtime basketball coach and athletic director at Winston-Salem State University;
  • Robert R. Merhige Jr., senior judge in the federal court system in Virginia;
  • Herbert Brenner (posthumously), a former Wake Forest trustee, community leader, and benefactor of the Brenner Children’s Hospital.

Published in Wake Forest Magazine.