In the fall of 1967, Julie Gregg, a junior transfer at Wheaton College in Illinois, sat down to listen to the presenters at the activities fair. At the podium was a senior describing his summer spent serving in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project.
“I have a hard time saying this with a straight face,” Julie recalls, laughing, “but our eyes met, and something was just different.”
After the program, Nathan Hatch approached Julie and introduced himself. Several weeks later, they had their first date and after a year got engaged.
Once they married, Julie taught elementary school, while Nathan pursued advanced degrees at Washington University and post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities. They spent time in St. Louis, Baltimore and Cambridge, Massachusetts, before settling in South Bend, Indiana, at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught history and rose to provost. They had 30 years of roots planted in that small Midwest town before an offer from Wake Forest called them south.
As they were moving to Winston-Salem, the Hatches’ first grandchild was born. Now, there are eight people in the world who know Nathan Hatch as simply one thing. He’s not a scholar, not a president and not a leader of national recognition; he’s Granddad. And Julie is Grammy.
Before he started putting teams together in his professional life, Hatch had an original team — Julie and children Gregg, Dave and Beth. Over the years, that team has grown to include spouses and eight grandchildren — James, Grace, Edie, Ben, Charlie, Julia, Ellie and Lucy, who range in age from 2 to 15. Another baby is due any day in Winston-Salem. (With their children, Gregg and Kathy live in Seattle, Dave and Cassie in Charlotte, and Beth and Jonathan Hilliard in Winston-Salem.)
At Christmastime, Hatch climbs the stairs to the attic at the President’s Home and sets up an old-fashioned train to run when the grandchildren visit. He spends the year picking out new parts so it will look different each year. At night, there’s no one better at coming up with an engaging bedtime story than Granddad. He crafts elaborate tales and never runs out of plots.
“One of the really fun things for me has been watching my dad through the eyes of my daughters, who are impressed not by any new initiative at Wake Forest, but by the quality of the bedtime story that he can make up for them,” said Gregg, the oldest of the Hatch children. “As one of our girls said after watching him talk to a group of people at a Wake Forest event: ‘It’s too bad they all know him as Dr. Hatch and not as Granddad!’”
"I think our favorite thing is when my dad gets laughing about something; it’s usually a joke he’s told.”
In the midst of the craziness of their lives and work, the Hatches try to stay grounded. Nathan plays basketball; Julie walks — fast. Nathan reads, and Julie speaks with her two sisters every morning. They love watching movies, visiting the family cabin in Idaho each summer and having long meals and good conversation with friends.
“The thing that stands out to me most about my dad is how grounded and unpretentious he is,” said Dave, the Hatches’ middle child. “No matter the setting or the company, he has always remained the exact same person to his family, friends and anyone with whom he spends time.”
Their family keeps the Hatches steady, as does their Christian faith.
“Faith has been a huge part of what they’ve given us,” said their daughter Beth. “Also, their strong marriage. No one is without struggles or hard things, but they really love each other in a way that has given us security and a wonderful example.”
Together, the Hatches have approached the last 16 years with great partnership.
“That’s the highlight of this job for me — the teamwork,” Julie said. “It’s been amazing to come into this work and do it together.”
Her husband agreed. “We have been a real team. An institution gets far more if there’s someone like Julie who is willing to take on the role. She is my biggest support and best critic.”
And then there is the humor from the man who is quick with a quip.
“I think our favorite thing is when my dad gets laughing about something; it’s usually a joke he’s told,” Beth said. “He has a very distinct laugh, and we’ll laugh at him laughing.”
Granddaughters Lucy, Ellie and Julia summed it up best: You don’t really know him until you’ve heard him laugh.
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NOTE: The article above is part of a larger feature celebrating Dr. Hatch’s tenure at Wake Forest. You can read the full story by clicking the link below:
Embracing values, tradition and innovation, President Nathan O. Hatch challenged his team and Wake Foresters to make history.