56 The History of Wake Forest
Johnson, RJR Nabisco CEO since the 1985 merger of the two companies. Johnson
and his family were not happy with their recent move. The Winston-Salem Journal
reported that Johnson’s wife Susan considered the city “bucolic.” Johnson summarily
uprooted RJR Nabisco headquarters to Atlanta and realized the corporation would
no longer need the 519,000 square-foot building, which had been completed in 1977
at a cost of $40 million. Rather than leave it vacant and pay taxes on it, he offered
it and its surrounding land to Wake Forest because, he said, of “its proximity to the
University and the company’s desire to see Wake Forest continue to grow.” Owner-
ship would transfer to Wake Forest in March, but RJR Nabisco continued to use it
until the move to Atlanta in September. The company made the gift without any
stipulations or restrictions regarding its use.
In his April 23 letter to Branch, Hearn celebrated: “This gift—with hard work
and luck—promises to accelerate our development by as much as a decade.” First,
however, John Anderson, in charge of administrative planning, and Leon Corbett,
Secretary to the University and the trustees, were tasked to determine the best use of
the property. While that was not yet clear, the gift would keep on giving in perpetuity.
Other news from the year paled somewhat in comparison to these two land-
marks, but events in the areas of academics, administration, athletics, the arts, student
life, facilities, finances, and alumni quietly and significantly shaped the University as
it approached the end of the 1980s.
After the break with the Baptist State
Convention, the Poteat Scholarship
program was initiated by the University.
Poteat scholarships were designated for
highly admissible students who were
active members of a church that was a
member of the Baptist State Conven-
tion of North Carolina and who were
expected to make a significant contri-
bution to their church and community
upon their graduation.
The scholarship was named for Wil-
liam Louis Poteat, an 1877 alumnus
and Wake Forest’s seventh President
from 1905–1927. Poteat, who also
served as President of the Baptist State
Convention, was a widely respected
biologist who believed in the teach-
ing of evolution and articulated
Wake Forest’s role as a school where
faith and reason could co-exist. . . . It
was a gesture to the Convention that
President Hearn standing in front of former
RJ Reynolds Headquarters Building
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