The Deacon Blog

A magazine staff blog with news of alumni and the WFU community

One Clippers family man admires another

Demon Deacon, NBA superstar and self-professed family man Chris Paul (’07) admires his new boss, based on comments he made in an article published in The Wall Street Journal Aug. 26.

Steve Ballmer, who retired as Microsoft CEO in February, purchased the Los Angeles Clippers on Aug. 12 for $2 million after a dramatic process described in detail by writer Monica Langley.

Stuart Palley photo of Chris Paul and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer in screenshot from The Wall Street Journal website.

Stuart Palley photo of Chris Paul and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer in screenshot from The Wall Street Journal website.

Five days after the purchase was closed, Ballmer met with his new team at a trendy L.A. restaurant. “Arriving at the Spago restaurant in suit and tie, Mr. Ballmer shook hands with Clippers players he had admired: all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin; center DeAndre Jordan; forward Matt Barnes,” writes Langley. “There were halting comments, polite laughter and much cellphone checking. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers was struck by the body language: “They were suddenly all nervous.” But, Langley notes, tensions subsequently eased.

“The players jumped up to shake Mr. Ballmer’s hand,” writes Langley, and “Mr. Paul made plans to golf with him.” Quoting from the article: “What we loved is how competitive he is,” Mr. Paul said later. “And that he said he will miss some of our games if they conflict with his son’s basketball games. I have two kids, and that means a lot.”

Cherin C. Poovey (P ’08)

Thanks to ‘The Wake Forest Way’

During my many years working at this University we’ve called it “The Wake Forest Way.” And we still do. It’s the term we use to describe that spirit of caring, courtesy and willingness to go above and beyond — in situations big and small — that characterizes people who teach, study and work here. wcTake this week, for example.

Let’s just say you’re a magazine writer and you’re getting ready to interview an alumna who, in the midst of travels and a busy calendar, has agreed to meet you at a campus venue. Inside that building are some items essential to her story, and your job is to get a photo of her with them.

Then, let’s just say you’re surprised to find the building locked up. It is summer, after all. But the alumna really doesn’t know when she’ll be able to get back on campus, so getting inside today would be oh-so convenient.

Let’s just say that at this point — at many places — the magazine writer could be out of luck. But not at Wake Forest. She’s been here long enough to know there’s someone who, if it’s at all possible, will help her accomplish this mission.

So let’s just say the writer, who is standing outside with her interviewee and without a phone directory, calls the campus switchboard. The operator cordially transfers her to Facilities Management, and a helpful voice explains that in order to request access to the building the writer will have to contact Campus Police.

20140324arch7963That helpful person transfers the writer to Campus Police, where the businesslike voice of “Henderson” tells her she will have to contact the Deacon One Card office, then offers to transfer the call.

Then let’s just say the super-helpful Gina in the Deacon One Card office wants very much to get the writer inside the building but must first have authorization from a source higher up, so she’ll call back. Which she does, promptly.

Within minutes, another helpful citizen of Wake, Zeb, appears from inside the locked building and lets in the writer and her guest, even offering assistance with a stepladder so they can complete their photo shoot.

Let’s just say where there’s a will, there’s a way. “The Wake Forest Way.”

Cherin C. Poovey (P-as-in-Parent ’08)

Queen of Prep Didn’t Sleep Here, But I Did

When I moved to Bostwick 2-A as a freshman some years back, I arrived from Louisville, Ky., when preppy style was the rage. I came bearing lackluster dorm necessities — a dull shower pail comes to mind — but in my suitcases lay a dash of panache that included a Lilly Pulitzer sundress and patchwork pillows made of cheery Lilly Pulitzer fabric with polka-dotted grosgrain ribbons. Not until today did I learn of a heritage connection.


