Brain Cancer, a Sixth Theme Year,
and Another Field Hockey Title
We must never reach the point of abandoning the better and more hopeful possibilities
of life, even in great difficulty. The profound balance between our frail human condition
and the dauntless human spirit to be and to achieve is ever-refined by our experience,
bringing us closer to a true understanding of life and ourselves. To see each other, our
families, our endeavors, and ourselves with this perspective allows us to live our lives
fully and without regret.
Thomas K. Hearn Jr., May 17, 2004;
Charge to the Graduates, Wake Forest University Commencement
n early October, President Hearn announced that he had been diagnosed with
brain cancer at age sixty-six. Since he would have to undergo two surgeries,
and radiation, Provost Bill Gordon (’68, MA ’70) became Acting
President in November. A former university president, he was well equipped to step in.
In April, the President returned to campus and announced that he would reas-
sume his duties as President but retire at the end of the academic year 2004–2005.
During his remaining time, he had three priorities: completing the Honoring the
Promise capital campaign, which had raised $505 million to that point; developing
the Piedmont Triad Research Park; and advancing the new collaboration with Reyn-
olda House. Hearn told friends that, since his surgery, he tired more easily and had a
hard time reading long New York Times articles. In response, he shortened his sched-
ule, kept up with his regular duties, but left some of the more contentious duties, such
as faculty relations, to Provost Gordon.
“I have no regrets,” he said. He did not feel fate had treated him unfairly, and in
his charge to the Class of 2004 at commencement, which he titled “Lessons in Hap-
piness,” he dealt with the theme of adversity.