Welcome Class of 2027

Alumni children look to make their own Wake Forest memories.

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Resident advisers welcome new students to Luter Residence Hall.

Each August, first-year students and their families arrive on campus, most in packed cars, driving past the red brick entrances, around a manicured Quad and toward the dorms that will be home at Wake Forest. Just under 1,400 new students from 32 countries and 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia moved in this year.

Many alumni parents returned to Mother, So Dear to help their children move in on Aug. 23, bringing stories of Wake Forest from decades past and marking a new chapter for their families. Their children who join the Class of 2027 will now gather their own stories of special professors, semesters abroad and Deacon wins.

Deputy Editor Katherine Laws Waters (’20) exchanged emails and spoke with alumni families to hear parents’ reflections on their time at Wake Forest and students’ hopes for their college experience. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.


Maggie and Gertie Vance
Columbia, Maryland


Ron Vance Jr. ('98), Gertie Vance, Maggie Vance and Julia Settle Vance ('98)

Maggie and Gertie are the twin daughters of Ron Vance Jr. (’98) and Julia Settle Vance (’98).

What’s your favorite Wake Forest memory?

Julia: As a junior in high school, my father took me on a college road trip. The very first time I stepped onto Wake’s campus is my favorite memory. It felt like home immediately.

Ron: Rolling the Quad after Wake beat UNC in the ACC tournament.

Did you have a favorite professor or class?

Julia: My favorite professor was Christy Buchanan (P ’17, ’19) (professor of psychology and department chair), but I honestly can’t remember if I ever took her class. I did data entry for her research and then babysat for her children for many years. Her family welcomed me into theirs at a time when I was missing my family. She became my away-from-home North Carolina family, and for that I have always been grateful. Her kindness changed my college experience.

Ron: Working in the biology labs with professors and grad students.

What was your favorite spot on campus?

Ron: Davis Field. I spent lots of time here doing different activities, ranging from marching band to flag football to just hanging out on a nice sunny day. (Ron played saxophone, and Maggie will play clarinet in the Spirit of the Old Gold and Black.)

Julia: To meet my fine arts requirement I took an introductory theatre class. At that time the class required several hours of volunteer work in the department. I was assigned to the costume shop. I knew nothing about costumes or sewing, but Lisa Weller (director of Wake Forest Theatre costume shop) was such an amazing teacher. Once my volunteer hours were complete, she hired me as a costume shop assistant. I spent my happiest moments at Wake at sewing machine No. 1, in the basement of Scales next to that big window overlooking the woods, listening to her radio and sewing period costume pieces. I would take Ron to every show and point out each costume that I helped make. Lisa even came to our wedding! Theatre became part of my life, and I raised my children to appreciate it, as well. We are so proud that one of our daughters (Gertie) will attend Wake as a Presidential Scholar in theatre.

Gertie, what made you choose Wake Forest?

I chose Wake Forest because of the flexibility it gave me to explore within my academic career. I hope to pursue both theatre and media studies, and it was at Wake where I wouldn’t be bound to just one path. That was a major bonus for me.

What about you, Maggie?

I loved how homey it felt with the smaller class sizes, while still having all of the activity and class options of a bigger school. I’m also very excited to join the marching band!

Sisters Maggie Vance, left, and Gertie Vance in Gertie’s dorm room

What item did you bring from home that you couldn’t live without?

Maggie: Quilts from home. It always makes a new place feel cozy, which I think is important when moving into my dorm.

Gertie: Running shoes! No matter where I am, running has always been a constant in my life, and I look forward to continuing that habit on campus this fall.

What class are you excited to take this semester?

Maggie: I’m taking my first anthropology class, which I’ve always been interested in but never had the chance to study before.

Gertie: I’m excited to take my first-year seminar, “Theatre Alive.” I feel like it will be an amazing way to meet people as well as explore a niche topic that I find pretty interesting.

What are you most looking forward to at Wake Forest?

Maggie: I’m very excited for marching band. It was one of my favorite parts of high school, and I’m looking forward to meeting that community at Wake Forest.

