(Winston-Salem, N.C. – Dec. 24, 2014) – Chaplain Emeritus Edgar D. Christman, who served as chaplain at Wake Forest University for more than 30 years, died on Dec. 24, 2014. He was 85.
A service is scheduled for Dec. 30 at 11 a.m. in Wait Chapel.
For years, Christman welcomed freshmen to Wake Forest with his “What’s in a Name” speech, in which he wove many of their names into his remarks to make them feel part of their new community. No chaplain has ever been more aptly named, or lived up to his own name more than Christman, who is remembered for his compassion in helping generations of students feel at home at Wake Forest.
“Julie and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ed Christman. Ed’s life really embodied what is best about Wake Forest and our spiritual heritage. What I will always remember when I think of Ed Christman is his winsome spirituality, his commitment to justice, his desire for Wake Forest to be a more diverse and inclusive place, and his commitment to the well-being of generations of students,” said Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch. “His wife, Jean, was every bit a partner to Ed and his ministry at Wake Forest and to this campus community, and to her and the Christman family, I extend my prayers and offer my deepest condolences.”
Christman was named chaplain in 1969, but his association with the University dates back to the 1940s when he was an undergraduate and law student. As chaplain, he was the most visible face of the University’s Baptist heritage, but he also expanded the campus ministry program to include other faiths.
“He has been a chaplain to everybody – to those of another faith, to those of no faith, to those on the road somewhere,” Provost Emeritus Edwin Wilson wrote in his book “The History of Wake Forest University, volume 5.” “(They have) found in Ed Christman a friend whom they could respect and honor and trust.”
Christman became synonymous with the Moravian Christmas Love Feast, held annually in Wait Chapel for the past 50 years and helped found the University’s Volunteer Service Corps in the late 1980s. He was among the first administrators to champion integration of the student body in the early 1960s. He received the University’s Faces of Courage Award in 2012 for advocating integration and supporting the first black student Ed Reynolds, who enrolled in 1962.
“When you look at the entire institution, there are few people who have had an impact on Wake Forest in a way that transcends their individual assignment. Ed Christman is one of those few,” said Wilson, who had known Christman since their days on the old campus in the town of Wake Forest.
Christman received the University’s highest award, the Medallion of Merit, in 2007, and the divinity school’s first Distinguished Service Award in 2005. He was named administrator of the year by the Old Gold and Black in 1971 and Alumnus of the Year by the Residence Hall Council in 1982.
When he retired in 2003, Christman said, “The more I think about my life, I am beset by the word grace. Grace is gifts that you don’t deserve. My life has been a series of these kinds of events. I’m not a saint. I’m a person. But I have been given more than I deserve.”
A remembrance website, “Remembering Ed Christman,” can be found online at edchristman.wfu.edu.
About Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at www.wfu.edu.
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