At a “Dancing with the Stars”-style event to raise money for a local homeless shelter this month, the conversation at my table took a turn as comic as the amateur hoofers’ spins that evening. Mary Pugel, President Nathan Hatch’s chief of staff, told me it had been interview time earlier that day for Wake Forest students who hoped to serve as President’s Aides. It’s always an impressive group of applicants. This year was no different. Mary said at the end of the interview the students were invited to divulge something unique about themselves that might not appear on their CV. One student had Mary in a state of happy amazement hours after the interview. I didn’t find out her name that evening, but I learned the distinction: The applicant was a chicken-clucking champion.
I knew I had to track her down.
I succeeded this week after acceptance letters went out. President’s Aides are student leaders who serve as representatives of Wake Forest and the student body and participate in a variety of University events throughout the academic year. They meet regularly with President Hatch, keeping the communication lines buzzing between students and the administration. The new group will include Meredith-Leigh Pleasants (’12), a student with a list of activities as long as her arm and unwavering pride in her hometown of Siler City, N.C., population 8,000, final resting place of Aunt Bee and, as the town’s website boasts, “known for its friendly people, prosperous business environment, and easy living.” And don’t forget the poultry.
“Siler City is not the cultural educational center,” Meredith-Leigh acknowledges. But she adds, “I LOVE my hometown.”
In the interview for President’s Aides, she surprised even herself when she blurted out her singular distinction. The young man on one side of her had his answer. He had been abroad. Meredith-Leigh had that covered. She’d been to Germany. The young man on the other side of her revealed he had been struck by lightning. How could she top that? “I won the chicken clucking contest in my town!” In Siler City, they might have called it a ‘coop’ de main, such was her swift line of attack. She couldn’t believe she had said it. That bird was out of the hen house. There was no escaping the interview without demonstrating what landed her the championship in the children’s division at age 11 and a trophy she guesses is about two-feet tall with a hen on top. The panel thus invited her to cluck.
Her cluck was a winner, again. Look for Meredith-Leigh in the president’s office and all over campus. She’s the president of the Kappa Delta sorority, a resident adviser at Luter Hall, a representative for the committee on student life, an intern at Joel Coliseum and a marketing employee at Benson Center.
As much as she loves her hometown, she might love Wake Forest more. “You can get a degree anywhere, but you can’t get community like you can at Wake Forest,” she told me.
Too bad she can’t go home to cluck for old time’s sake. Siler City’s Chicken Festival is dead, replaced by the Siler City ALIVE festival. For now, hometown and Wake Forest fans will have to tune in here to marvel at Meredith-Leigh Pleasants’ award-winning cluck.