Lilly Pulitzer, designer and socialite

My discovery: Lilly Pulitzer, the designer of preppy pink and green clothes and, indirectly, my dorm pillows, was the great-granddaughter of Jabez A. Bostwick. I never gave a moment’s thought freshman year to the story of Jabez A. Bostwick, my dorm’s namesake. I guess I should have. It turns out he was a co-founder of Standard Oil and a devout Baptist who had no connection to Wake Forest and never visited what is now called the Old Campus or lived to see the new. But he did respond when asked to help increase the tiny $50,000 Wake Forest College endowment after Professor Charles Taylor launched a penny postcard campaign in 1883. Bostwick eventually met with Taylor and gave a firm commitment for a $10,000 gift. And he kept giving, bequeathing $1.6 million to Wake Forest in his will. He died in 1892, the largest contributor to Wake Forest’s endowment, contributing to promote the cause of religion, according to G.W. Paschal’s 1943 “History of Wake Forest College.”

Lilly Pulitzer, as befits the great-granddaughter of a titan of industry in the Gilded Age, had what has been called “a riches to riches story.” She died last year at 81 at her Palm Beach estate. In noting her death, People magazine said, “The bright, big-patterned colors that were her signature dotted country clubs from Bar Harbor to Bel Air, while trendsetters like Jackie Kennedy (Pulitzer’s former classmate at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Conn.) and E.F. Hutton and Post cereal heiress Dina Merrill were among those who sported themselves in the shapeless shifts that became known as ‘Lillys.’ ”

Those fabrics are back, cycling around again on the fashion wheel just as they did in my day. I see students sporting the prints, and the stationery store in Thruway Center on Stratford Road offers any number of Lillyfied items from note pads to cellphone cases. I’ll never look at them the same, knowing the historical link to a rich Baptist who was bent on helping shore up a little college in the South and inadvertently gave it a splash of color down the line.


Martha Allman: Study affirms test-optional policy for admissions

On Tuesday National Public Radio’s Eric Westervelt broke the story of an unprecedented, longitudinal study challenging the value of standardized tests in the admissions process. Bill Hiss, the principal researcher and former dean of admissions at Bates College, told NPR that “this study will be a first step in examining what happens when you admit tens of thousands of students without looking at their SAT scores.”

The study found “trivial differences” in examining the college performance of students who submitted standardized test scores for college admission and those who didn’t. The research suggests a better predictor of college success is the student’s high school GPA. Wake Forest, whose test-optional policy began with the freshman class of 2009, was one of the 33 institutions studied. (This year applications are holding steady compared with last year: approximately 11,000 but with a difference: a 25 percent increase in those applying early decision, a definite uptick.) I asked Dean of Admissions Martha Allman (’82, MBA ’92) to discuss the study’s findings and what they mean for Wake Forest. Here’s our edited, condensed interview. 

Dean of Admissions Martha Allman

Dean of Admissions Martha Allman

Maria Henson: For people who have not read the study, describe its main findings.

Martha Allman: The study was done by Bill Hiss, the former dean of admissions at Bates College, one of the first colleges to become test-optional. He’s done a lot of research and recordkeeping on test-optional. He expanded his research to 33 different test-optional colleges including state schools, private schools, arts schools, historically black schools. It’s a very broad look and longitudinal. It basically shows there is virtually no difference between submitters and non-submitters in their college years. That’s the main finding.

Henson: Was Wake Forest one of the schools studied? 

Allman: Yes. We did provide data, and I spent a lot of time on the phone talking with Bill Hiss about this.

Henson: Why did you want Wake Forest to make the change to test-optional? 

Allman: In 2008 we began really paying attention to research out there about use of the tests. (Sociology professor) Joseph Soares on our faculty had done a lot of research himself on the biases of the SAT. We felt that this was a way that we could really broaden our applicant pool to attract more socioeconomic and racial diversity and also look at students who perhaps were star high school students — stars academically — but were not applying to Wake Forest because of our average SAT scores.

Henson: Did you do your own admissions tracking after the policy took effect? 

Allman: Yes and continue to do so. We found the same thing that the study found: there is virtually no difference (in college performance). When we went into the test-optional decision there was concern from the faculty, from students, from alumni that this would lessen our academic nature, that we would no longer draw really strong students, that we would become less competitive, that the students would not do as well, that we would have higher attrition. And none of that has proved to be the truth at all. As a matter of fact, last year we had more students graduating with honors than possibly we have had in Wake Forest history. We’ve not seen attrition increase, and we don’t see any differentiation between the submitters and the non-submitters. That’s the big news.

