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180 years: Celebrating Founders’ Day

Event recognizes excellence in teaching, research, academics and service

By Brooke Metz ('16), intern Office of Communications and External Relations
Carol Cramer carries the mace as she leads the procession in to Wait Chapel for Founders' Day Convocation.
Carol Cramer carries the mace as she leads the procession in to Wait Chapel for Founders' Day Convocation.

On Feb. 20, the Wake Forest community gathered together in Wait Chapel to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the founding of the University at Founders’ Day Convocation.

The annual event recognizes student leaders and honors faculty for teaching, research and service.

View the photo gallery »

Senior Orations

Each year, three students are selected to deliver an oration on Founders’ Day that addresses how they have changed during their four years at Wake Forest.

The winners of the 2013 Senior Orations Competition are:

View the senior video »

Medallion of Merit

The University’s highest honor, the Medallion of Merit, is presented to someone who has rendered 20140220convocation3505distinguished service to the University, including past presidents, trustees, benefactors, alumni, and retired faculty and administrators.  This year it was awarded to Margaret Supplee Smith for her decades of leadership, pioneering spirit, and lifelong commitment to Pro Humanitate. Smith led the way in creating a formalized art program at the University, sparking passion for architecture among students who previously had no interest or experience in the subject. She also worked with colleagues to create the Women and Gender Studies program. Beyond her dedication to developing academic programs at the University, Smith has also co-authored a book about the achievement of women in North Carolina as well as a text on the architecture of American ski resorts. “We often speak about teacher-scholars at Wake Forest: people who artfully combine a love for educating and challenging students with a passion for academics and scholarship,” Hatch said. “There is no better example of the teacher-scholar ideal than Dr. Smith.”

See a video with highlights of Smith’s service to Wake Forest

Past Medallion of Merit winners.

Honors and Awards

URECA Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentorship in Research and Creative Work

20140220convocation3284Biology professor Gloria K. Muday and assistant professor of history Nathan A. Plageman received the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities URECA Center Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentorship in Research and Creative Work, which recognizes faculty members who engage Wake Forest undergraduates outside the classroom and inspire, guide, and support the students’ intellectual and creative endeavors. Muday has contributed great depth and leadership to her department by building a strong research program based on mentored relationships with students. Over the past 21 years, she has mentored more than 35 students, at least 12 of whom earned Honors in Biology. “For Dr. Muday, it was about teaching a love for learning,” said a former student who earned both a Ph.D. and M.D.

20140220convocation3297Assistant professor of history Nathan A. Plageman has already mentored a large number of students, though this is only his sixth year at Wake Forest. He has sponsored three Richter Fellows and assisted many other students in developing a wide variety of research projects. “I immediately turned to Dr. Plageman for advice and guidance,” said one former student, now a Ph.D. candidate of African History at the University of Illinois. “He represents a key figure in my scholarly journey.”

Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching

20140220convocation3432Associate professor of mathematics Jennifer B. Erway received the Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is awarded to outstanding faculty members who are still in the early part of their careers. Erway’s innovation, enthusiasm, rigor, and dedication to student learning inspire students to reach beyond their comfort levels and achieve beyond their expectations. Students say she is “more concerned with their personal growth and learning than with numbers.”

Read more about the award and see past participants.

Jon Reinhardt Award for Distinguished Teaching

20140220convocation3363History professor Simone M. Caron received the Jon Reinhardt Award for Distinguished Teaching, which recognizes an experienced faculty member who exemplifies the ideals of a liberal arts education. Caron served as chair of the History department from 2005-2013. She is passionate about her discipline but also teaches on an approach to life: think critically, always expect the best from yourself, and always push yourself to do better. Students report coming away from her courses with “dazzling” depth and breadth of knowledge of the subject matter. A former student described her as “the best professor I had in college, hands down, without question, unequivocally.”

Read more about the award and see past participants.

Award for Excellence in Research

20140220convocation3323Assistant professor of physics Timo Thonhauser was awarded the Award for Excellence in Research, presented to an outstanding scholar at an early stage in his or her career. He has inspired and mentored countless students since coming to Wake Forest in 2008, and is currently guiding a group consisting of five undergraduate students, four graduate students, and a postdoctoral research associate. They are working to solve problems related to carbon capture and hydrogen storage, which are of tremendous importance for a sustainable energy future. Thonhauser has also won over $1,000,000 in external support.

Read more about the award and see past participants.

Donald O. Schoonmaker Faculty Award for Community Service

20140220convocation3343Professor of American Ethnic Studies Ulrike Wiethaus received the Donald O. Schoonmaker Faculty Award for Community Service, which recognizes extraordinary community service by a faculty member. In addition to organizing and leading many community-oriented initiatives, Wiethaus has taught service-learning courses with a focus on the Native American culture and obtaining cross-cultural perspectives. She also provides workshops with her students at a nearby correctional facility to assist inmates in successful re-entry. “It is hard to imagine someone who epitomizes our commitment to Pro Humanitate more energetically or with more personal integrity than does Ulrike,” said her colleagues.

Read more about the award and see past recipients.

Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award

20140220convocation3385Associate professor of law Tanya D. Marsh was awarded the Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award, which is presented to a member of the School of Law who exemplifies teaching and service to the legal profession. Students credit Marsh with the ability to use her passion and skill to transform a typically dull topic into a dynamic subject. Marsh is also the co-creator of a new program for first-year law students that provides them with significant help in designing their career paths and acquiring the skills to help them on those journeys.

Read more about the award and see past participants.

Kulynych Family Omicron Delta Kappa Award

A20140220convocation3408ssociate professor of philosophy and Zachary T. Smith Fellow Christian Miller received the Kulynych Family Omicron Delta Kappa Award, which recognizes an outstanding faculty member who bridges the gap between classroom and student life. Miller has impacted the lives of countless students through his willingness to build relationships that extend beyond the classroom. He encourages students to meet with him to discuss both their personal lives and issues that are at the heart of understanding the world. For his students, Miller is not only a teacher, but also a mentor and friend.

Read more about the award and see past participants.

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