The Deacon Blog

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

Alumni

A familiar sight in a faraway place

Last month Joyce and Douglas Boyette (MD ’75, P ’03) were part of a 35-member medical mission team serving in Barahona, Dominican Republic, when Joyce spotted something familiar. A young child, hundreds of miles from the Wake Forest campus, was wearing a T-shirt that read “I may be little but I’m a BIG Demon Deacon fan.”

“It really made my day to be in a foreign country and find a WFU T-shirt,” wrote Joyce, who shared her photo with the magazine. “As one can see, we were in a very poor place in the mountains of Dominican Republic.”

A little Deacon fan, photographed by Joyce Boyette.

A little Deacon fan, photo by Joyce Boyette.

The medical mission team included surgical and clinical groups, she said. The former, including Wake alum Dale Williams (MD ’82), performed 63 surgeries during the week. The clinical group saw 618 patients.

“Each year, there is a January group from mostly Greensboro and Shelby. In February, there’s a group from Winston Salem and in March, a group from Asheboro goes down,” she wrote. “I would suspect that someone from Winston-Salem donated clothes in the past and thus, the WFU shirt.”

Thanks to the Boyettes for sharing this story and for reminding us that the spirit of Pro Humanitate is far-reaching, as is the community of Deacon fans.

— Cherin C. Poovey (P ’08)

Buck Cochran (’82) and friends working miracles at Peacehaven Farm

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By Maria Henson (’82)

When last I checked in on Buck Cochran (’82) for the magazine, he was learning to be a farmer. He still is. “Somebody the other day called me a Google farmer. I was Googling an answer,” he said: Was it time to harvest peanuts? That’s how Farmer Buck started — on the Internet. That’s what this former Navy officer, ex-corporate executive and ordained Presbyterian minister still does — with notable success.

Community lunch at Peacehaven Farm

Community lunch at Peacehaven Farm

He continues to learn at Peacehaven Community Farm, which he has shepherded as executive director since the nonprofit’s founding during the economic crash. The farm sits on a gentle hill adorned with raised garden beds in Whitsett, North Carolina, near Burlington. When I visited Buck in the summer of 2010, he had two full-time farm employees, a board of directors and an annual count of about 200 volunteers who gardened and tended the farm (and, on a spirit-to-spirit level, each other). They all nurtured a dream to establish a working farm with housing for special-needs adults. Of equal importance, they shared a goal of meaningful labor through which volunteers and residents could form relationships.

Buck Cochran (left): 'The impossible becomes the possible.'

Buck Cochran (left): ‘The impossible becomes the possible.’

When the world is awash in grim news, it is nothing short of breathtaking to chart the progress at Peacehaven. There you will find Wake Foresters gathered around the occasional bonfire and always fanning the flames of Pro Humanitate.

• Consider a few of the highlights from Peacehaven in 2014:

• Volunteers and staff built a playground in one day, a destination for anyone.

• Peacehaven and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro teamed to build Susan’s View, a 5,000-square-foot house on the hill for residents with disabilities.

• Peacehaven gained status as an intermediary to manage the AmeriCorps VISTA program in the area. AmeriCorps volunteers commit to serve a nonprofit or public agency full time for one year.

• The iconic barn was remodeled to provide upstairs office space, and it now features 54 solar panels to supply the nonprofit’s electricity.

• The big moment arrived: residents moved into Susan’s View and so did the home coordinator and three AmeriCorps volunteers who serve as resident assistants.

• Guilford Nonprofit Consortium named Peacehaven nonprofit of the year.

Kim Harviel Sue (’82) is Peacehaven's 'personal cheerleader.'

Kim Harviel Sue (’82) is Peacehaven’s ‘personal cheerleader.’

I visited Buck a few weeks ago and marveled at the beauty of the house, the barn’s new offices and the best sight of all — a young woman pedaling as hard as she could on a three-wheeled bicycle. “Whoa! Do you think she’ll stop before she gets to the highway?” I asked Buck, feeling a type of anxiety arise I’d not felt since my days supervising my toddler niece. He studied her and looked back at me, unconcerned. “She usually makes that turn up the driveway.” And she did.

Good job, Molly Barker. She’s one of the four special-needs adults who moved into Susan’s View in December. After the final driveway lap, she rolled the bicycle back into the barn past an array of shovels, hoes and rakes neatly stored on the wall, and then she took her leave to head home for lunch. Buck and I were left to admire those tools, which have their own Wake Forest story.

After the feature about Peacehaven appeared in Wake Forest Magazine, Buck heard from one of our readers, Joe Saffron (’89), senior director of marketing at The AMES Companies, Inc. in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. He and Buck didn’t know each other, but Joe liked what he read about the farm. What did Peacehaven need? He asked Buck for a list of tools.

