Editor’s Note

Summer 2024

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Editors note: When word arrived that Provost Emeritus Edwin Graves Wilson (’43, P ’91, ’93) had died on March 13 at age 101, Wake Forest Magazine team members abandoned five months of work already done for the summer issue. It was time to tear out pages and start anew in a quest to pay tribute to one of the great figures in Wake Forest history. 

This issue seeks to honor Wilson and his legacy of virtues and values that anyone who knew him recognized as prized at any time in history but especially during our turbulent era. The magazine features essays by friends, former colleagues and alumni, among others. The writers reminisce about how Wilson inspired them to see the beauty and timelessness of poetry and, most of all, provided an example of a life lived with curiosity, integrity and joy. 

While as an English major I took Wilson’s poetry classes and delighted in knowing the provost emeritus better when I returned to work at Wake Forest in 2010, I did not realize how his singular and remarkable approach to life was evident in childhood. A newspaper clipping celebrated him when he was 5 years old! In what must be the longest headline with multiple subheads, it proclaimed: “Can You Name All States And Capitals by Groups? You Can’t? Shame on You. a Five-year-old Leaksville Boy Can Do It. A Smart Child. You Can’t Stump Him on Auto Names, Either.”

The 1928 article described how Wilson could name and spell the states and their capitals “without a bobble” and foreign countries and their capitals as well. “As a student of the Bible,”

he was “often able to astonish older persons with his knowledge of the Scriptures.” He apparently was no nonsense about the facts. How chagrined must have been the unnamed “older person” who was unfamiliar with a biblical passage and had to endure the commentary of the 5-year-old Wilson: “You don’t know much about the Bible.” I laughed out loud reading that in the news clipping.

I learned that Wilson was otherwise a “regular boy with the regular boy’s love for fun.” He didn’t go barefoot, though, and he didn’t wear short sleeves. He found study entertaining and, the article noted, was perhaps more contemplative than most children. “He has … a certain dignity of person that is not to be flouted,” the article reported. “Old people shake their heads after hearing him talk, as if to imply that he knows too much to remain here long, but his chances of continuing to live and learn appear to be exceptionally good.”

Nearly a century after the Leaksville newspaper marveled at the wonder of Edwin Graves Wilson, we at Wake Forest can agree that the little boy’s chances were indeed exceptionally good, and it was our own good fortune to have known, and loved, the man he became.

— Maria Henson (’82)

Staff Favorites


Deac to Deac


by Warren Anderson ('74)

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Exit Smiling


by Maria Henson ('82)

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On tour with the Wilsons


by Kerry M. King ('85)

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