darkness and light
In Retrospect |
279
My first moments as a Wake Forest aspirant were spent
in the inspiring company of President James Ralph Scales. It was
February 1982: the first cohort of Reynolds Scholarship seekers
was gathered in the Autumn Room, a small dining area down the
hall from the Magnolia Room. I’d arrived a half-day late, owing to
a high-school symphony competition, and slipped in anxiously to
join my fourteen fellow-finalists. President Scales had just begun to
address the group when I arrived, and paused as I clattered in,
trailing my father’s old suitcase.
As a college administrator myself now, I can readily imagine a
number of reactions to a tardy, disheveled student’s interruption:
a light joke at the entrant’s expense; irritation perhaps; or at best
ignoring the intrusion altogether. Mr. Scales, as he later insisted
I (and every other student he spoke with) call him, took none of
these all-too-human routes. Instead he fixed me with a kindly, wel-
coming smile, just long enough to reassure me but not to mark the
moment as disruptive. And then back to his talk, a moving account
of what the University meant to him, and how he hoped we each
would come to embrace “your own personal Wake Forest.” He
spoke without notes, as I recall, and was so absorbing that my ap-
prehension and self-consciousness faded away completely. Talking
informally afterwards, other finalists had the same experience: in
a 15-minute transfiguration, Mr. Scales turned us all from a collec-
tion of nerve-wracked high schoolers into young men and women
worthy of Wake Forest.
in retrospect
“My Own Personal Wake Forest”
Rogan Kersh (B.A., 1986)
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