Wake Forest holds inauguration for President Susan R. Wente

Wake Forest celebrated the inauguration of the University’s 14th President, Susan R. Wente, on March 25, at 3 p.m. in Wait Chapel.

In her speech, Wente drew on her experience as a scientist to connect the transformative power of education to cell biology and described Wake Forest as a “catalyst for good.”

The Inauguration of President Susan R. Wente

Wake Forest’s Inauguration Day photo story can be found here. Full photo galleries are here.

Read the Winston-Salem Journal’s inauguration coverage and see their photos here.

A recording of the inauguration ceremony and the Installation Ceremony program are available here.

The event was the highlight of five days of activities promoting service and showcasing the University.

Wake Forest faculty and invited delegates processed into Wait Chapel wearing smiles and colorful academic regalia.

“A catalyst for good”

Wente is the first woman to lead Wake Forest. In her address, she compared the work of enzymes as catalysts for change in the cells of living organisms to the work of great universities creating change for good in society.

“Through immersive education, ethical inquiry and experiential learning; from the fine arts to the social sciences; to offering exceptional opportunities for scholastic, athletic and personal development…Wake Forest catalyzes the imagination, intellect and creativity of our students,” Wente said.

“As a great university, we are going to be a catalyst for good – for learning and discovery, for access and opportunity, for innovation and society.” Susan R. Wente, President of Wake Forest University

To lower barriers to education, Wente announced a commitment to expand access to a Wake Forest education with a goal of raising the funds necessary to support 100 new scholarships by the end of 2022. The announcement of the Pro Humanitate initiative drew applause.

Wente also focused on the power of community partnerships, naming those in the Piedmont-Triad; in Winston-Salem and the Innovation Quarter; and in the Pearl District in Charlotte, as opportunities for the research, scholarship, faculty experts, art performances and exhibitions and medical, engineering and environmental discoveries at Wake Forest to make a real-world difference.

“We are grateful for the vision and willingness of Wake Forest leaders – past and present – to embrace many shared efforts for the good of this city.” Mayor of Winston-Salem Allen Joines

“Wake Forest must heed the call of our time,” Wente said during a speech that was peppered with applause. “We must lead by example – by being an institution renowned for trust, transparency and teamwork.… The value of Wake Forest must always be found in the value we bring to others.”

President Wente at the lectern

President Wente gives her inaugural address.

Wente acknowledged the influence of her family, as well as mentors including Nicholas Zeppos, Chancellor Emeritus of Vanderbilt University, who attended the ceremony.

A delegation of Wake Forest alumni including Provost Emeritus Ed Wilson of the class of 1943 and representatives from every graduating class from 1950 through 2021, attended the ceremony. Ed Reynolds, the first Black full-time undergraduate to enroll at Wake Forest, represented the class of 1964.

Student Government President Ally Swartzberg said she’s honored to serve alongside the University’s first female president. 

“I have been fortunate to get to know President Wente very well during the course of her first year and to experience the first parts of her vision for Wake Forest’s future,” Swartzberg said. “While I do not know what the coming years will bring for the Wake community, I am confident that my home for the last four years will be left in exceptionally capable hands.”

Wake Forest juniors Gracie Stambaugh, of Nashville, Tennessee, Nicole Huertas of Orlando, Florida, and Addy Brown of Princeton, New Jersey, attended the inauguration together.

“It was an honor to get to experience Wake Forest history by witnessing Dr. Wente’s inauguration,” said Stambaugh, a psychology major with a minor in entrepreneurship. “As a female, I find it empowering and encouraging to see a woman lead this incredible school.” 

The Investiture

Chair of the Board of Trustees, Matthew King, presided over the formal investiture of the University’s 14th president. 

“President Wente has shown herself to be a person who values discovery, seeks excellence and holds a strong vision for the future of Wake Forest. ” Matthew King, Chair, Wake Forest Board of Trustees

Herman Eure, professor emeritus of biology and Trustees vice-chair, and Gerald Roach, former Trustees chair, invested Wente with the Presidential Chain of Office, which is made up of University seal medallions with the name and tenure of each of Wake Forest’s 13 past presidents.

