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Meet the New Dean

michele.gillespie.620x350-460x260Yesterday at a large staff meeting I had the opportunity to hear from someone I’ve known a long time, but who is approaching a new role as the Dean of the College effective July 1:  Michele Gillespie.  She was named Dean of the College earlier this spring (see official announcement here) but she was at our staff meeting to talk a little bit about her Wake Forest experience and why she is so excited about the future.  I won’t do justice to her presentation, but here are some select moments.

She talked about growing up in a rural part of New Jersey and that she had a transformational experience in high school as an exchange student to Indonesia.  That abroad experience made her want to go to a college that wasn’t in the Northeast and that would challenge her – certainly not as much as Indonesia, but in a place that was new to her.

She ended up in Texas at Rice University and was an English-History double major.  Rice, she said, was a lot like Wake Forest in terms of its undergraduate experience, with an emphasis on student-faculty engagement and excellent teaching.  At Rice, she had the opportunity to work more closely with faculty and helped work with the Journal of Southern History.

Michele ended up at Princeton for her PhD in History, working with  historian James McPherson, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning Battle Cry to Freedom.  She taught for nine years at Agnes Scott College, an all-women’s school in Atlanta.  She did a lot of work with race, class, and sex in the early South and how women were represented (or absent) in history, particularly as it involved women and work.

Her husband, Kevin Pittard, is a 1985 graduate of Wake Forest and was a teacher.  He won the Waddill Award for Excellence in Teaching (an award given to two outstanding Wake Forest alumni teachers) and he and Michele came to campus to receive the award.  Michele recalled that some of Kevin’s former faculty came to a reception in his honor, and she was blown away by the campus and its sense of community and hospitality, not to mention academic excellence.

She said that she had been happy at Agnes Scott College, but having seen Wake Forest firsthand, when a job in the History department opened up about six months later, she felt like she wanted to throw her hat in the ring and have a chance to be part of this great community.

The rest, as they say, is history.  She came back to teach history, and her husband Kevin also came back to Wake as an Associate Dean of Admissions.

Knowing Michele as my friend, as well as a faculty member and administrator, I can say she really is a wonderful person.  She gives a lot to her students, helping mentor them.  She worked for several years in the Provost’s office and was a thoughtful and talented administrator, and she was always a hit any time she spoke to groups of alumni or parents.

I know she’ll do a great job for your students as Dean of the College and am excited to see what the future brings.

— by Betsy Chapman

Reminder on Student Health Insurance Requirement

Happy June, Deac families!  We’re starting to get into some important deadlines and details for the fall semester, as crazy as that sounds.  The first one is about our student health insurance requirement.  I was sent the following information from our Student Insurance Administrator to share with parents and families:

All full-time enrolled students, new and returning, are required to have health insurance.  Open enrollment for the Student Blue Plan begins today, June 1st, and will end on Monday, August 3rd.  If your student has health insurance that meets the University’s criteria for waiver, please visit to submit the current policy information and opt out of the Student Blue plan for ’15-’16.  If a waiver is not submitted by Monday, August 3rd, your student will be enrolled in the insurance plan and charged for the fall premium.

Because this is something that we often get questions about, let me stress a couple of points.

– Simply having health insurance for your student isn’t satisfying the requirement.  You have to show that you have coverage by completing the waiver at

– If you do not take any action at all, your student will be automatically enrolled and you will be billed for the coverage

So please do take care of this now and ensure your Deac is covered and there are no unhappy surprises on your tuition bill!

— by Betsy Chapman

Strange Days Indeed

It’s the end of a short work week, Deac families.  Hope that you might have joined in on what we like to call Black and Gold Friday, which means wearing black and gold (or even better, WFU apparel) wherever you live so you can show your Deac spirit.   Feel free to do that every Friday.

Apologies to my P’19 parents who I unduly alarmed yesterday in talking about spam.  The parent communications survey we sent out did not go to incoming freshmen families (P’19s) because you would not have had an opportunity to see a wide range of the things we offer.  So if you are a P’19, this email would never have hit your inbox at all.  Sorry for any confusion.

