The Selection, Reactions,
a Settling In, and Graylyn
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.
Thomas K. Hearn Jr., May 21, 1984;
Charge to the Graduates, Wake Forest University Commencement
n the summer of its 149th year, Wake Forest University made a major leadership
decision that would transform the institution over the next twenty-two years.
Board of Trustees appointed Thomas K. Hearn Jr. as the University’s twelfth
president on June 23, 1983. More than two hundred educators were in the applicant
pool, but, as an editorial in the Greensboro Daily News (June 29, 1983), “New Man
for Wake Forest,” noted, “Hearn was not among them. His reputation prompted the
University to recruit him.”
Hearn was forty-five years old, just a few days shy of his forty-sixth birthday
in July, and for six years he had served as Senior Vice President of the University of
Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)’s College of Arts and Sciences. He had earned high
marks as “a forceful administrator” and for “strengthening the liberal arts curricula.”
He was also praised for his organizational and fundraising abilities, but he was almost
unknown in North Carolina academic circles. At Wake Forest, no one knew him
except Philosophy Professor Marcus Hester, who went to graduate school with him
at Vanderbilt and recommended him to the search committee.
Hearn and former President James Ralph Scales, who had served since 1967,
had much in common. Both had strong Baptist backgrounds, were over six feet tall,
enjoyed playing tennis, and were not from North Carolina. They had both been senior
administrators at public universities before coming to Wake Forest, and they were
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