The beautiful lakes and mountains in the region around Wake Forest University offer numerous camping options.
But last weekend, some Wake Forest students found a camping spot that was walking distance from campus: the home of President Nathan Hatch.
On Friday night, 53 students set up tents on the president’s lawn as part of a new event called Pro Humana Tent-a: The President’s Campout. During the event, the students had a chance to play games, share meals, watch a movie and talk with the president and his wife, Julie.
“It was an amazing opportunity to meet new friends and get to know the faces of Wake Forest,” said sophomore Megan Chaney. “And besides, how many people can say they played basketball with their university’s president?”
President Hatch indicated that the event may become a tradition.
“Julie and I enjoyed immensely having students camp at the President’s House,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to meet and visit in a relaxed atmosphere. My impression is that students had a great time, and we hope to make these occasions a new tradition at Wake Forest.
“Our favorite activity was visiting students around the fire as we all tried our hand making s’mores.”
President Hatch suggested the event last summer as part of discussions about how to have more informal connections with students. Jermyn Davis, a Wake Forest fellow, worked with some members of Student Government — Robin (Alex) Haddock, James (J.J.) Johnson, Kaitlin Russenberger and Alana Wilson — to plan, market and execute the campout.
Registration for the event was by e-mail in February, and Davis said all the spots filled in seconds. He said the final list of students was balanced by class.
“Though I’m not really a camping enthusiast, I was very excited for the opportunity to get to known President and Mrs. Hatch on a more personal level,” Chaney said.
On Friday, students set up their tents on a lawn that featured several inflatables. They took a tour of the president’s home, had dinner and then had a full night of activities: an obstacle course, a relay race, games (like corn hole, ping pong and board games), watching a movie and the NCAA basketball tournament and making s’mores.
“I enjoyed playing knockout with President Hatch the most,” said senior David Cox. “Seeing him around campus in a coat and tie, I would have never guessed how good of a basketball player he was. He truly is a ‘baller.'”
But the event was about more than just a schedule of events.
“I enjoyed the time between activities the most,” said first-year Robbie Byrum. “During that time, we were able to interact with each other more easily and get to know President Hatch and Mrs. Hatch more. President Hatch and I had an extensive conversation about sports, the university and our hometowns.”
On Saturday morning, President Hatch built a fire, and he and his wife sat and talked with students.
“Yet again, the strong sense of community that Wake Forest maintains has prevailed to serve its students,” Cox said. “I can think of no other University where this sort of event would have worked. Our school’s small size and strong sense of community made the camp out successful.”