Henson: What has been the long-term trend line concerning submitters and non-submitters applying to Wake Forest? 

Allman: It’s been pretty consistent. Between 25 and 30 percent of the students not submitting. We do ask students to submit after they enroll. Some do. Some don’t.

Henson: I talked to a junior who said her guidance counselor told her Wake Forest would not let you in if you didn’t submit scores. As she put it, the thought would be there is something wrong with you. 

Allman: It’s not true at all. I think even for students who submit we probably pay much less attention to that than we did in the past. We saw this from the first year and continue to see students who have extremely high SAT scores who don’t submit (scores), saying, ‘Philosophically, I love what you’re doing and I want you to judge me on my academic merits, not on my test.’ That’s really exciting to see those students.

Campus tour for prospective students, 2011

Campus tour for prospective students, 2011

Henson: What has been the effect on campus and in the classrooms? 

Allman: We have more students who are eligible for Pell Grants, more first-generation college students and more racial minorities. All of those things have increased.

Henson: How might this study change the admissions process throughout the United States?

Allman: I think one of the exciting sentences that I read in the study was (to paraphrase) ‘With the increasing number of really high quality colleges becoming test-optional — private, public and a variety of schools — families may be reaching the point that they decide to forgo the whole testing process.’ That was a very shocking thing to read in print, but actually a very exciting thing and suggests that we may be on the cusp of a real culture change. Historically, SAT scores have been equated with intelligence. Studies and studies are showing that that isn’t true. And here we have wonderful, empirical evidence that students at selective schools perform just as well without a standardized test as they do with the test.

I have long bemoaned the students who have spent so much time in test prep, so much money and so much energy in test strategy. They could be doing other things. They could be more involved in school, more involved in fine arts or other kinds of important extracurricular and talent activities. Now this may open the door to say perhaps we have put too much emphasis on it, and we need to dial it back and concentrate on other academic issues.

Henson: What will be your next “bold move” as dean of admissions?

Allman: Admissions has to be continually nimble. We never know how the landscape is going to change and how we need to adjust. I think we need to continue to be attuned to what’s going on in the world of admissions and the educational landscape. Certainly we’re very interested in the whole area of access, making sure that first-generation college students, students who have not had a lot of the privileges of other students, have access to Wake Forest. The Magnolia Scholars Program — and the growth of that program — is a testament to that. Making our campus more international is one of the things we’re moving toward, with students coming in from China, India and Western Europe. It’s diversity writ large.

Henson: Does that mean that the Wake Forest a lot of us attended and knew is over?

Allman: I think there are common threads from when you and I went to school and (Provost Emeritus) Ed Wilson (’43) went to school to these students entering Wake Forest that hopefully will never change. The whole idea of Pro Humanitate is, I think, stronger than ever with this generation of students. (And the idea) of service, of social justice issues, of international kinds of issues. The whole student-faculty relationship — the closeness — is something that separates us from a lot of our peers. Students are drawn here because of that. Students live here, and faculty live close by, and there’s close community interaction. It’s been treasured since the time Wake Forest was founded and still is. There may be cosmetic changes in the way the campus looks. It has certainly grown. We’ve added new buildings, and the people always change. We reflect more of what the country looks like now, but the fundamental character of Wake Forest is still there, and it’s very, very strong.

Henson: What have I not asked you that you wish I had? 

Allman: The emphasis on academic excellence. I think that was the greatest worry — that we were making it easier for people to get in and that was going to affect the classroom and our graduates. That hasn’t been the case at all. We continue to attract a really competitive applicant pool. We have not scared away students. In many ways it’s considered more selective because the process has all these subjective factors: we interview students, we have an application that is more in-depth than most any of our peers and we get good press about that. Guidance counselors tell us that the admissions process is a good reflection of what Wake Forest is — that it is intentional, personal and individualistic, focusing on the whole person, not just the quantifiable.”