Gertie: I’m most looking forward to the independence! It’s going to be an adventure, and I can’t wait for all the new experiences.

Ron and Julia, what advice do you have for Maggie and Gertie as they start at Wake Forest?

Ron: Be active and meet people as much as possible. Most of my strong friendships at Wake began in the first few weeks of my first year. These are friends that I still have today.

Julia: Join. Join something. Anything. A club, a team, an activity. Find your people and your place. We are still best friends with people we met our freshman year at Wake.

What will you miss most about your daughters?

Ron: We will miss Maggie and Gertie at family dinners. This is a time our family of six all come together every day, and Maggie and Gertie always bring energy and humor to the conversations.

Julia: We have four daughters born within four years. For their entire lives they have been “The Four Vance Girls.” Suddenly having only two at home will feel very incomplete.

"The Four Vance Girls" climbing a magnolia tree in front of Johnson and Bostwick Residence Halls. Clockwise from top: Maggie, Gertie, Abbie and Katie


Taryn Smith
Atlanta


Ty Morrison Smith ('01, JD '04), Taryn Smith and Reggie Smith

Taryn is the daughter of Tyronia “Ty” Morrison Smith (’01, JD ’04) and Reggie Smith.

Ty, what’s your favorite Wake Forest memory?

I have many great memories from my time at Wake Forest over seven years. One of my favorite moments was when I won the Stanley Moot Court Competition in law school. I still remember the feeling of being announced the winner and turning around to see my family, faculty and peers cheering. Afterward, I had dinner with the dean and a few faculty members to celebrate. Later that night, students from the graduate schools all got together for a meet and greet. When I came in, they all cheered. It was an amazing day.

Did you have a favorite professor or class?

One of my favorite classes in undergrad was my religion class. My favorite professor was actually my faculty adviser, Debra Ragin Jessup (JD ’88).

What was your favorite spot on campus?

Benson Center and the Quad. They were great hangout spots … whether you wanted to grab something to eat, people watch, or feel the Demon Deacon spirit after a big win.

Taryn, what made you choose Wake Forest?

Wake Forest has a great academic reputation, a strong sense of community among faculty, students and alumni, is close to my North Carolina family and just felt right. (She has family in nearby High Point, North Carolina.)

What item did you bring from home that you couldn’t live without?

A picture of my mom, dad and sister. I take a picture of them whenever I am away from home.

What class are you excited to take this semester?

My biology and history classes.

What are you most looking forward to at Wake Forest?

I am looking forward to something new: new friends, new hobbies, new experiences, new city, new memories.

Ty, what will you miss most about Taryn?

I will miss absolutely everything about Taryn. However, I am excited for her and our new normal at home.

What advice do you have for Taryn as she starts at Wake Forest?

This is just the start of an amazing journey. However, your time at Wake Forest will go by quickly. So, enjoy every moment. While there is no doubt that you will work hard, it is also important that you use this time to have fun and discover yourself and your passions. I hope you will make lifelong friends, push yourself further than you thought possible and explore the world often. If you ever get discouraged or start to doubt yourself, just remember that your dad and I believe in you and are always cheering you on.

Go be great. We love you!


Carter McDonald
Castle Rock, Colorado


Meghan Larabee McDonald ('95), Carter McDonald and Chris McDonald ('93)

Carter is the son of Chris McDonald (’93) and Meghan Larabee McDonald (’95) and the brother of Emily McDonald (’23).

Chris and Meghan, what’s your favorite Wake Forest memory?

(We) have many fond memories of basketball games, ACC tournaments and big wins over Duke while we were at Wake. We both love Wake basketball!

Did you have a favorite professor or class?

We had many great classes and memorable professors, but we both spent a semester abroad in Tokyo (Meghan in fall of 1994 and Chris in fall of 1992), and the most memorable was taking classes abroad and being immersed in another culture.

What was your favorite spot on campus?

Our favorite spot on campus was an old swing set that is no longer there. It is where we got engaged. The business school is there now. We like the new swings on Davis Field, but they aren’t our swing set.