Music and poetry

“Fanfare Pro Humanitate,” an original work by Wake Forest composer-in-residence Dan Locklair, premiered during the ceremony. The piece featured organ, percussion and the brass ensemble. 

Later in the program, the Chamber Choir sang, “We Will Rise Up Together,” followed by senior Adarian Sneed’s reading of Maya Angelou’s poem “A Brave and Startling Truth.” The Chamber and Gospel Choirs performed the Alma Mater, “Dear Old Wake Forest,” under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Chris Gilliam.

Inauguration week festivities began with campus-wide community service projects on Wednesday, March 23, to demonstrate the University’s motto, Pro Humanitate. Other planned activities included exhibits, open houses, an Inaugural Ball, a Sunday worship service, and tours conducted by faculty and students.

The Inauguration website has the full details about the inauguration, including the livestream of the ceremony, the program and descriptions of faculty sessions and curated tours offered to highlight Wake Forest research and the University’s Pro Humanitate Motto. It also includes a place to share congratulations to President Wente.

Members of the Wake Forest community line up outside Wait Chapel for the Inauguration.
"Others committed to the noble calling of education are walking beside you," said Chancellor of Winston-Salem State University Elwood Robinson.
"We are grateful for the vision and willingness of Wake Forest leaders – past and present," said Mayor of Winston-Salem Allen Joines.
President Wente looks towards Wait Chapel as she prepares for her inauguration ceremony.

Voices from the Inauguration Ceremony

During the ceremony, greetings to the president were offered by representatives on behalf of faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and the Winston-Salem community. In addition to Mayor Joines’ community greeting, he shared a message from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, who was not able to attend. Winston-Salem State University Chancellor Elwood Robinson also shared greetings on behalf of local, regional, state and national higher education.

“Dr. Wente, as the mantle of leadership is officially placed upon your shoulders today, may you know that you have others committed to the noble calling of education walking beside you. Your fellow educators and institutional leaders support you in the work ahead and look forward to opportunities to work together as we advance the efforts of cultivating intelligence and character for future generations.” – Chancellor of Winston-Salem State University Elwood Robinson

“Learning communities like Wake Forest University, at their best, animate the wheels of human progress and unleash the potential of humanity.… The transformative power of education inspires us to act. To create. To grow. And thus to make a social impact.” – Dean of the School of Divinity Jonathan Lee Walton 

“Dr. Wente, now that you have chosen to invest your future in this community, we know that you will continue to make this a place where people are valued and seen. We offer you our support as, together, we serve this institution. We are honored to welcome you to the Wake Forest team.” – Stephanie K. Carter, President of Staff Advisory Council

“You are a kindred spirit when it comes to the value we place on faculty connection with students, scholarly achievement and contributions to shaping the educational mission that has defined this institution for nearly two centuries.” – President of Faculty Senate Matthew T. Phillips

“Dr. Wente, in this first year of your presidency, you have shown us that you value and understand the importance of accessibility for providing a robust and holistic student experience. We appreciate your commitment to building strong relationships with student leaders across campus, and we look forward to continuing to work beside you as we move Wake Forest into the future.” – President of Student Government Ally L. Swartzberg

“Dr. Wente, as you become more at home with Wake Forest, know that you have the support of parents and families who have come to love this place because of the exceptional education, the care and challenge it has provided for our children.” – President of Parents Council Bonnie S. Carter

“Dr. Wente, thank you for accepting the responsibility of cultivating this very soul of Wake Forest. We are pleased that you value the voices of those who have carried forth the motto into the world. As you lead our alma mater, we hope that we will be a valuable resource to you and those who lead beside you.​​” – President of Alumni Council Alexandria Schroeder

“The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and Wake Forest University have been in partnership for many, many years. Dr. Wente, as the new leader of one of our community’s strongest institutions, I look forward to continuing to share in the work ahead of us. Together, I believe we can strengthen and improve our community and inspire others to do the same.” – Executive Director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Maurice O. “Mo” Green


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