WFU commencement story ideas

GOLF LEGEND, WFU ALUMNUS ARNOLD PALMER WILL GIVE ADDRESS — Preparations began early this week on Wake Forest University’s Thomas K. Hearn Jr. Plaza (the Quad) for the university’s 163rd commencement ceremony May 16 with golf legend and university alumnus Arnold Palmer. Palmer will address the university’s approximately 1,450 graduates during the 9 a.m. outdoor ceremony. Preparations will continue throughout the weekend. Media arrangements for the event can be found on the News Service Web site at In case of rain, the ceremony will be moved to the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum and media will be notified by 7 a.m.

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.


PRESIDENT HEARN LEAVES LASTING LEGACY AT WFU, IN COMMUNITY — Thomas K. Hearn Jr. is preparing for his last commencement as president of Wake Forest. He arrived as president in 1983 and has led the university through many changes, including the institution’s transition from a highly regarded regional university to one of the top national universities in the United States. Along the way, Hearn has become known as an influential leader in Winston-Salem, promoting economic development and encouraging strong ties between the university and the community. During his tenure, the university’s Reynolda and Bowman Gray campuses have experienced extraordinary growth. On the Reynolda Campus, for instance, there have been increases in the number of students, faculty and staff; the construction of new buildings and the renovation of all others; an increase in the endowment; and the development of the Divinity School. Hearn also led the university in establishing an autonomous, self-governing board of trustees while concluding its governance relationship with the Baptist State Convention.

Contact: Kevin Cox, or 336-758-5237.


ARMY ROTC CADET TO BE COMMISSIONED BY HER FATHER, MAJ. GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY — Caitlin Dempsey, a senior Army ROTC cadet, will be commissioned by her father, Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, during a ceremony May 15. General Dempsey, who served as the 1st Armor Division commander in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, will be the guest speaker for the commissioning ceremony at 3 p.m. in Wake Forest’s Information Systems building. Twelve other cadets will also be commissioned, including Matthew Gallagher, who will be commissioned by his grandfather, retired Rear Admiral John Scott, and Samantha S. Rieger, who will be commissioned by her sister, 1st Lt. Jennifer Rieger.

Contact: Cheryl Walker, or 336-758-5237.


DEFIBRILLATOR DEVELOPER TO GIVE MEDICAL SCHOOL ADDRESS — Dr. Bernard Lown, a pioneering cardiologist credited with inventing the defibrillator and introducing the drug Lidocaine to control heartbeat irregularities, will address the Wake Forest School of Medicine’s 105 graduates at 4 p.m. May 15 in Wait Chapel. Media are invited to attend. Lown, professor of cardiology emeritus at Harvard School of Public Health, established the world’s first coronary unit. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for his efforts in co-founding International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Lown will also receive an honorary doctor of science degree during the university’s commencement ceremony May 16.

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.


CEO, PRESIDENT OF VF CORP. TO GIVE BABCOCK SCHOOL ADDRESS — Mackey J. McDonald, chairman, chief executive officer and president of VF Corp., will deliver the address at the Babcock Graduate School of Management’s annual hooding ceremony at 7 p.m. May 15 in Wait Chapel. The Babcock School will honor 255 graduates, which brings the total number of Wake Forest MBA alumni to more than 5,550. VF Corp., based in Greensboro, is a world leader in branded apparel with $6 billion in sales. It is the parent company of well-known brands like Lee, Wrangler, Vanity Fair, JanSport, Nautica, The North Face and Vans.

Contact: Dusty Donaldson, or 336-758-4454.


WFU ALUMNUS TO RECEIVE HONORARY DEGREE — Wake Forest graduate Michael Dennis Piscal, president and founder of the nonprofit organization Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF), will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree during the university’s 163rd commencement ceremony May 16. Under the umbrella of ICEF, Piscal established View Park Preparatory Accelerated Charter Schools in Los Angeles. The schools are cost-free, college preparatory alternatives for the children of working-class families in one of the worst performing school districts in Los Angeles. Since Piscal began ICEF, View Park Prep has expanded from one school to three, with 70 to 80 percent of all students performing above the national average on reading and mathematics standardized tests.

Contact: Maggie Barrett, or 336-758-5237.


COMMENCEMENT TO BE WEBCAST LIVE BEGINNING AT 9 A.M. — The entire commencement ceremony, including the speech by legendary golfer and Wake Forest alumnus Arnold Palmer, will be broadcast live on the Internet beginning at 9 a.m. at In the event of rain, the ceremony will be moved to Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum and will not be available on the Internet. If moved to the coliseum, the ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m.

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.


TRADITIONAL GRADUATION BREAKFAST BRINGS SENIORS TOGETHER — Graduating students and their families will gather in the Reynolda Hall cafeteria (the Pit) early Monday morning for Wake Forest’s traditional graduation breakfast. Approximately 400 tickets have been purchased for the event, which begins at 6:30 a.m.

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.