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Liz Bailey hugs volunteer Gabbi Murray

From shovels to wheelbarrows to hoes, the list was long. Off it went. And then it was quiet for a while. “Until one day this big 18-wheeler pulls into Peacehaven, and we’re trying to wave him off,” Buck says. “No. No. You’re in the wrong place.” The driver wasn’t. Saffron’s gifts from AMES had arrived — “pallets and pallets and pallets of stuff. It was like Christmastime here. And the thing that was so amazing — he sent us construction-grade tools that look just about as good today as they did then.”

Joe told me in a phone call this month, “Some things, you know they deserve your attention, and they deserve to be rallied around. There’s a nobility in what Buck is doing that I think is unique.”

Wall4Buck and Joe became friends. They shared a love for Wake Forest and how the University and ROTC had helped shape them for their leadership roles. Both left college to become military officers. (Joe returns every spring to campus to speak to a military history class.) Buck says he’s received emails and calls from Joe that offered encouragement “in ways I’m not even sure he knows.” Buck gets misty-eyed talking about it.

The one and only time they have seen each other in person was in the spring of 2011. Joe brought his then-12-year-old daughter Carina — her name means “dear little one” — to see the farm. She collected eggs from the henhouse, and the two of them did a few chores. Joe says he felt moved by Buck’s recounting of being called in a divine way to lead the nonprofit. “I was very inspired by that,” he said.

So the next time an AMES truck rolled into Whitsett, there was no mistaking the purpose. A truck arrived with tools that had the kind of perfection that turned heads, especially those of Habitat volunteers, Buck said. They were for building Susan’s View. “If I’m supplying encouragement to Buck and it’s helping him, then I’m doubly proud,” Joe said.

ED A&TLooking back at his time at Peacehaven, Buck said he was proudest of the way partnerships and collaborations with the larger community have come together. People show up from around the region and from colleges to volunteer. Last year the volunteers numbered 1,200. In the midst of them are Kim Harviel Sue (’82), a Peacehaven board member from Greensboro, and Liz Kenney Bailey (’82, MA ’85), and her husband, Steve Bailey (MA ’88), who both teach at Elon and, like Buck, have a child with an autism spectrum disorder. “Liz has all this great expertise around folks with disabilities. Steve is the incredible educator who brings his students out to learn. … Kim Sue is like having your own personal cheerleader out talking about Peacehaven wherever she goes,” Buck said. “We would not be where we are today without them.” And then there are his buddies who have been his friends since they met freshman year: Dave Weymer (’82, P ’13, ’14), Paul Noone (’82), Dr. Landon King (’82), to name a few, whose support has meant the world to him.

ED letter 4Buck has called the Peacehaven years “the most intense period of learning and growth” in his life. The lesson: “It’s made me believe in a very deep way the power of what’s possible when you bring folks together who share a vision. And there’s nothing that’s not possible working with people like that. The impossible becomes the possible.”

How’s that for some good news for a very new year?

 

More reasons to give thanks

Amy WhiteWe first brought you the story of Amy Bannister White (’90) at Thanksgiving two years ago. In the true spirit of Pro Humanitate, 10 years ago White founded a faith-based organization, Community of Hope Ministries, to help those in need in her hometown of Garner, North Carolina.

For the last five years, Community of Hope has partnered with Butterball LLC to provide turkeys to more than 200 families in need at Thanksgiving. When I checked in with White last week, she was overflowing with enthusiasm and thankfulness.

Butterball, which is based in Garner, donated 225 turkeys this year. Highland Baptist Church in Garner donated another 40, and a real estate office donated 10. Several other North Carolina companies stepped up to help this year, too. “We worked hard to bring some additional partners to help Community of Hope provide not only the turkeys, but also the side dishes to go with them,” White told me.

Alco Custom Cabinets in Garner provided cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies. The Village of Aversboro, a retirement community, hosted a food drive to collect green beans and stuffing mix. Nash Produce, one of North Carolina’s largest sweet potato producers, donated more than 1,000 pounds of potatoes.

“I can’t imagine not doing this Thanksgiving outreach,” White told me. “I love the story of cooperation in the children’s story “Stone Soup” where hungry travelers make soup in the town square. The townspeople “donate” the ingredients to make a soup that is shared by all. Our take on that story is that we ask several partners to work together to make Thanksgiving dinner a joyful reality for all of those who would not otherwise have one.”

White is a former teacher who started Community of Hope to tutor some elementary-school kids struggling in reading and math. That led to one thing and then another. Today, Community of Hope serves about 200 families a month through an after-school enrichment program and a summer camp for at-risk youth; a home-repair service for seniors and the disabled; a benevolence ministry that provides monetary help for things like rent and transportation; and a food pantry that has provided 137,000 meals this year. The nonprofit is supported by First Baptist Church of Garner, other churches and individuals and businesses.

