Everyone at Wake Forest shares a special bond, but seniors Curtis Vann and Emily Roach have more in common than most from the Class of 2012. They were born to be Demon Deacons.
Not only do both come from a long line of Wake Foresters dating back to the old campus, their fathers became best friends and roommates in Taylor Hall more than 30 years ago.
On May 21, the lifelong friends received their diplomas from Wake Forest, just like several generations before them.
Old Gold & Black legacies
Curtis is a seventh-generation Wake Forest student following in the footsteps first laid by his great, great, great grandfather Alexander Russia Vann, who graduated from the old campus in 1847 – just 13 years after the college was founded. His great grandfather, Herbert Vann (‘15) became a legendary physician and professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine; his grandfather Robert “Bob” Vann (‘BS 42, MD ‘45) remains a highly respected physician, clinical researcher, and entrepreneur.
With more than a dozen ancestors spanning the next 170 years of Wake Forest history – including his father, John Vann (’80) – many prospective college students would feel immense pressure, but not Curtis.
“My family always supported, respected and loved Wake Forest and I always knew I wanted to go,” said the political science major from Bristol, Tenn. “I never felt pressure.”
Neither did Emily. Originally from Raleigh, N.C., her impressive Old Gold & Black lineage began with her great grandfather, Joseph “Joe” Roach (‘28), followed by her grandfather, Linville Roach (BA ’53, JD ’55) and great aunt Alease Roach Sherron (‘54). Her parents, Gerald Roach (BS ’80, JD ’82) and Stephanie Decker Roach (’81) met in an English class in the late 1970s. Other family members are also alumni.
In fact, both of Linville and Mary Jon Roach’s children – Gerald and Virginia “Ginny” Roach Lawson (’83) – and all four grandchildren are Demon Deacons, three of them in the Class of 2012. Emily’s brother, Davis (BA ’09, JD ’12), became a Double Deac upon hooding from the law school. Their cousin Michelle Lange received her BA in German this year; their other cousin Allison Lange graduated in 2010.
“I love Wake Forest because it’s something my whole family shares together,” said Emily, an elementary education major. “There was never pressure. It was just something we all loved.”
Rah, rah, Wake Forest, rah
Curtis and Emily grew up visiting the Reynolda campus, attending football tailgates, and watching basketball games. In fact, some of their favorite shared memories involve sporting events.
They were small when legendary center Tim Duncan (’97) played for the basketball team, but both recalled trying to make an impression on the big guy.
“From the time Curtis passed a basketball to Tim Duncan and Tim said, ‘Thanks, buddy,’ Curtis already thought he was part of the team,” said Curtis’ father, John.
Emily said, “I remember I drew a picture for Tim Duncan and really wanted to give it to him. My dad walked me down to the court so I could bring him the picture. Tim’s dad took it for him, and he was so nice. I always thought that showed a little bit about the type of people Wake attracts.”
Though their parents remained close and vacationed together over the years, Emily and Curtis only knew each other as acquaintances until high school. That all changed at the 2007 Orange Bowl, when the juniors in high school traveled with their families to support Wake Forest, their future alma mater.
Becoming friends, so dear
Emily and Curtis’ friendship continued to grow throughout high school thanks to text messages and emails, mostly about campus visits and the college admissions process.
Once they became students at Wake Forest, they hung out, made mutual friends, attended social functions together and even became neighbors.
“Now, senior year, I live on Polo Road and she lives right across the street. I see her all the time,” said Curtis. “It’s funny. My dad and her dad ended up living together and stayed in close contact. Now I’m living right next to her.”
Emily added, “Our parents get a big kick out of it. Before the last basketball game, my parents were in my driveway and his parents were at his. We could wave across Polo Road.”
Pride in parallel paths
Though all parents are proud of their college graduates, the 2012 commencement ceremony was extra special to the Roach and Vann families.
“We’ve tracked the same kind of course. It’s been great for Curtis to have both Emily and Davis on campus,” said John. “It’s been fun for Karen and me to go through their college years with Gerald and Stephanie. It helps us see that Wake has grown in the right ways but the foundation is what it needs to be.”
Gerald added, “Of the folks we met freshmen year, there are still four of us who see each other regularly – including John and me – and we have ever since. That’s a very special bond. Stephanie still sees people from her freshman hall regularly as well. In one sense, our experience is just an example of the experiences that many people have at Wake Forest about making lifelong friends.”
For Curtis and Emily, who are excited to start the next chapters in their lives, they know that they, too, have found lifelong friends in each other.
“I think Wake is truly special, from the accessibility of professors to my relationship with other Deacons like Curtis. I’ve run into WFU people all over the world, and there is such an immediate bond,” said Emily. “For me, that bond is even stronger knowing I’ve shared the experience with my family.”