Site Content

Betsy Chapman

The Briefest of Reports

Today the campus is having issues with the wifi and our internet access has been on and off – so this will be the briefest of reports.

Summer session starts tomorrow, so we are seeing students back on campus, hooray!  Residence Life will be busy today getting students checked in and the students can get settled in to their rooms before starting class tomorrow.  For those of you with summer session students, you should know that it is a pretty intense time – essentially taking a semester’s worth of classes and covering it in a 6-ish week timeframe.  Summer school students will have a good deal of work to do daily.  Time management – always critical in college – is even more important during summer session.

Things are going to really heat up this week.  After a lot of rain and cooler temps this past week and into this past weekend, we are looking to hit the 90s this week, I believe for the first time this summer.

new students parents menu finalFor our P’20s – parents/families of the Class of 2020 – your students will soon be receiving a hard copy Forestry 101 manual, which will be their guidebook for Orientation and everything they need to do this summer.  There is a parents and families checklist inserted into that book; be sure you get your copy.  If you have not already discovered it, we have a Parents and Families section on the New Students website (see the bottom left purple menu of any page) with lots of stuff you should take a look at – advice, helpful info, etc.

Also for P’20s, we have New Student Receptions that we are planning.  If one is in your area, we’d love to see you.   We typically send an email and a postcard to P’20 families who live within what WFU has designated as that city’s club code – however, you do not have to have received a formal invitation to register.  Any new family can sign up!  We don’t typically mail to folks outside of maybe an hour’s drive from the event because we don’t want to make this seem like a command performance (these receptions are all optional), but don’t let the lack of a formal invite keep you from signing up if you wish to.

Upperclassmen families, we are always looking for some upperclassmen students to attend these receptions to help field Q&A.  Right now I am seeking a few upperclassmen students to attend New Student Receptions in Boston (6/9), Atlanta (6/12) and NYC (6/15 – not yet on the website; see wifi issues above!  hopefully tomorrow).  If your Deac is going to be any of those areas and wants to attend, have him/her email me at with the one they wish to attend.  We only need a few students at each, so I’ll slot them in first-come, first-served.

— by Betsy Chapman

It’s a Small Wake Forest World

My colleagues and I sometimes joke that it’s a small Wake Forest world – meaning, you might be on vacation somewhere and see someone in a WFU hat, or find out in casual conversation that you and a friend have a connection to some other Wake person that you never knew you did.  Today is one of those small Wake Forest world days.

There is an article in the Huffington Post today about a legendary, famous commencement speech given at Kenyon College by novelist David Foster Wallace in 2005, and there is a Wake Forest connection.  Evidently the Kenyon student who had a major role in getting him to be the commencement speaker is now a faculty member in our English department, Meredith Farmer.  [Before I go any further, a warning to you, good readers.  The Huffington Post article drops the F-bomb.  Read at your discretion.]

The article, which you can read here, tells the story of how David Foster Wallace came to be the Kenyon commencement speaker, and in the article is a link to a YouTube video of the speech.  It is not live video, it is audio overtop a still photo of him at a podium, with occasional quotes from his speech appearing.

The speech is almost 23 minutes long.  It has been hailed by many as one of the all-time best commencement speeches.  It begins with this:

“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?'”

He talks about the value of a liberal arts degree in teaching you to choose what you want to think – whether to accept your default settings, or whether you will apply a different lens to your interpretations.  He talks about the tedium of adult life – the stuff no one tells college kids as they graduate, but the stuff all the parents have experienced.  He talks about being careful of what you choose to worship in life – money, beauty, youth – and what freedom is:

“The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.”

It is raw, and sometimes painful.  I have to admit I was conflicted at times listening to it, but in the end I found it amazing.

Take a listen to his speech and read the article if you wish.  It might be the best 23 minutes I have spent today.  His speech reminded me that we always have the power to choose what to think, or to let ourselves get sapped by our own day-to-day drudgery vs. thinking more broadly and kindly about the world.  We get to choose that.  But we have to be aware to do so.

And if you don’t have 23 minutes or this sort of thing is not your jam, then just marvel for a moment that at the center of this acclaimed speech was a Kenyon English-philosophy double major who found her way to Wake Forest to teach.

— by Betsy Chapman

Interesting Article

There is an article that is making the rounds of the internet right now about parenting younger children and the notion of kids excluding others from their social groups; the writer is a mom of a 4th grade girl whose clique at school did not want some new girl to join their group. You can read the whole article here.

The writer uses the word ‘bullying’ – which perhaps is too strong in this case.  She described the situation like this: “there was no overt unkindness or name-calling, etc., just rejection; a complete lack of interest in someone [the girls] wrongly concluded had nothing to offer them.”

