Golf legend Arnold Palmer will address WFU graduates
By Jacob McConnico
Arnold Palmer, one of the most beloved golf legends of all time and a Wake Forest University alumnus, will deliver the university's commencement address May 16.
The outdoor ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. on Wake Forest's University Plaza (Quad).
Jane Crosthwaite, professor of religion at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and a 1959 graduate of Wake Forest,
Palmer, a native of Latrobe, Pa., played golf for Wake Forest from 1948 to 1950 before joining the U.S. Coast Guard for a three-year stint. Palmer won the Southern Conference Championship in 1948 and 1949. In 1949 and 1950, he was the medalist in the NCAA Championship, and he captured the Southern Intercollegiate crown in 1950.
Following his service in the Coast Guard, Palmer returned briefly to Wake Forest and won the first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in 1954. He reached the pinnacle of his amateur career in 1954 with a victory in the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Palmer's storied professional career began a few months after his U.S. Amateur victory, and his record of 92 national and international championships started with a win at the 1955 Canadian Open. Sixty-one of his 92 titles, including five of his seven Grand Slam majors victories, came in PGA Tour events. He also captured 12 Senior Tour titles. His major titles include four wins at the Masters Tournament in Augusta (1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964), two British Open Championships (1961 and 1962), and his memorable U.S. Open Championship at Cherry Hills in Denver in 1960.
Palmer has represented the United States in the Ryder Cup Matches seven times, serving in 1963 and 1975 as the victorious captain. He was named "The Athlete of the Decade" for the 1960s by the Associated Press, and he earned the Hickok Professional Athlete of the Year Award and Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, both in 1960.
In addition to his accomplishments on the links, Palmer has earned a reputation as a successful businessman. He is president of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, a world-encompassing organization based in Cleveland that covers most of his business and appearance activities, and has ownership positions in three golf and country clubs, an automobile dealership and a golf course design company. He is also a consultant to the cable network The Golf Channel. Palmer was a charter member of the World Golf Hall of Fame as well as the American and PGA Halls of Fame. He has served as chairman of the U.S. Golf Association's Members Program since its inception in 1975 and was the Honorary National Chairman of the March of Dimes for 20 years.
Palmer received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush during a White House ceremony last June.
Throughout his life, Palmer has maintained strong ties to Wake Forest, serving on its board of trustees from 1983 to 1986, 1988 to 1991 and 1993 to 1997. He was a tri-chair of the university's Heritage & Promise Capital Campaign, which raised more than $170 million for the university in the early 1990s. He was elected a lifetime trustee of the university in 1997.
Palmer endowed Wake Forest with its first golf scholarship in 1960 in honor of his close friend and teammate Marvin "Buddy" Worsham, who died in a car accident in 1950.
The university has honored Palmer with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1962 and an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1970. A university residence hall was named in honor of him in the early 1980s. Palmer is a member of the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame.
Baccalaureate speaker Crosthwaite has a particular interest in the role of women in American religious history. She has focused much of her research on the Shaker movement, particularly mid-19th century drawings by Shaker sisters created during the Era of Manifestations, a roughly 10-year period that began in 1837 when spirits of famous people were said to have visited the Shakers.
Crosthwaite earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at Wake Forest and a master's degree in religion from Duke University, where she also earned her doctorate. She started her teaching career at Wake Forest as assistant dean of women and instructor of philosophy. She has been at Mount Holyoke College for more than 20 years, serving as professor of religion and as chair of the religion department and the women's studies program.
She received Wake Forest's 1996 Distinguished Alumni Award and is serving a second term on the university's board of visitors.