5 29 15  farrellI went up to Farrell Hall around lunchtime today to grab a bite at Einstein’s Bagels and encountered an almost completely empty Farrell Hall Living Room.  That’s akin to finding a four leaf clover – it just doesn’t happen that often.  It was surprisingly empty, maybe 3-4 people total in the giant space.  By the time my lunch was ready, there was a sudden influx of students coming out of a stairwell; class must have been ending.  Phew.  That seemed much more normal.

5 29 15  clouds5 29 15 rainThe other big oddity happened on the way back to my office.  It’s a beautiful sunny day, with big, white, puffy clouds in the sky.  No storm clouds, just big cumulus clouds.  And then a sudden rain.  First a few drops, then more.  It was one of those sudden and unexpected sunny day showers.  Looking at the sky, you never would have believed it, but the pavement tells another story.

— by Betsy Chapman


5 Places to Try

There are lots of wonderful nooks and crannies on campus where students can go to study, hang out, enjoy the atmosphere, eat lunch or have a coffee. Students will find their favorite spots over time – maybe through trial and error.  If your students have not already discovered these spots, here are five to try during the fall.

The Starbucks in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest.

The Starbucks in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest.

The big back table at Starbucks.  It’s got a lot of room for laptops, spreading out papers, good for group project discussions, etc.  Right now has a little bit of the ‘darkened alcove’ kind of feel, but they are renovating this summer and it may look a little different come fall.  But it is a big, wide open table – nearly always occupied.  But I bet if your students hit the ZSR Library early in the day, they might be able to grab it.  It’s a little close to the end of the bar where the baristas put the drinks once they are made, and it is near the exit of ZSR closest to Tribble, so for some it may be distracting to have constant sound and movement.  But if you don’t mind that (or can tune it out), enjoy all the table space.

A predawn view of the Magnolia Patio and Manchester Plaza on the campus of Wake Forest.

A predawn view of the Magnolia Patio and Manchester Plaza on the campus of Wake Forest

The rocking chairs on the Mag Patio.  If you are the kind of person that wants to take your shoes off, kick your feet up on the rail, and read a book, this is an excellent spot for that.  It is especially pretty in the fall when the leaves have all changed colors.  You can see a great view straight to downtown.  This tends not to be a particularly loud area, unless there is something going on down on the Mag (Manchester) Quad.  The nearby umbrella tables are also a wonderful spot for having lunch.

One of the swings on Davis Field sits empty early on a misty morning.

One of the swings on Davis Field sits empty early on a misty morning.

Davis Field swings.  There are a few swings on the big trees on Davis Field.  On the weekend you might see local families with young children exploring campus and swinging on the swings.  In the fall you can see the Spirit of the Old Gold and Black marching band practice on the lower field, and on the weekends the field gets used for some high-spirited football games (since it is already marked with the yard lines).  The swings are a moment of whimsy and students can take a few minutes and swing like a kid again.

The Special Collections room in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library  at Wake Forest.

The Special Collections room in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest.

The Rare Books Room.  Do your students know that there is a Rare Books Room in the ZSR?  It has the University’s collection of old and rare books as well as other archival items.  They can go in and browse what is there, or ask one of the librarians to access some of the items in the cabinets.  At minimum, everyone should go in there and have a look around.  There are some exceptional things to be seen.

Cafe tables on the Quad.

Cafe tables on the Quad.

The cafe tables on the Quad.  These tables provide a nice spot for impromptu dining al fresco, having a cup of coffee, or just sitting for a few peaceful minutes and watching the world walk by.  Students can take board games off the nearby carts and play a vigorous round of Connect Four with a friend, etc.  My favorite time for the cafe tables is the spring, when all the pink flower petals are falling off the trees and it looks like pink snow beneath them.


— by Betsy Chapman


Happy Memorial Day!

Today is Memorial Day and the university is closed for the holiday.  Wherever you are, I hope you will join me in taking a few moments to reflect on the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces, as well as their families.  We are grateful to all for their service and sacrifice, and particularly those who died while serving.

Think, too, of our newest ROTC graduates in the Class of 2015 who were commissioned last week.  May they be safe and well during their time in the service.

– by Betsy Chapman
Wake Forest University holds its 2015 Commencement ceremony on Hearn Plaza on Monday, May 18, 2015.  Graduating ROTC cadets reenact their commissioning on stage.

