A Farewell to Elms and Other Transitions
In May we will stand with dozens of new trees that will be growing daily to fulfill their
identity. In the morning sun, the delicate beauty of the young saplings will hint at future
majesty. Drawing strength from the roots we have put down at Wake Forest, let us strive
to fulfill our human potential with the same steadfastness of spirit that can be seen in
the growth of a young tree. The disappointment that follows a loss is overcome by the
joy of new life and thrill of creation. It is our duty to those who came before us and who
created the beauty we see today, to maintain the traditions of our University, including
the quadrangle. Wake Forest is the garden of our sapling years: each of us is then trans-
planted to a life where our potential is actualized, where we can reflect the glory of our
creation as purely, strongly and beautifully as a mature tree.
Claire Bell at the ceremony preceding the Thanksgiving removal of the
elm trees on the Quad; quoted by Thomas K. Hearn Jr., May 16, 1988;
Charge to the Graduates, Wake Forest University Commencement
fter a transformative year in which Wake Forest became an independent
institution of higher education, the 1987–1988 academic year could be char-
as an in-between year, albeit one marked by recognitions, transi-
tions, expectations, and loss. In October 1987, U.S. News & World Report brought
out its first national rankings of colleges and universities. The criteria were not always
clear, but the public impact was; the issue sold briskly as applicants read about their
potential choices. Wake Forest was ranked “best comprehensive institution” in the
Southern and Border-State Comprehensive Institutions category. It would hold that
position for eight consecutive years before the magazine reclassified it from regional
to national ranking in 1995. As President Hearn would say later: “We retired after
eight years still undefeated.” Perhaps more prestigious, the Wall Street Journal
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