A Bold Move, a Rhodes, and the Comeback
If education consists in the speaking of many languages, we must have the rudiments of
a common grammar and vocabulary if the university is to be a university, rather than
a modern tower of Babel.
Thomas K. Hearn Jr., May 19, 1986;
Charge to the Graduates, Wake Forest University Commencement
he 1985–1986 academic year at Wake Forest was marked by three excit-
ing events: the University’s daring preliminary move away from the Baptist
Convention, the award of a Rhodes scholarship to an undergraduate,
and the comeback of the men’s golf team to win the NCAA national championship.
A Bold Initial Move: University Governance
and the Baptist State Convention
At the beginning of the year, the University’s longtime struggle with the Baptist State
Convention of North Carolina was coming to a head. It had simmered since President
Tribble had attempted to loosen the Covenant, in effect since the days of Wake Forest
President William Poteat in the 1920s, which gave the Baptist State Convention the
right to select all College trustees. In return, the Convention allocated a portion of its
yearly budget to University support. President Hearn thought the time had come to
end this practice, and negotiations started out optimistically. In a September 26 letter
to the Board of Trustees, he reported that the Convention’s General Board had unani-
mously approved the recommendations for an amendment of the Covenant at its
September 24 meeting. The amendment would give the University trustees the power
to elect one-third of their members, and it was supported by Convention leadership.
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