White had more good news to share as she told me about two new programs: a 16-week job readiness program to teach unemployed and underemployed individuals the skills necessary to find and keep a stable job, and a community garden to provide fresh vegetables for Community of Hope’s food pantry.

If you don’t believe that one person can change the world, White is the perfect example of one who’s made her little corner of the world a little better. Her husband, Kyle Alan White (’88, MAEd ’94), even put together a video set to Carrie Underwood’s “Change the World” that’s worth watching to drive home that point.

White shared one final message that we want to pass along to the loyal readers of Wake Forest Magazine: “Blessings to you for a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving.”

— Kerry M. King (’85)

Honoring Mr. Wake Forest

 

BY MARIA HENSON (’82)

For those who are fans of Provost Emeritus Ed Wilson (’43) — and there are legions — you missed a happy gathering of Ed and friends a few weeks ago at the Porter Byrum Welcome Center on campus. You would have had to squeeze in for the event at which the North Carolina Humanities Council bestowed the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities on the man known as “Mr. Wake Forest.”

“The award recognizes Wilson for his lifelong achievements as an advocate for the public humanities across North Carolina,” according to the council. The Caldwell Award is the council’s highest honor. Wilson joins Caldwell Laureates who have included newsman Charles Kuralt, novelist Reynolds Price, historian John Hope Franklin and Wilson’s wife, poet and author Emily Herring Wilson (MA ’62). In greeting the audience Provost Rogan Kersh (’86)  lauded the council’s judges for their “impeccable” judgment and labeled the Wilsons “our nation’s ultimate humanities power couple.”

The State of North Carolina honored Professor and Provost Emeritus Edwin G. Wilson ('43) for his contributions to the humanities.

The State of North Carolina honored Professor and Provost Emeritus Edwin G. Wilson (’43) for his contributions to the humanities.

It was an evening at which Wilson, 91, praised school teachers from his North Carolina hometown by name —  from the one who “taught me to write cursively” to the high school teacher who read “line by line” Virgil’s “Aeneid” with Wilson and two other students that year. “Public school teachers are still at the beginnings of all of our various journeys in the humanities, and without them we might well not have come to our own love of literature and language and history,” Wilson said. “We should never fail to honor and reward them.”

He also made clear the heartbreaking absence of one of the devoted friends of the humanities in North Carolina and at Wake Forest: Penelope Niven (’62, D. Litt. ’92). She helped make the case for Wilson to receive the award. “(Her) sudden death almost two months ago leaves us still mourning,” Wilson said. “Penny was a biographer, and she had grace and charm of a rare quality.”

I would be remiss not to mention the stellar introduction of Wilson by his former student, Marybeth Sutton Wallace (’86), who works as special assistant to President Nathan O. Hatch. Her remarks were sharp, wise and funny. I asked her to give me a copy, and despite its length I include it here for posterity. I feel certain the legions of fans of Mr. Wake Forest will recognize themselves in her words and perhaps will share in the celebratory air of an autumn evening. Congratulations, Dr. Wilson.

Dr. Wilson and Marybeth Sutton Wallace, who presented her introduction of him at the Caldwell Award ceremony on Oct. 30. (Photo by Norma-May Isakow)

Dr. Wilson and Marybeth Sutton Wallace, who presented her introduction of him at the Caldwell Award ceremony on Oct. 30. (Photo by Norma-May Isakow)

Wallace: I once tried to explain to a friend why it was students at Wake Forest never wanted to miss one of Professor Edwin G. Wilson’s classes, why it was that at 2:45 pm on a Friday afternoon, a classroom in Tribble, 216-C, was filled from front to back with students thoroughly enchanted, and that except for one deep resonant voice reading “The Song of Wandering Aengus” or “Kubla Khan” not a sound or shuffle could be heard.

“You could have been on your way to the beach — or the mountains,” my friend exclaimed, “or throwing Frisbee on the Quad.”

But how could the beach or mountains compare with the dizzying lake country of Wordsworth’s boyhood, the lush green of Yeats’s Sligo, or the romance of Byron’s Italy, Greece and Spain?

“You just couldn’t skip Dr. Wilson’s class,” I protested, “because you couldn’t bear to disappoint him.”  And you couldn’t bear to disappoint yourself either. “Young and easy under the apple boughs,” we had that feeling that what we were learning was nourishing our souls and fortifying us for the years to come.

We left his classroom believing we could be better people. We left his classroom believing we could do something to make the world more beautiful. And we were merely one generation of students that Dr. Wilson touched in a teaching career that spanned more than a half-century.