The article goes on to a larger discussion of how we all to some degree jockey for the best position we can in the social hierarchy.  The author writes: “Of course it’s tempting to ‘curry favor’ and ‘suck-up’ to the individual a rung of two above you on the Social Ladder, but every single human being deserves our attention and utmost respect. In spite of this, we have to constantly remind our children and ourselves that everyone can bring unexpected and unanticipated value to our lives. But we have to let them.” [emphasis mine]

While this article is geared towards parents of tweens, I do see some similarities to college aged students.  When you come to college, you get a fresh start with a whole new group of people who bring no preconceived notions about who you are.  And every student (at every college, not just at Wake) has to navigate new people, new friendships, new clubs and organizations, and new social constructs.  It’s a tenuous time for college students from a developmental perspective too – their brains are still growing and going through lots of important milestones (great explanation of those here).

Establishing identity is one of those key developmental milestones.  Most college students (whether they realize it or not) are seeking a place to belong, approval from a group of peers, and/or a set of friends so they feel they have their rightful spot on campus.  Some of those groups form organically, some are open to all (think faith based groups, volunteering) others have a formal process to join (think try outs for club sports, recruitment for Greek life, applications for leadership positions, etc.). There can be a perceived social hierarchy for those groups or positions, with the thought that some people or groups or clubs or student roles are ‘top tier’ and others not.

As you might expect, the moral of the story is that the writer mom helped her daughter see that the absence of being mean to someone does not equate being nice to them, and that every person has worth and value if you take the time to see it.  She encouraged her daughter to use some of her social capital to include the new girl, who reluctantly did.  Guess what?  They became good friends.

The writer summarized what her daughter learned by giving an ulikely person a chance to be a friend:

“— She learned her initial instinct about people isn’t always correctly motivated.

— She learned you can be friends with the least likely people; the best friendships aren’t people that are your “type!” In the world of friendship, contrast is a plus.

—She learned that there are times, within a given social framework, that you are in a position to make a withdrawal on behalf of someone else. Be generous, invest! It pays dividends.”

Why share this?  Because students – both incoming and returning – will constantly have the opportunity to meet new people and decide to be friendly (or not), be inclusive (or not), judge others worthy (or not).  This is a time in life to learn, grow, make mistakes – but I would hope people would always err on the side of inclusion and kindness.

Our students are among the very best and brightest in the country. They all have something unique and special to offer our community.  While it is tempting to find people who are ‘just like you’ or ‘where I feel like I fit in best’, I would love for every student to branch out and get to know the person on their hall or in their class that isn’t just like them, but might be the most amazing person to know – if they’d give them a chance.

— by Betsy Chapman



Something to Look Forward To

Even though it is summer break, we’ll still bring you Daily Deacs – though admittedly they might be a little shorter, as we have a slower news cycle when the students aren’t here.

I happened across this about a week before Commencement, and was so excited to see it.  Our Secrest Artists Series, which is free for our students, brings incredible performing arts performances to campus each year.  In the 2016-17 schedule, I saw this:

Classical Savion

Thursday, November 10, 2016 | 7:30 pm | Brendle Recital Hall

The Tony award-winning dancer and choreographer Savion Glover—described by his mentor Gregory Hines as “perhaps the greatest tap-dancer who has ever lived”—brings his unprecedented talents and creativity to his dance interpretation of musical classics: Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, Shostakovich and others. Accompanied by both a chamber orchestra and a jazz ensemble, this performance will be a genre-bending mixture of dance and music at its most extraordinary.

I have never seen Savion Glover tap dance live – yet! – but having seen him perform on television, he is simply incredible.  I cannot believe our good fortune in getting him to come to Wake Forest, and hats off to my faculty friend and former thesis advisor, Scott Klein, the Secrest Artists Series artistic director, for landing Savion Glover.  Huge get.

This will be something your Deacs will not want to miss.  November is a long way away, but this is something everyone should look forward to.

— by Betsy Chapman

All That’s Left

We had a terrible pelting rain this morning – had that happened yesterday, it would have been a disastrous Commencement.  A quick look at the Quad Cam shows that the Commencement chairs and stage are still up as of 3:30 on Tuesday.  Had it been sunny today, you could have watched the dismantling of the stage and the chairs – perhaps you can see it tomorrow.

Most of the staff today is tired. Commencement is an all-hands-on-deck kind of operation, and I heard more than one colleague talk about falling asleep on the couch lastnight at a very early time for them.  It wasn’t just the staff who planned and worked Commencement and the faculty marshals and others who had an early and busy day yesterday; our Residence Life staff had to get all the graduates checked out of their residence halls too.  Busy all around.

