Lilly Endowment awards grant to WFU for continued support of Pro Humanitate Center

By Jacob McConnico
January 27, 2006

In a show of continued support for the vocational exploration programs it helped to create at Wake Forest University, Lilly Endowment Inc. of Indianapolis has awarded a $498,491 grant to the university. The grant will help continue work at Wake Forest's Pro Humanitate Center, which opened in 2002 with support from an initial grant of $1.9 million from the endowment.

The center offers vocational exploration for undergraduate students and is named after the university's motto "Pro Humanitate," which means, "for the good of humanity." The initial grant provided funding for the center for five years. The new grant, which requires Wake Forest to provide matching funds, will extend the work of the center for at least three years.

Betsy Taylor, director of the Pro Humanitate Center, said the award of additional funds from the endowment demonstrates a belief that the center's work is important to the undergraduate experience.

"The campus response to the initiatives of the grant has been overwhelmingly positive," Taylor said. "Students are yearning to discover life work that is meaningful and uses their gifts in ways that serve the world's needs."

The initial grant, announced in December 2001, was part of a major initiative by Lilly Endowment. It awarded $56.8 million to 28 American colleges and universities at that time to support programs that help students explore the concept of vocation from both theological and ethical perspectives.

At Wake Forest, Bill Leonard, dean of the Divinity School, and Paul Escott, Reynolds Professor of History and former dean of the undergraduate College, have directed use of the endowment grant.

The Pro Humanitate Center, in association with four faculty and administrative program directors, has created a variety of programs for faculty, students and staff at Wake Forest, including first-year student seminars, workshops, a theme year on "Fostering Dialogue," service trips and symposiums.

All programs are designed to encourage students to explore the nature of vocation as they consider possible careers and to demonstrate how a commitment to service may be expressed in any career or life path. The programs stress the importance of individual values, spirituality, service and ethics in professional life.

As it moves forward, the Pro Humanitate Center will focus its efforts in three primary areas, including the exploration of the university's institutional identity, the expansion of international service trips, including those tied to a particular curriculum, and administration of a vocational exploration internship program.

Wake Forest's institutional identity will be explored through a variety of open forums and retreats for students, faculty and staff. The programs will provide an opportunity for the campus community to discuss the connections between Wake Forest's religious heritage, its motto and its institutional mission. Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch will play an important role in these discussions.

Service trips tied to course work will also be a component of the program. Each year, two courses will be taught by faculty from a variety of departments that explore the historical, cultural, religious and literary context of a country to be visited. The courses will culminate with a cultural immersion trip to the country. Some possible areas to be studied include Vietnam, Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Service trips within the United States will also be a core of the program.

The center will also administer a vocational exploration internship program with cooperation from the University Chaplain's Office. The program will offer students an opportunity to participate in a two-semester development program which will focus on the theological exploration of vocation, as well as the exploration of vocation in its broadest sense through a variety of experiences. Internships will be available at nonprofits and in congregational settings.

Founded in 1937, Lilly Endowment is a private family foundation that supports the causes of religion, community development and education.

For more information about Wake Forest's Pro Humanitate Center, visit the Web at