Sam Wexler ('21), senior Anna Wexler, Emily McDonald ('23) and Carter McDonald at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, TN, in 2011. The children's fathers, Ben Wexler ('93) and Chris McDonald ('93), were roommates at Wake Forest, and their families are lifelong friends.

Carter McDonald holding his Ted Lasso "Believe" sign

Carter with his “Believe” sign from the TV show “Ted Lasso”

Carter, what made you choose Wake Forest?

It matched perfectly with what I was looking for in a school. It has fantastic programs for my major (politics and international affairs and economics), a smaller-school feel and a fantastic campus.

What item did you bring from home that you couldn’t live without?

My replica “Believe” sign from “Ted Lasso,” which has served as a good luck charm throughout high school, and I’m hoping it will work just as well in college.

What class are you excited to take this semester?

International Politics 116 and (Principles of) Sociology 151

What are you most looking forward to at Wake Forest?

Getting a chance to explore what I’d like to do in the future and taking advantage of all the opportunities at Wake Forest.

Meghan and Chris, what advice do you have for Carter?

Try everything you can. Meet new people. … Get involved. … You only get four years at Wake. Take advantage of it and be curious! And, of course, make good choices!!

What will you miss most about Carter?

We will miss him most at family dinner! This has always been our time to connect with him and hear about his day, talk about sports, music or his latest debate topic.


Emma Ewing
Greenville, North Carolina


Terese Mack Ewing ('95) and Emma Ewing

Emma is the daughter of Terese Mack Ewing (’95) and the late Robert “Kemp” Ewing, and the sister of Courtney Ewing (’21).

Terese, what’s your favorite Wake Forest memory?

I have so many fun memories from Wake Forest! What a special place! From watching “90210” and “Melrose Place” with my hallmates before going to Ziggy’s to pledge night to Project Pumpkin, … I made so many memories with people who are still my friends. But my favorite memory was climbing the magnolia tree just below Reynolda with my best friends.

Did you have a favorite professor or class?

Anthony Parent (P ’09) (professor of history and American ethnic studies) left a huge impression on me. I was a history major, but his African history and African American history classes developed a lifelong passion (for me). And the really cool thing was when my daughter, Courtney (’21), was able to take his classes and soak up so much wisdom we were able to share.

What was your favorite spot on campus?

I lived on the Quad for three of my four years. Back then, the Quad was the life of the campus. Greek life was centered there. It especially came alive spring and fall Fridays. When the Lovefeast rolled around each year, it was absolutely gorgeous.

What advice do you have for Emma as she starts at Wake Forest?

Absorb. I remember my brain feeling like a sponge — so much to learn about each subject, about people, about the spirit of Pro Humanitate.

I want Emma to learn all she can while also making the best memories she can. Lifelong friendships are my favorite part of my Wake years. I cannot wait for her to meet her people!

What will you miss most about Emma?

Emma’s father, my husband, passed in 2017 after an unsuccessful heart transplant. We were and still are a very tight family. Emma is incredibly mature. I will miss her sarcasm and dry humor and will totally miss her cooking for me!

Emma, what made you choose Wake Forest?

There’s a number of reasons I chose Wake. But the one thing I couldn’t get anywhere else was the long-lasting connection I have to this place. This school, this city, this community — it raised me. Some of my fondest childhood memories — football games, day visits, Homecoming with Mom — were made on this campus. And I vowed that I’d come here in the first grade, so I’ve got to keep my word.

Emma's Giving Key necklace

What item did you bring from home that you couldn’t live without?

My high school counselor gifted me a Giving Key necklace at graduation. If you’re not familiar with The Giving Keys, it is a pay-it-forward jewelry company with motivational words — mine says “laugh” — on each product. Recipients are supposed to embrace their word and pass it on to someone they feel needs it more than them. I will be blunt: It’s been a rough go. I have not truly laughed in a long time. But I very much look forward to the joy that the next four years will bring! (The Ewing family has lost seven close friends and family members since 2017. The Giving Key, and advice from her counselor, encouraged Emma to slow down, enjoy life and laugh more.)

What class are you excited to take this semester?

Italian! I hope to spend a semester in Italy.

What are you most looking forward to at Wake Forest?

