Next week will mark the 178th birthday of Wake Forest. A group of young alumni who work at the university saw the need to throw their Mother, So Dear a birthday party, collectively deciding that they would feel pretty bad if they only celebrated their mother’s birthday once every 25 years. After months of brainstorming and planning, they will host a week-long celebration, culminating on Friday, Feb. 3, the day on which Wake Forest admitted its first students.
On February 3, 1834, Wake Forest Manual Labor Institute opened its doors to its first student, John Crenshaw. Crenshaw, along with the 71 other young men who enrolled within the first year, were schooled in agriculture by day and the Baptist ministry by night.The long hours spent doing chores around the farm, learning how to care for the spiritual needs of others, and how to be a contributing member of society forged values which are still synonymous with Wake Forest to this day. Hard work, dedication to helping others, and the drive to finding one’s true passion in life have long been values of the Wake Forester.
To the many who have walked among the magnolias during the spring or witnessed a sunset over Wait Chapel, either on the Old Campus or the new campus, the phrase “Mother, So Dear” is an appropriate description. Wake Foresters know the feeling: that tingling sensation you get when realize how beautiful your surroundings are, the feeling of just how fortunate you are to be here.
“These are feelings that I think we all, as members of the Wake Forest family, experience on a regular, if not daily, basis,” say Wake Forest Fellow Elizabeth Garrett, co-director of the birthday celebration events.
The Office of Student Life, the Alumni Office and the 1834 Student Giving Campaign have joined forces to coordinate a week of celebratory and educational events in honor of Wake Forest’s 178th birthday on February 3.
The week kicks off on Tuesday, Jan. 31, with the men’s basketball game against North Carolina and concludes on Friday, Feb. 3, with a lunchtime celebration in the Fresh Food Company (The Pit), complete with student-decorated birthday hats and a visit from the Demon Deacon. Students will also be invited to participate in a scavenger hunt on Wednesday, Feb. 1, during which they will scour the campus in pursuit of fun prizes. As a final tribute, a video of senior administrators, including Dr. Hatch, singing “Happy Birthday” will be released on Friday.
Throughout the celebration, students will be reminded that Wake Forest would not be where it is today without the faithfulness of those who give monetary gifts to the university. Students will be asked to give a birthday gift to the university in support of the 1834 Student Giving Campaign. The campaign educates students on the importance of giving back, and their gifts benefit a number of areas, including Student Aid and the ZSR Library.
Hamlin Wade, a senior co-chair on the 1834 Campaign, sees a perfect opportunity for philanthropy within the birthday celebrations: “It is imperative for students to understand the importance of giving a monetary gift to Wake Forest. No matter the size of the gift, giving Wake Forest a ‘birthday present’ is a perfect way of showing that you care for the well-being of the university as well as saying thank you for the opportunities this great place has provided you.”
Wake Forest’s birthday is like any other birthday: It is a time for celebration and reflection.
“We should celebrate the many wonderful people that have come before us and reflect upon the attributes that make this place great, all while preserving its legacy for future generations,” Wade said. “For most women, exposing their age may serve as an insult. But for our Mother, So Dear, we can proudly call her a wonderful old lady without the urge to duck for cover.”