PROVOST EMERITUS Ed Wilson (’43) refers to the Byrum Welcome Center as “Wake Forest’s front porch.” It is the first stop for prospective students eager to experience our community, wondering if this could be “the match.”
Admissions officers like me inhabit the porch, offering hospitality, information and insight — a sort of dress rehearsal for Demon Deaconhood. We create a preview of campus life and we consider the role each of these young visitors could play. What gifts might they bring to Wake Forest? Are they bright and curious? Do they imbue “friendliness and honor?” Will our community be enriched and our future brightened by their presence?
I don’t just sit on the porch. I have been a student here, an alumna, an administrator, a parent, a Faculty Drive neighbor, a fan and a critic. Many lenses, many views. A lifetime of Wake Forest.
I have witnessed the changes — our amazing growth in size, scope and reputation. I have celebrated dazzling achievement, joined in communal grief, played joyful music with students and faculty in an unbroken circle, shared overwhelming pride and aching disappointment, all the while knowing that I was deeply entrenched in and tethered to this community.
Wake Forest is a place of ideas, where we are pushed to explore that which makes us uncomfortable and makes us human.
Wake Forest, as I tell prospective students — and my own two daughters — is a place to create yourself. With remarkable teachers and myriad resources, you are given the tools and instructions to navigate a glittering sea of opportunity. Your job is to immerse yourself, close your eyes, jump and then swim vigorously. A community of arms waits here to guide you if you falter or, if need be, to drag you out screaming before you drown. But it’s your job to jump, and it’s your job to swim. No one can do that for you.
Wake Forest is a place of ideas, where we are pushed to explore that which makes us uncomfortable and makes us human. Before you can understand Pro Humanitate, you must understand humanity. And so, Wake Forest students live together in residence halls; they learn in intimate classes with mentoring teachers; they interact in the library, the gym and outside in the Forest. They perform together onstage and on the field. They venture to Venice, to London, to Vienna and beyond, where they consider difference, view themselves and their culture critically, and grow.
We are not all of the same mind here. We disagree. We debate. Sometimes we persuade. Sometimes we are persuaded and change our minds. We learn and learn to empathize.
Wake Forest is not static but ever-evolving. The growth, the newness sometimes feels strange. But what really was it that we first treasured about our community that defined Wake Forest for us years ago? I offer that it was the “friendliness and honor,” the intellectual discovery, the moments when we felt we were becoming adults, understanding ourselves and others. It was the binding moments of love, friendship and kindness. It was the feeling of being mentored, encouraged and enlightened. And those very things, those precious things, continue and endure. They remain at the very core of our community. The very essence of Wake Forest.
A community of arms waits here to guide you if you falter or, if need be, to drag you out screaming before you drown.
Prospective students step on to “Wake Forest’s front porch” now from all over the world, and also from Rocky Mount and Shelby and Mitchell County. They represent the religions and ethnicities of the world and yes, still the North Carolina Baptists. Thousands come each year. They are drawn to the reputation and achievement of our scholars, the intimacy and the purpose of a community defined by Pro Humanitate and by the beauty of the Forest. My admissions colleagues and I await them, with heads full of facts and convincing statistics, but also with hearts full of our own experiences and Wake Forest stories.
Welcome future Demon Deacons. Welcome to our community. Welcome to Wake Forest.
Dean of Admissions Martha Blevins Allman (’82, MBA ’92, P ’15, ’19) can usually be found on campus in Byrum Welcome Center or at her Faculty Drive home, cooking, gardening and making music with husband, Joe (’82, JD ’86, P ’15, ’19), occasionally daughters Bailey (’15) and Ella (’19) and various four-legged friends. If she’s not there, she’s likely playing autoharp with Wake Forest’s community string band, The Unbroken Circle, or in her beloved mountain cabin on the lookout for future Western North Carolina Demon Deacons.