Wake Forest University holds its 2015 Commencement ceremony on Hearn Plaza on Monday, May 18, 2015. Graduating ROTC cadets reenact their commissioning on stage.

Wake Forest University holds its 2015 Commencement ceremony on Hearn Plaza on Monday, May 18, 2015.  Graduating ROTC cadets reenact their commissioning on stage.

Wake Forest University holds its 2015 Commencement ceremony on Hearn Plaza on Monday, May 18, 2015. Graduating ROTC cadets reenact their commissioning on stage.

In Advance of Memorial Day

We’re at the start of a 3-day weekend, Deac families.  The university will be closed on Monday in observance of Memorial Day.

For so many years while I was growing up and in college, Memorial Day seemed like a very abstract concept.  It was about the military and those who had died in service to our country.  But I was not from a military family and didn’t have other friends who were, so it did not hit home.

During the fall of my junior year at Wake Forest, my roommate/best friend and I went abroad to Dijon, France.  One of our excursions with our faculty member was going to Normandy and to the D-day beaches.  And as soon as my classmates and I stepped onto that hallowed ground, the meaning of Memorial Day, and sacrifice, and loss, became painfully obvious.

It is a beautiful, beautiful memorial.  Overlooking the water, with perfect rows of seemingly endless graves of American soldiers.  We walked through and read some of the tombstones and could see these soldiers were our age.  That hit home.

This was one of the most painful but important learning moments of my time at Wake Forest.  I don’t know what will be your students’ transformative moments while at Wake, but surely they will have some that will change them profoundly and completely.

They had leaflets at the memorial site – and one of them was this prayer below in French.  My French is rusty and I won’t try to translate it here lest I get it wrong.  But it is a really beautiful and lyrical prayer about the past, present, and future.

In the first stanza, the writer asks God to tell us how to hold in our hands the sand of our lives.  The second stanza is a prayer to be taught how to hold on to the past the right way.  The third stanza asks to know how to hold on to the present without being absorbed by it.  The fourth stanza is a prayer to be taught about how not to dread the future.  The final stanza says [roughly] “God of the past, the present, and the future, help us every day to discover you.”

I’ve carried this in my wallet since the fall of 1990.

For the memory of the soldiers in Normandy who helped me learn about Memorial day, as well as all the others who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we honor you this weekend.

— by Betsy Chapman

dday beach final

Attention, Boston area families

The heat and sun of Commencement have left us.  Campus today is cool, misty, and grey.  And very empty.  Big Commencement stage?  It’s gone, as seen on the Quad Cam.

Things are slow on campus right now.  Summer school doesn’t start for a couple more weeks, and the university will be closed this coming Monday for Memorial Day.  But we do have some fun things happening in other parts of the country, and today I want to let you know about an event the first week of June in Boston.

There will be a financial outlook event on June 3rd, featuring several Deac parents as well as Jim Dunn, our outstanding CEO and CIO of Verger Capital Management.  Jim’s a remarkable guy and a great speaker; he worked for Wake Forest managing the endowment and then the university spun off the endowment management function into its own company.  If you live in Boston (or if your Deac is there working or interning over the summer), you really should go.

Full details and RSVP info is below.

— by Betsy Chapman


Outlook 2015/2016 Panel & Networking Event

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

You are invited to join fellow Boston-area Wake Forest alumni, parents, and friends working in the business, finance, and related fields for a panel and networking event featuring several prominent Deacs!

Beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages, and light hors d’Registeroeuvres are included in the $10 registration fee. Friends and colleagues are also welcome. Please R.S.V.P. in advance.

Moderator: Neil Moses, P ’14, EnerNOC – CFO & COO. Neil has nearly 30 years of experience in financial operations and management in the retail and technology sectors. He previously worked at Dunkin Brands as their CFO & Chief Strategy Officer as well as PTC serving as EVP & CFO.


Bill Boyle ’80, P ’08, P ’09, P ’10, P ’13, D.A. Davidson – Managing Director, Institutional Sales. Bill has over 30 years of experience in both the Domestic and International equity capital markets. He joined D.A. Davidson in 2008 after working with Needham & Company, NationsBanc Montgomery Securities and Lehman Brothers.

