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Faculty for the Future

Alumni, trustees establish new Presidential Chairs

By Cheryl Walker ('88) Office of Communications and External Relations
Mike (l) and Debbie (c) Rubin and Bobby Burchfield (r) attend a luncheon in their honor.
(From left) Mike and Debbie Rubin and Bobby Burchfield attend a luncheon in their honor.

To recruit and retain outstanding faculty who embody Wake Forest’s teacher-scholar ideal, three alumni have committed $3 million to fund Presidential Chairs.

President Nathan Hatch announced the Presidential Chair initiative in 2012 and outlined his vision for providing significant support for faculty through endowed chairs that give ongoing support for professors in these prestigious positions.

Bobby Burchfield, a 1976 Wake Forest graduate and a prominent Washington, D.C., attorney, has established the Burchfield Presidential Chair of Political Economy. Mike and Debbie Rubin, who both earned graduate degrees from Wake Forest, have established the Rubin Chair of Jewish and Israeli Studies.

“We are grateful for the generosity of Bobby Burchfield and Mike and Debbie Rubin to support brilliant and committed scholars who will have a profound effect on our students,” said President Hatch.  “An academic chair is the highest award the University can bestow on a faculty member and universities with endowed chairs have a clear advantage in recruiting and retaining the most talented faculty.”

Burchfield served eight years on the Board of Trustees and Debbie Rubin is in her seventh year as a trustee.

Burchfield has made a $2 million commitment to the Presidential Chair initiative. As a Wake Forest undergraduate student, Burchfield majored in politics and economics. A star competitor on the Wake Forest debate team, he is now a trial and appellate lawyer who has argued cases before the Supreme Court.

“Virtually every student, every alum I’ve met has been able to tell a story of a transformational relationship with a faculty member, where that faculty member took a personal interest in the student and provided mentoring, counseling friendship in a way that is unique,” Burchfield said.  “I certainly had that experience and I do appreciate and cherish the importance of involved faculty. It seemed logical to make a gift that assisted faculty and tied together my two undergraduate majors.”

The University recognized Burchfield with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006 and he also has served on the Alumni Council.  Several years ago, he created the Burchfield Presidential Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships to undergraduate students.

Debbie Rubin earned a Wake Forest counseling degree and a master of arts in liberal studies and worked as a counselor in the University Counseling Center for several years. Mike, a retired Winston-Salem physician, also earned a master of arts in liberal studies. The Rubins are continuing their commitment to support extraordinary teaching and scholarship.

They have made a $1 million commitment to the Presidential Chair initiative.

“We believe in the humanities and have offered faculty support before,” said Debbie Rubin. “It is the faculty in particular who make Wake Forest’s strategic idea of a premier face-to-face university experience a reality.”

Mike Rubin, who got to know the Wake Forest history faculty while he was a student in the master’s of liberal studies program, said: “Our interests meshed with the history department’s needs.”

The Rubins established the Rubin Chair of American Ethnic Studies in 1995 in honor of Mike’s father in addition to supporting several other programs and initiatives. They also created opportunity for students with the Mike and Debbie Rubin Scholarship Fund, established in 2005.

The first Presidential Chair was awarded to Wake Forest History Professor Michele Gillespie earlier this month.  For the first $1 million donated to support each Presidential Chair, the University matches those funds to provide additional support for faculty.  So, the total impact on faculty of these collective gifts is $5 million.

The commitments from Burchfield and the Rubins, announced Oct. 25, came just one week after the public launch of “Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest.”

About Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest

Wake Forest University and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center will significantly increase their impact on the region, the nation and the world by investing $1 billion over the next five years to strengthen and renew their ability to carry out their respective missions. With the help of alumni, parents and friends, the University will invest $600 million in students, faculty and enhancements to campus life. Wake Forest Baptist will invest $400 million in its mission of patient care, research and education through a complementary campaign to be shared with supporters in the near future.

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