North Carolina Award presented to former Wake Forest president
November 9, 2006
Thomas K. Hearn Jr., president emeritus at Wake Forest University, received the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor, Nov. 8 at a Raleigh ceremony.
Hearn, who was Wake Forest’s president for 22 years, was one of seven North Carolinians presented the award.
Another recipient, Emily Herring Wilson of Winston-Salem, also has Wake Forest ties. She was recognized for her contributions to literature.
Hearn, who continues to live in Winston-Salem, was recognized for dedication to public service. He served as Wake Forest’s president from 1983 to 2005, when he was succeeded by current Wake Forest president Nathan O. Hatch. In October, Wake Forest honored its retired president by formally dedicating the university’s main plaza as Thomas K. Hearn Jr. Plaza.
During his tenure, one of the longest of any Wake Forest president, Hearn is credited with leading Wake Forest in its transition from a respected regional university to its current status as one of the top-ranked universities in the nation. U.S. News and World Report’s annual guide to “America’s Best Colleges” currently ranks Wake Forest 30th in its list of top national universities.
While Hearn was president, the private university established independent governance, carried out a campus-wide new construction and renovation program, opened its Divinity School, played a leading role in the development of the Piedmont Triad Research Park, and carried out two successful capital campaigns. Hearn became a community leader, volunteering with and leading organizations dedicated to boosting the area’s economic development.
He also played leadership roles statewide, chairing the North Carolina Transit 2001 Commission and serving on the North Carolina Education Standards and Accountability Commission. Nationally, he played leading roles on the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
Emily Herring Wilson, the second winner with a strong Wake Forest connection, received a Master of Arts degree in English at the university in 1962. She is the wife of previous North Carolina Award recipient Edwin G. Wilson, provost emeritus and professor emeritus of English at Wake Forest. A long-time community advocate, Emily Herring Wilson was recognized as a writer dedicated to poetry and non-fiction. Among her many writing accomplishments is a book she co-authored titled “North Carolina Women: Making History,” which received the 1999 Mayflower Cup for non-fiction. She co-authored the book with Margaret Supplee Smith, Harold W. Tribble Professor of Art at Wake Forest. Wilson’s recent writings include “No One Gardens Alone,” a biography of the late Charlotte gardener Elizabeth Lawrence.