Wake Forest University has established a major fellowship for students of its divinity school.
The new Sarah and Samuel Wait Fellowships in Theology and Ministry will be awarded each year to up to eight students entering the school’s master of divinity program. Samuel Wait was the first head of Wake Forest.
The merit awards are renewable for up to three years based on academic achievement and will be awarded to those who show exceptional promise for Christian ministry. Like the Reynolds scholarships awarded to undergraduates, the Wait Fellowships will pay for all tuition and fees.
“This fellowship is a testament to the importance of our heritage as we prepare to open the school,” said Scott Hudgins, the divinity school’s director of student recruitment. “Because our master of divinity program will be spiritually and intellectually demanding, the fellowship will provide a level of support students need to focus fully on their studies and formation for ministry.
The divinity school is expected to open in 1999 with five faculty and 35 students from a variety of denominational traditions, building to 135 to 150 students within three years.
Although not originally from North Carolina, the Waits left a lasting imprint on the state’s education and ministry. After Wait began serving a church in New Bern in the 1820s, he was struck by the absence of community among the state’s Baptist churches and the deficiencies of a clergy ill-prepared and educated to relate Biblical truths to the everyday lives of their congregations.
Once Sarah moved south to join Samuel in 1827, they set about filling those voids by working to create the association of churches that became the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, the publication that became the Biblical Recorder, and the institute that became today’s Wake Forest University.
For more than three years, until Wait became the first principal of Wake Forest Manual Labor Institute in 1834 in Wake Forest, N.C., the Waits crisscrossed the state in their jersey wagon building support for the college, convention and periodical.
Their little daughter Ann Eliza — just 4 when they began their travels — sat in a chair facing them in the wagon. The three trunks containing all their worldly possessions jostled in the wagon behind them. The hard journey reflected their personal sacrifices for the ministry. Sarah made hats to support their work and they depended on the kindness of strangers for lodging and other basic necessities. Once, they even had to suspend their travels when Ann Eliza contracted scarlet fever.
“The Waits helped educate a new generation of clergy in North Carolina,” Hudgins said. “The divinity school will build upon their legacy of preparing learned ministers and leaders for lives of service.
“Preparing men and women for active Christian service is what the divinity school is all about and it is in honor of the Waits’ vision that these new scholarships are awarded.”
Nominees must demonstrate academic achievement and promise for Christian ministry. Candidates for the fellowships must be nominated by people who can attest to their qualifications. Wait Fellowship recipients will be announced after Feb. 1. Applications for the master of divinity program are now being accepted by the school.
To request a nomination form for the fellowships, write to the Wait Fellowship Program, Wake Forest University Divinity School, P.O. Box 7719, Reynolda Station, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27109. Or contact the school’s Office of Admissions by phone at (800) 393-4244, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Announcement of the new fellowship comes as construction continues on the $1.25 million rotunda addition to Wingate Hall that will provide offices for the school’s faculty and administration. The two-story addition will be completed later this year. A two-year program of renovations to the interior of Wingate and Wait Chapel was completed this summer.