Susan Powell Brinkley (’62, P ’93), an alumna of the new campus, never set foot on the Old Campus as a student. But for the last 20 or so years, she’s been the most passionate advocate for preserving the history of “the holy land” as she calls it and sharing Wake Forest’s heritage with students and alumni.
Her dedicated service was recognized recently when she received one of North Carolina’s highest civilian honors, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, given by the governor to those who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state.
Provost Emeritus Edwin G. Wilson (’43) presented the award to Brinkley at the annual meeting of the Wake Forest College Birthplace Society on Oct. 28.
Brinkley is stepping down this fall after serving as president of the Birthplace Society for most of the last 20 years. The Birthplace Society oversees the historic Calvin Jones House and the adjacent Wake Forest Historical Museum, located near the Old Campus in Wake Forest, N.C. The museum opened in 2010.
“One person was preeminent in the story of this museum,” Wilson said in presenting the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. “Through her undying love of this college and this town, through her faith in what she saw to be a holy cause, and through her indomitable spirit which refused to surrender to any of those, in high places or in low, who said “no” or “maybe” – Susan Brinkley stands out as our champion. She never gave up. And today we honor her and thank her, and we ‘herald her story.’”
Brinkley said she sees the award as the state’s recognition of the importance of Wake Forest’s history and the many alumni who have helped preserve that history since the move to the new campus in 1956. “I think that the Wake Forest story and the miracle of Wake Forest is so important to North Carolina,” she said. “It’s a tribute to what Wake Forest is and has been, and for that I’m grateful.”
The Birthplace Society also honored Brinkley. The museum’s library has been named in her honor and the museum’s courtyard has been named in honor of her and her husband, Sherrill. The town of Wake Forest recognized Brinkley’s work in preserving not only Wake Forest’s history, but also the town’s, by declaring Oct. 28 “Susan Powell Brinkley Day.”
Brinkley joined the Birthplace Society board in the mid-1980s and was named president — a volunteer position — in 1991. With the museum complete and Museum Executive Director Ed Morris (P ’04) and a strong board in place to continue her work, the time is right for her to step down as president of the Birthplace Society, she said. Tom Parrish (’67) will become president in November. More on Susan Brinkley.
“It’s been a privilege to represent Wake Forest and old Wake Forest and what it was and what it was to become,” she said. “I have such respect for those people who had a vision for what could be and a willingness to move (Wake Forest) to a new place. It makes for a great story.”