Remembering Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou’s family has arranged a private memorial service in Wake Forest University’s Wait Chapel on Saturday, June 7 at 10 a.m.

Due to limited seating capacity, the family has decided to have a closed service for family and friends only. Wake Forest University will livestream the service for the public at

The family will be planning additional celebrations of her life in other cities across the country. Her son, Guy B. Johnson, will release information about these destinations at a later date.

Despite her larger than life reputation and international acclaim, Dr. Angelou touched the lives of Wake Forest students in a personal and profound way. For more than 30 years, she inspired them to be courageous and embrace life fully.

Five of her former students reflected on their time in the classroom with Dr. Angelou and the transformative lessons they learned. More reflections are available in the guest book on Dr. Angelou’s remembrance page.

“Dr. Angelou said we can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike. She taught me I am a human being. I am capable of every single thing. It doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else. It just makes me human. This powerful message resonated deeply and validated my pursuits to a selfless venture.” — Bentrice Jusu (’13), founder and executive director of the nonprofit Both Hands: The Artlet in Trendon, N.J.

“It was an absolute privilege to share that special time with Dr. Angelou and my fellow classmates. She taught me how to be a better human being in contemporary America and helped me to understand my responsibilities to others and to my communities as an emerging adult. I remember her both for her wisdom and remarkable intelligence – as well as her generosity of spirit.” — Matt Imboden (’06), director of integrative academic and student services at the Wake Forest University School of Business

“In class, Dr. Angelou made us learn each other’s names. She wanted us to understand how you feel when someone calls your name across the room. She wanted us to experience what it meant to have your chest swell with pride because someone remembered your name. Sometimes she asked us to share what was going on in our lives. She listened. In those moments, she was studying us and what we could contribute to the group and to society at large.” — Nicole Little (’13), program coordinator with the art-based nonprofit, Authoring Action

“I will be forever grateful for the wisdom she so carefully and unselfishly poured into us. There were countless moments that I will cherish, but the theme of the course, ‘I am a human being, nothing human will be alien to me’ is something I carry with me daily.” — Matt Williams (’09), associate director of marketing and communications for Wake Forest’s Office of Personal and Career Development

“It was so amazing as a student to be sitting at the table with Dr. Angelou in her own home. I think the biggest thing I took away from her as a person was her sense of elegance and class. I also found her poetry to be captivating. She obviously went through some very hard things in her lifetime but was nevertheless always looking at the world glass-half-full. She broke a lot of barriers as both a women and a writer, and I am so happy we will always have her work which really and truly embodies her spirit.” — Amanda Finney (’13), a first grade teacher with Teach for America in New Orleans, LA.

About Maya Angelou and Wake Forest University

  • Dr. Angelou’s first visit to campus was in 1973 for a speaking engagement in DeTamble Auditorium.
  • Wake Forest awarded Dr. Angelou an honorary degree in 1977.
  • Dr. Angelou served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University since 1982.
  • She taught a variety of humanities courses, including “World Poetry in Dramatic Performance,” “Race, Politics and Literature,” “African Culture and Impact on U.S.,” “Race in the Southern Experience” and “Shakespeare and the Human Condition.”
  • The last class she taught at Wake Forest was in the summer of 2011.
  • Dr. Angelou was planning to teach a course called “Race, Culture and Gender in the U.S. South and Beyond” this fall.
  • Her last public speaking engagement at Wake Forest University was on Nov. 6, 2013, when she delivered opening remarks in Brendle Recital Hall for a celebration of the campus-wide “Dignity and Respect Campaign.” Video of her remarks can be viewed here.

Categories: 2014 Highlights, Alumni, Faculty, For Alumni, For Parents, Teacher-Scholar, University Announcement