Normally as soon as Commencement is over, summer construction projects begin. They will be working on Poteat residence hall this summer, a similar internal makover to the rooms, just as they did with Kitchin last year. There is tons of work going on in and around Reynolds Gym too.

We still have a week before the first session of Summer School starts, and from my perspective, I wish it to be a slow one 🙂

— by Betsy Chapman

The Best Day of the Year

Commencement was today – and in all my 17 Commencements, this might have been the most perfect weather we have ever had.  It was very cool in the am – and the grass was plenty dewy, so I know there must have been a lot of cold, damp feet – but believe me when I say a cool morning and high 60s with sun is infinitely preferable to high 80s and blistering sun.

The Wake Forest home page ( will be posting all kinds of Commencement coverage in the coming days – photos and you can re-watch the ceremony, and more.  So keep your eyes peeled to that.

Here are my impressions of the day:

So many proud smiles.  You’d see parents hugging their kids before they lined up this morning. Or hugging them aftewards.

Cheers.  Sometimes a student’s name was called and you’d hear a big whoop! from the crowd.  Whether that was friends cheering on a classmate or family cheering on their graduate, I do not know.  But it was wonderful to hear.

Flowers.  There were many bouquets being carried by parents and family members to present to their graduates later.

Touching moments.  There were some somber moments – moments in the invocation or remarks that prompted you to be thoughtful.  The awarding of two posthumous degrees, and you could feel the love and compassion from the crowd flowing towards those families.

The ‘hockey handshake’ receiving line.  Just like when hockey players finish a game in the playoffs and they skate toward each other shaking hands, after the recessional the faculty and platform party line up and they clap for the students as they go by.  The ones who know each other really well might high five or hug.  It is one of my favorite moments of the whole day.

Family photos.  After graduation, the newly-minted young alumni would find their loved ones and there were many a picture taken with proud moms and dads and grandparents and siblings and more.  Everyone stands so tall in their cap and gown.

The last group photos with friends.  You’d see big clusters of students huddling around their Greek lounge, or in a given area.  Arms around each other, caps and gowns on, posing in big groups and small.

It was a beautiful day.  P’16s, know that you will always have a place at Wake Forest, as will your sons and daughters.  We say goodbye for now, but I hope our paths will cross again.

— by Betsy Chapman

Commencement and New Students Website

P’16s – your Big Day is almost here! There are tons of seniors back from Beach Week/Postexams who are mobbing the Quad right now picking up their Commencement tickets and caps and gowns from the Bookstore.  It’s a happy sight to see.

If you haven’t been keeping an eye on the Quad Cam, the chairs continue to be set out, and our Commencement stage is set up. The sky is blue, the clouds are thick, the trees are green. This is exactly the kind of weather we want for Monday.

I am a superstitious person and a worrier to boot, so I don’t like to look at the weather until nearly the very last minute.  However, you must all have been doing your prayers and invocations (thank you!) because the 5 day forecast looks fantastic.  This is as close to the ideal Commencement forecast as we could have – so keep those good vibes coming.

If this is not your Commencement year, you can still catch the action with the Commencement livestream, which will be broadcast at 9 am Monday on the main WFU page (

We also have an announcement for the newbies – our P’20 parents and families!  The New Students website is also up – so P’20s, let your Deacs know they need to be consulting this now and throughout the summer.  Their hard-copy Forestry 101 books (a manual for Orientation) will be mailed to their permanent address in a couple of weeks.  There will be a separate checklist for parents and families in the book, so make sure they give you your part!

new students parents menu finalP’20s, there is a Parents and Families section of the New Students website just for you.  I am linking here to the main parents page with deadlines and action items that are will be in your paper checklist.  However, there are scads of other goodies on other pages – so be sure to scroll down to the bottom left of any page, where you will see the purple Parents and Families menu, and check out those pages too.

We have started making some of our New Student Receptions pages live, so for our new families, sign up for one if it is in your area.  We will be doing a sort of virtual New Student Reception for folks who cannot attend – more info about that closer to July once I get my act together :).  For our returning parents and families, we always want to have some current upperclassmen Deacs at these events, so if your student wants to be a goodwill ambassador for the new ones, please have them email me at to talk about where they might like to attend.

As I think about our seniors leaving, I recall an old commercial I loved.  It was about cancer survivors, and one woman in the commercial said “In life you take the bitter with the sweet. But I plan on ending up with more sweet.”  So let’s all focus on the joy of our seniors celebrating Commencement and knowing they will go forth into the world well prepared to live with meaning and purpose – and not how much we’ll miss them.

