Virtual Conferring of Degrees!

Tonight’s the night! Be sure to tune in at 7 pm for our Virtual Conferring of Degrees ceremony. We are very excited to honor the Class of 2020, whose final semester at Wake Forest is the most remarkable one I have seen in a 20+ year career here. P’20s, you have much to be proud of in the resilience of your Deacs. Also want to share the Honors and Awards commemorative program, which recognizes students for outstanding achievement.

One of the great moments at in-person Commencement is what I refer to as the tunnel, which is that moment in the Recessional where the faculty form a sort of receiving line where they can shake hands and hug students as the ceremony ends. This year, we have a virtual tunnel – a video where faculty and staff share their best wishes for the Class of 2020. If you are a big softie like me, grab a tissue before you watch :). Watch it here.

Some of you may have seen last week that Dr. Hatch was one of fourteen college and university presidents on a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss what it will take to reopen campuses in the fall. He published a letter to the editor in the Winston-Salem Journal about that phone call. It says, in part:

We talked about all of the considerations — public health and safety concerns, testing availability, robust containment measures and economic impact. We shared the various struggles and contingencies we are all working through. We agreed that universities are vital economic and innovative engines in their communities. And we admitted that there are no easy or predictable paths along this uncharted way.

When I was asked to share my perspective, I thought of a story that would illustrate our best way forward as a university and a community. I proudly talked about our “Mask the City” initiative with the vice president of the United States and shared the creativity, collaboration and unity of the Winston-Salem community. For this conversation is about more than returning to in-person classroom instruction at our nation’s universities; our concern should be about supporting our communities well as we seek to regain economic vitality safely.

You can read Dr. Hatch’s letter here.

I want to close today with a poem written by one of our faculty members, Wanda Balzano, Associate Professor, Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. This feels especially appropriate as we send off the Class of 2020.

The Quarantine’s Other Heroes

To my Wake Forest students

Every day, face to face with a monitor:
Computer, tablet, phone.
Not everyone is the same,
For how many members are in a family,
How many rooms are in a house,
Helping their parents
Make ends meet, perhaps,
Or helping siblings
On their homework.

Kneading voices into sleep, from the East and the West,
Pens and books on their desks, beds, or laps;
Wearing sweaters over pajamas,
Hair combed, or not,
Make-up on their faces, or not,
Or darkened screens to hide it all,
When lessons begin.

Losing connections at times
Every so often they say
Their ritual “good morning” or “good night”
In Winston, in Seattle, or Korea.

In step with programs, counting days,
To put humanity back in the word
For ‘school’—the flesh of an active noun and verb
That smells of fresh chalk or dry eraser on the board
Mixed with take-out choices,
And free-reining hormones.

Days go by, one by one,
Labeling trips untaken
Parties not attended
Celebrations unlived.

Who is going to requite
Such emotions of year’s end
To these young scholars?
The night before the exams,
With the anxiety, and relief,
That feeling of shared
Destinies with peers,
Where is that restitution?

A self-crowned microbe
Is cruel and a tyrant, but will not win.
So many of them
Have learned the ways of champions
In a suspended time.
They have a life to journey through,
And they are learning in short order
Not to be presumptive – that
Nothing ought to be for granted.

Rather, some of them
Carrying Anchises on their backs,
Will wait out of danger and go back and run,
And color again the streets,
The schools, and life
On our earth, by and by.

 

— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

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