David Carroll P ’18, P ’19, Financial Architects Partners – CEO. David specializes in wealth transfer life insurance and the design, implementation and monitoring of large life insurance portfolios. David started his career at John Hancock Life Insurance Company and has over 20 years experience specializing in advising high net worth families in the area of estate planning and generational wealth transfer.

Jon Jacobson P ’19, Highfields Capital Management – CEO & CIO. Jon is the founder of Highfields Capital, a Boston-based investment management firm which invests globally on behalf of endowments, foundations, pension funds and other institutional investors. Jon founded Highfields in 1998, following eight years as senior portfolio manager at Harvard Management Company.

Jim Dunn, Verger Capital Management – CEO & CIO. Jim oversees all investment decisions and is responsible for setting the course for the company, including corporate strategy. Previously, Jim was VP & CIO at Wake Forest University, responsible for investment of the University’s endowment, working capital and life income.


Registration & Reception: 6 – 6:45 p.m.

Panel: 6:45 – 7:30 p.m.

Networking: 7:30 – 8 p.m.

DATE: Wednesday, June 3, 2015
TIME: 6 – 8 p.m.
LOCATION:  EnerNOC Offices, One Marina Park Drive, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02210
COST: $1

Register now

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

I'm Blogging for Mental Health 2015.Today is Mental Health Blog Day – an effort to help raise awareness that May is Mental Health Month.  And it seems really fitting that we talk about mental health because it is a) part of Wake Forest’s Thrive efforts on holistic wellbeing, and b) mental health is critically important to all of us, but perhaps especially to college students.

I am not a clinician and cannot offer medical or psychological advice.  But as one who meets with a fair number of students and talks to even more parents as part of my job, I hear about a lot of issues.  Many students will experience some type of emotional or mental health issue while in college – it could be homesickness, stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and a whole host of other things.  Students may have issues of their own, or they could be concerned about a friend who seems to be struggling and they don’t know how to help.

Some students seem willing and comfortable to seek out help when they need it – and that is a wonderful thing.  For many others, they have not ever been in a counseling situation before and don’t know what to expect.  We don’t want the fear of the unknown to keep a student from seeking out services that might be beneficial, so with the help of my colleague James Raper, Director of the University Counseling Center, we drafted a description of what the first University Counseling Center appointment and subsequent appointments look like at Wake Forest.

You can help your students by being aware that counseling resources exist on campus and encouraging your student to seek support when needed.   My impression is that some students are reluctant or afraid to tell their parents about seeking counseling because they don’t want to worry their parents or they think their parents would be upset/disapproving to find out they are seeing a counselor.

If your student doesn’t know that you would be supportive of him or her seeking help if needed, the summer is a great time to have that conversation.  Let your student know you love and support him or her no matter what, and that mental health is a priority.  Sometimes hearing that it’s OK from mom, dad, or another family member can be the catalyst to students feeling empowered to take care of their mental health.

From my own personal experience, I found it difficult to do well at school if there was an area of my life that was out of balance or needed attention.  For example, if I was not getting enough sleep, it was hard for me to do my best in the classroom and be focused.  It worked the same with mental health and emotional wellbeing – I couldn’t do my best work if I was under too much stress or anxiety.  But once I addressed those issues, everything else fell into place much easier.

We want all our students to thrive across every dimension of their wellbeing.  We want to help them grow, learn, and be resilient.  Parents are our partners in this journey.  The University Counseling Center website has an excellent section just for parents that I commend to you.

mental health lets-talk-2015So let’s talk about mental health.


Without fear.

Without embarrasment.

Without shame.

And while I am making my wish list…

Let’s get help when we need it.

And support others when they need it.

And allow ourselves to feel what we feel.

Let’s talk about mental health.  For the good of all of us.

— by Betsy Chapman





Commencement Recap

colbert ftwStephen Colbert.

Stephen Colbert.

Stephen Colbert for the win.  Forever.

Commencement was yesterday, and it was an amazing day.  Hot, but amazing.  It wasn’t the hottest Commencement we’ve ever had, I don’t think, but it was pretty warm in the sun.

Hard to complain about the heat when you have Stephen T. Colbert delivering a wonderful Commencement speech.  This was no canned speech either – it was peppered with references to life at Wake Forest, our traditions, our people, and he even took a couple of swings at the schools in blue down the road east of us (I was already a shameless fangirl prior to his speech, but I admit to you I love him even more now).  He got laughs at times and was serious at times.  If you didn’t livestream it yesterday, you can watch his speech (and the whole Commencement ceremony) online.  Stephen Colbert begins right around the 59 minute mark.  I can’t do justice to it, you’ll have to watch it yourself.