— by Betsy Chapman


Everybody Pray for Good Weather

Since Commencement is coming up on Monday, now is the time to start sending all prayers, positive thoughts, good vibes, etc. for us to have great weather.  So please, take a moment to think good thoughts for us.  Everyone wants to graduate on the Quad.

And for those of you who like to watch the activity on campus, keep your eyes on the Quad Cam.  You’ll see all sorts of moving and shaking as we get ready for the big day!

— by Betsy Chapman

Unofficial Commencement Tips

Every year, I try to provide some unofficial tips for our P’16 parents and families coming for Commencement.   I am assuming, of course, that everyone has referenced the Commencement web site, looked at the FAQ for parents, etc.

So here is my $0.02 based on my experience.

For Baccalaureate:

Seating inside Wait Chapel is limited and on a first-come basis. Tickets do not guarantee admission. Doors open at 9:45 a.m., but guests can expect to wait in line on Hearn Plaza before entering the Chapel. Graduates who process do not need tickets.

There is not a set time to tell you when to get in line.  I can tell you that in past years, people have first been in line at 8 or 8:30 am.  If this year works like all past years have, they will let parents in in 2 waves: the first one to fill the balcony and part of the lower level of Wait Chapel.  Then they shut the door and parents continue waiting in the line until we have seated all students and faculty who attend.

Once the students and faculty process into the chapel, they reopen the line and begin seating the remaining parents until the chapel is full.  In some years, everyone who wants to get in gets in, in other years, some are left in line.

Weather permitting, we stream the ceremony out onto the Quad – and to be perfectly honest, in some ways it would be my preference to sit on the Quad chairs and observe the ceremony there (you can get up and walk around, etc.)  There is no individual recognition of graduates (and they don’t get to sit with their families) so you aren’t really missing anything if you choose to view from outside.

For Commencement:

The Quad opens at 6 am.  Some families come as early as 6 or as late as 8:30.  Your arrival time is a matter of preference.

Generally speaking, the earlier you are there, the more likely you have your pick of seats – the later you arrive, the more limited are your choices.  My late father was a very much Type A guy and he came at 6 am with coffee and a newspaper and staked out seats.  Others come at 7 or 7:30 if they want to arrive later.  It is completely your call.

You cannot stake out seats the night before with signs or tape.  Those will be removed when staff arrive at 5 am to get the Quad ready.

Bring something to wipe off your seat – some paper towels, a washcloth from your hotel (return it of course).  The dew collects overnight on the folding chairs, and while we try to wipe off 10K+ chairs before the ceremony starts, it is not always possible to get every one.

It can be cool or hot, so layer appropriately.  Pay attention to the weather report so you know how to dress.

In terms of what to wear, you will see a wide variety of attire.  Many tend to dress nicely (suits or jackets for men, dresses or nice suits for ladies), others go with a more business casual approach, some do golf shirts and slacks, etc.  The key is layering to account for weather.

Sunscreen is a must.  You are sitting outside for around 3 hours.  Some wear hats, if they are especially sun sensitive.

Ladies ought not wear their best shoes.  The Quad grass is moist with dew and with 10K+ people walking on it, there will be patches that get worn down and muddy.  You would hate to ruin your best shoes that way.

If you have elderly relatives who have difficulty being in the sun or the heat, or have issues with mobility such that they don’t want to have to do a lot of walking, they can watch a livecast of the Commencement ceremony in Pugh Auditorium of the Benson University Center.  That is indoors, air conditioned, and with close access to restrooms.


Hope these are helpful tips as you get ready to celebrate your Deac’s big day!

— by Betsy Chapman

Professor of Music Richard Heard

We are saddened to announce that Richard Heard, professor of music, died May 8 in Winston-Salem after a long illness.

Dr. Heard joined Wake Forest’s faculty in 1996.  He was an accomplished concert singer who had performed many years across the country and in Europe.  In his extensive career, he had received numerous awards.

We grieve Dr. Heard’s death and extend our condolences to his family and friends, as well as those at Wake Forest who had the opportunity to know him.

Information about a service for Dr. Heard will be announced to faculty, staff and students once his family has made arrangements.  A campus memorial service is expected to be held next fall semester.

Wake Forest offers support and counseling services for all students, faculty and staff.  The Counseling Center may be reached at 336-758-5273, the Chaplain’s Office at 336-758-5210.  For faculty and staff, there is also the Employee Assistance Program at 336-716-5493.

Wake Forest Communications and External Relations