PEACE CORPS RECRUITS PREPARE TO SERVE THE WORLD — Mary Catherine Rich of Wake Forest, N.C., is one of six Wake Forest seniors who will enter the Peace Corps after graduation. Rich, fluent in Spanish, plans to serve in Ecuador. The history major has been president of the Wake Forest equestrian team, an interpreter for the Community Care Clinic in Winston-Salem, a translator for Brunson Elementary School in Winston-Salem and a volunteer at the Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center. Andrew Ice, a senior from Spokane, Wash., will serve in South Africa. Others are waiting for assignments. Seventeen Wake Forest alumni are currently serving in the Peace Corps.

Contact: Cheryl Walker, or 336-758-5237.


WFU GRADUATE BETS ON IMPROVING ODDS FOR LAS VEGAS YOUTH — You might say that graduating senior Aaron Blades is a gambling man. Bound for Las Vegas, the economics major has his sights set on improving the odds that students at one of the city’s poorest performing elementary schools will succeed academically, finish school and perhaps one day go to college. Blades, like several other of his classmates at Wake Forest, was selected for Teach for America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of public education in disadvantaged communities. Beginning with the 2005-2006 school year, Blades will join other Teach for America recruits in Las Vegas to help develop the program, which will be in its second year. “Las Vegas seems to be excited to have Teach for America come to its schools,” said Blades, who is from New York. “I believe the awareness of the educational achievement gap is one of the most important obstacles to equity, and this is a great opportunity to start raising awareness with a relatively clean slate.”

Contact: Maggie Barrett, or 336-758-5237


GRADUATE CONNECTS VOLUNTEERS WITH HISPANIC COMMUNITY — To connect Wake Forest students who speak Spanish with organizations in Winston-Salem that need them, Wake Forest senior Jessie Lee Smith started Aprender y Enseñar. In English, it means “to learn and to teach.” The student-led service organization places Wake Forest students with local agencies that work with the Hispanic community. Using a Web site (, the students are matched with agencies based on their interests, Spanish-speaking ability and schedule. In addition to providing much-needed volunteers, the program also helps Wake Forest students practice Spanish and better understand Hispanic culture and issues. “Our agency strives to serve as the ‘one-stop’ volunteer agency where students of all majors, Spanish levels and backgrounds can come and find a community organization that needs their help,” said Smith, who has already started a job with the American Cancer Society in Winston-Salem. The network now includes 15-20 partner volunteer organizations in Winston-Salem that are working with Aprender y Enseñar. Among them are the AIDs Care Service, the Second Harvest Food Bank and Forest Park Elementary.

Contact: Cheryl Walker, or 336-758-5237.


DIVINITY SCHOOL GRADUATE MINISTERS TO LOCAL PRISONERS — At 49, Margaret Deans, a graduating student in the Wake Forest Divinity School, said she finds herself more motivated to succeed than ever before. That drive compelled her to return to school after her daughters graduated from high school, selecting the Divinity School at Wake Forest because of its reputation for open inquiry and choosing to drive from her home in Charlotte to attend classes in Winston-Salem. A personal interest in spirituality and art led Deans to apply for the Divinity School’s William Kay and Velma Preslar McGee Internship in Prison Ministry, a program that allows students to work with the nonprofit group Forsyth Jail and Prison Ministries. Deans has been working with inmates in the Forsyth Correctional Center on an art project that gives them a chance to paint four-inch square Bisque tiles with a variety of Christian symbols. “I hope that the men gain an appreciation for themselves for being able to paint the tiles. Some of them balked at the idea of painting the tiles, but they did a great job with a little bit of encouragement,” said Deans, who plans to form a band of the tiles around the prison chapel. “I hope that when they see the tiles on the wall, they are not only proud of what they have done, but also proud of what they have done as a community.”

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.



Rebecca Cook, a biology major and a Rhodes Scholar, grew up in Kijabe, Kenya. She will study medical anthropology in graduate school at England’s Oxford University. Cook’s goal is to return to Africa as a primary care physician after completing medical school and training in the United States.

Francesca Winkler, a graduating student with a double major in biology and history, helped create The Student, an online magazine billed as a Wake Forest student’s guide to campus, Winston-Salem and beyond. She leveraged her extracurricular experience with the online magazine into a job as an information technology consultant with the company CGI-AMS in Atlanta.

Jenna Schuster, a recipient of the Thomas K. Hearn Jr. Civic Responsibility Scholarship, has been a volunteer in the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center’s neurobiology and anatomy program. She has been accepted to Northwestern University’s Institute of Neuroscience where she plans to earn her doctorate.

Jamie Dean, a blind student from Ohio, serves as the student trustee on Wake Forest’s board of trustees and served on the presidential search committee that selected Nathan O. Hatch as the next president of Wake Forest. Dean is president of the university’s rowing club and co-chair of the Honor and Ethics Council.

In addition to these exceptional graduates, others of interest include Angel Hsu, editor of the student newspaper Old Gold & Black; and Tiffanie Lord of Lexington, who will volunteer with AmeriCorps City Year program. These students will be among the approximately 1,450 undergraduate and graduate students receiving diplomas during this year’s commencement.

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.

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