Aside: on Facebook lastnight, I saw this picture of Stephen Colbert at Bib’s, a wonderful BBQ place downtown.  I would have loved to see the looks on the faces of Bib’s staff as he walked in.

comm 2015 awesome shotSpeaking of pictures, there are tons of great ones on the Commencement photo archive, including this one, which might be the best crowd view that I have ever seen.  One of the new parts of Commencement was the giant stage, which had jumbotrons on them.  During the wait for the ceremony to begin, you could see tweets that were being tweeted by guests as well as graduates.  There is a nice recap of social media online too.

We also had a rousing Baccalaureate speech.  Almost immediately after it was over, I was starting to get emails from parents who were praying it had been recorded.  Yes, it was recorded and is online here.  (About the videos, I have had a couple of people tell me they try to click the Play button and it says ‘the event has ended’ and they can’t watch it.  If that happens, try refreshing the web page and click it again.)

There were a couple of really poignant moments during the Commencement ceremony.  There were members of the Class of 2015 who had passed away and were posthumously awarded degrees.  Their family members accepted in their honor, and it was heartbreaking and wonderful at once.  And I witnessed so many hugs, and waves to parents, and smiles, and tears – a million family moments – that you could just tell were special based on the looks on faces.  Then there were the hugs from classmate to classmate, the meeting-of-the-significant-other’s-extended-family, or kisses between romantic partners.  Perhaps my favorite was the toddler of a graduate student (maybe law or med school) who saw his father in his cap and gown and proudly said in a toddler’s voice as he pointed to his own chest “I graduate!”

So many Wake Foresters.  So many moments.  Such pride and joy – for you, and for us.  We rejoice in their graduation the same way you do.

And if you are a P’15 graduating parent or family member, please know we welcome you to stay as involved at Wake as you wish to be.  You’ll always be part of the family, just like your graduates.

One final bit of Commencement data for all the wonks among us.  Yesterday during Commencement,  the Quad Cam was viewed by people in 137 foreign countries and 4 US territories, spanning from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.  The most populated country that had someone click on the Quad Cam was China, with a 1.36 billion population; the viewing country with the lowest population was the Turks and Caicos, population 49,000 and change.  Special thanks to my colleague Rob Daniels for supplying me with the numbers!

— by Betsy Chapman

A Few More Commencement Tidbits

Coming down to the wire on Commencement.  Have you checked out the new stage?  Pretty spectatular, eh?  Chairs are going up right now, and I am telling you, they are lined up with the precision of a well-planted vineyard.  Straight lines and strict measurements.  See it on the Quad Cam.

As part of our sustainability efforts, graduation gowns are green again this year.  Not the color green, but green as in recyclable and sustainable.  The bookstore is distributing Oak Hall’s Greenweaver commencement gowns, which are made from downcycled plastic and can be collected for further downcycling and reuse.  If you have a graduate and he or she doesn’t want to keep the gown following the ceremony, students can recycle the gowns by depositing them in specially marked boxes in the residence hall lobbies or campus bookstores.  Look for the boxes that say “Recycle your gown here.” The gowns are made of recycled plastic and will be recycled again.  Nice work, Office of Sustainability!

There’s a great story about a WFU family of triplets, all of whom are graduating from different instititutions the same weekend!  This would be a fun story in and of itself, but one of the triplets is John Marbach (’15), who left Wake after one semester and accepted a $100,000 entrepreneurship grant — a prestigious Thiel fellowship that supports students who want to skip college to start a business. Ultimately he decided to return to Wake Forest – you can read more at that Wake Forest Magazine.

If you are a Deac family graduating – keep an eye on the weather and dress accordingly.  Here’s the forecast as of 9:40 am Friday, but it can change.  Remember:

– Sunscreen

– Layers

– Rain gear if needed (pray that it isn’t)

– Shoes get wet on the Quad.  If you are fortunate enough to have expensive designer shoes, you may wish to keep them at home unless you don’t mind that they get wet or grassy


— by Betsy Chapman