Rolling the Quad! I’m hoping for many wins this year!


Will Griggs
New York


Hope Lake Griggs ('95), Will Griggs and Paul Griggs ('96, MSA '97)

Will is the son of Paul Griggs (’96, MSA ’97) and Hope Lake Griggs (’95). He is the nephew of Stephanie Lake Gast (’99), Timothy Gast (PA ’97), Edward Griggs (’00) and Ashley Reed Griggs (’00). 

Hope, what’s your favorite Wake Forest memory?

My favorite memories involve the sense of community that Wake Forest nurtures. I always loved time spent at Fidele events. My best memories include getting to know my husband, Paul, as Wake is where we met. I remember our very first date hiking and picnicking at Pilot Mountain.

Paul and Hope, did you have a favorite professor or class?

Paul: (Professor Emeritus of Accountancy) Tom Taylor (P ’94, ’96) was one I had a particular connection with. … He pushed me, … asked me why I wasn’t giving more (and) did it in a way that lit my competitive fire. … Not sure I ever did better than a ‘B’ with Dr. Taylor but loved our time together.

Hope: The elementary education program was very small my graduating year. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy closer relationships with my professors. I will always remember the kindness and support of Dr. Milner. … (The late Joe Milner, P ’90, ’93, ’95 , was professor emeritus of education.) He routinely had positive and encouraging feedback that boosted my confidence when it came time to enter the elementary school classroom.

Will (center right) with his cousin, Emma Gast (left), sister Addie Griggs and brother Sam Griggs

What was your favorite spot on campus?

Hope: The Quad. It reminds me of sunny days, broad smiles and WFU victories!

Paul: Loved the beauty of the campus and particularly the Quad and Wait Chapel. (I) was studying in a top  floor classroom at the back of Wait Chapel one Sunday afternoon. (It) was a beautiful day; windows were open. … All of a sudden I hear a loud rustling noise. I look across the large table, and perched on the top of a chair is a full grown parrot. It was the most beautiful animal, and yet it scared me as I was the only person in the building. … After speaking to the parrot to ensure this wasn’t a divine intervention, I closed the windows and ran back toward my dorm to grab a friend or two to share in this experience. Along the way I bumped into a lady who was surveying the sky (who) told me that five hours earlier somewhere on the south part of campus, her pet parrot had flown off. … I smiled (and) told her what had happened. … Divine or not, it was amazing and beautiful, and something I’ll never forget.

What advice do you have for Will as he starts at Wake Forest?

Hope: Trust your instincts. You have a strong mind and a warm heart. Listen to them and they will take you wherever you want to go. I have every confidence in you. You’ve got this!

Paul: Pour yourself into it — the classes, the professors, your fellow students, your studies, the fun. The adage “What you put in determines what you pull out” feels so true to me from my experience.

Will, what made you choose Wake Forest?

childhood photo of Will Griggs

Will Griggs

I spent the first 10 years of my life living in Charlotte. My family would make trips to Winston-Salem often to visit family, and we’d spend some time on campus. Having moved away from North Carolina for eight years, being able to go to Wake feels as if I’m finally returning home.

What item did you bring from home that you couldn’t live without?

My headphones. Any place is my comfort zone when I have some music playing.

What class are you excited to take this semester?

I am most excited to take Mandarin 153. I’ve taken the language for a long time out of school, and I am excited to learn in what ways the college level is different.

What are you most looking forward to at Wake Forest?

My parents have told me many stories from their time at Wake and about places they spent a lot of time at. I am really excited to experience some of my parents’ stories and to make some of my own.

Paul and Hope, what will you miss most about Will?

Paul: Tears can flow easily with this one. I’ll miss his kindness, his tender heart, his continual teasing of me and the nudges he gives me on health and exercise and all the things I need to hear. I’ll miss “being in the room” with him even in silence as we enjoy each other’s presence. I’ll miss his quick wit and his laughter and his ability to make others laugh, in a belly laugh kind of way. This list could go on and on and on.

Hope: I will miss Will’s unique perspective and sense of humor. His quiet nature is balanced by a “think outside the box” lightheartedness that always brings a laugh to our family.

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