A Changing Face Tells Story of Progress
Samuel Wait saw more than pine trees and fertile soil when he looked out across the rolling hills of Wake County on a sunny day in 1834. He saw an institution of higher education founded upon the base of Christianity which would serve the cause of North Carolina. It is doubtful that Wait could see ahead to the Reynolda campus. Still, the dreams and aspirations that were to have a humble beginning in a manual labor institute are the same as those which animate the bearers of the Wait heritage.
A Yankee preacher who came south found Baptists divided still without the basic rudiments of organization. His first task was to gather the threads of the denomination and form the Baptist State Convention. And then he set out to found a school for the training of young men in a Christian context.
The first years were ones of struggle. Feuding Baptist leadership fought the granting of a charter by the State Legislature. Only with the vote of the Episcopal Speaker of the House of Representatives was the tie broken and a dream made a reality. Now began the hard task of making Wake Forest succeed and to this Wait gave his all.
Still, there were others who could come to love a small college in a small town. There was Kitchin who expanded the medical school and moved it to Winston-Salem. And there was Poteat who led through the hectic years of the first war in Europe and the loss of students, and the first battles with the Baptists over the teaching of evolution.
Deacon Hollow meant much to many. To some it was the place where they found themselves "de-educated" as Gerald Johnson put it. To those of a scientific nature, it was the first college in the South to use the laboratory method of instruction and to teach evolution. And yet, to members of the faculty who gave so willingly of their time without proper remuneration, it was supreme service. Today it is again struggling to reach the heights of Wait's vision. Now an idle dreamer can sit on the grass peeking through the blossoms of the magnolia, seeing Wait's dream a reality, now moved on to an area of greater service.
For one hundred and twenty-two years Wake Forest, North Carolina was the home of what finally became known as Wake Forest College. In the byways of a small town began a small college full of personality and memories not so much for the present generation, but for those who have made the glories of the present possible.
Today at the old well where the students gathered after classes and where the academic processions formed, a moss covered fountain remains to greet the theologians wandering about. To the south is Hunter Dormitory, the only men's residence hall on campus. And far on the other side of the magnolia-dotted acres stands Bostwick Dormitory, which first opened in 1925 for male students but turned into the first women's residence hall when the war forced admission of coeds in 1947. Stately it stands among the shrubs and dogwoods, the home for many in the past.
Throughout the tradition-laden campus, eight years ago departed by the College, brick walks accented by moss and lichens stretch like rich carpets, rich with those who have walked their paths. No doubt, it was on one of these that Dr. William B. Royall made his classic statement that he didn't care if 'Wake Forest didn't turn out scholars, so long as she turned out men. How true of her purpose and her record.