When I was teaching high school English in Raleigh a fellow teacher at Enloe, Dr. Sally Humble, recalled that same feeling of being swept away by Dr. Wilson’s classes when she was a student at Wake Forest in the early sixties.  As she prepared her own lesson on Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes” she remembered Dr. Wilson’s riveting lecture, the brilliant imagery, the rich language. She said she must have taken ten pages of notes because the lesson made such a lasting impression.  When she gleefully retrieved the dusty notebook from a box buried in the attic, eager to devour her notes and impart this wealth of knowledge to her students, she was stunned to find one sentence under “The Eve of St. Agnes”: Spellbound, she had written simply, “Dr. Wilson read the poem.”

One of the first things Dr. Wilson would do in the course of a semester was to invite each of his students by for an individual conference — just to talk — about hometowns (He loves the names of hometowns), families, favorite books, recent movies, plays — on Broadway or at the Stevens Center — perhaps even ACC basketball or Eastern North Carolina barbecue.

What struck you most in these conferences is what an attentive and interested listener he was, and how he would remember these things about you which you told him, each time you saw him. Later in the semester you would be invited to his & Emily’s home on Timberlake Lane for supper, where surrounded by rows and walls of beloved books, you might look at slides from Ireland or take an oral part in Yeats’s “Cathleen ni Houlihan.”

Ed Southern (’94) wrote an article in his student days for the Old Gold & Black newspaper paying tribute to Ed Wilson when the Wilson Wing of Z. Smith Reynolds Library was named for him in 1992. He recalls professor Bynum Shaw, who had been on the Old Campus with Wilson, saying of his classmate: “the root of it all is his great humanity.”

Now Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, Southern says of his former teacher: “To connect so deeply with Wordsworth, Blake, Keats, or Yeats is rare. To connect so deeply with hundreds, thousands, of people, at Wake Forest and around the world, is rarer still. I don’t know anyone else who can do both. I’d be willing to bet serious money that he is the most humble, down-to-earth person ever to have a building named after him.”

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Dr. Wilson came to Wake Forest College at the age of 16 by way of Leaksville, North Carolina, the youngest of five children, a first-generation college student. He has referred to that time as “the start of a beautiful friendship,” echoing words from one of his all-time favorite films, “Casablanca.”  In 1943 he graduated summa cum laude and spent three years as a Naval officer on a destroyer escort in the Pacific.

“I’ve always been a Romantic, and I’ve always loved stories of the sea,” he told students in Jenny Puckett’s History of Wake Forest class. “I had never been in the ocean; I had never even been in a row boat, but the idea of going into the Navy had a romantic appeal to me.” Upon his return, he applied to graduate school, but while awaiting a response he got a fateful call from one of his much admired professors, Broadus Jones, asking him to teach freshman English for a year — and being a dutiful son of his alma mater, he agreed.

The next day he received his letter of acceptance from Columbia: Fortunately for Wake Forest and for his home state, he had already committed to teaching … and for the next six decades — with the exception of a few years at Harvard, earning his doctorate in English, he would be all ours.

In the early 1960s Dr. Wilson chaired the faculty committee that voted to end racial segregation at Wake Forest, and Ed Reynolds enrolled as the first black student in 1962. He helped establish the University’s first residential study-abroad programs in Venice and London. Always an admirer of Irish poetry and the Irish people, he helped to found the Wake Forest University Press in the mid-1970s, now the premier publisher of Irish poetry in North America. He shaped the academic curriculum, programs, and faculty at a critical time in Wake Forest’s history.

Ever gracious and generous, he never came back to the Provost’s Office on a Friday afternoon after class with an ice-cream cone in hand without insisting that all the rest of us working in the Provost’s Office have an ice-cream cone too … one of many “little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”

Dr. Wilson is married to Emily Herring Wilson, poet, author, and Caldwell Laureate herself.  They have three children: Ed, a superior court judge in Rockingham County; Sally, executive director of Project Access in Durham, which provides access to health care for low-income patients; and Julie, Director of the Writing Center at Warren Wilson college in Swannanoa, as well as four much-adored grandchildren:  Buddy, Harry, Maria, and Ellie.

His life has been anchored at Wake Forest but Ed Wilson’s life’s work has extended to every town across this state, every corner of the country, and beyond as his students everywhere, with the force of Shelley’s West Wind, carry forward that torch for the Humanities, that acknowledgment that we are more alike than we are different. He showed us that in the most difficult times in our lives, “all hatred driven hence, the soul recovers radical innocence … and that we can “though every face should scowl and every windy quarter howl, or every bellows burst, be happy still.”

I am deeply honored to present to you the 2014 Caldwell Award Laureate, my teacher, our teacher, a man who taught us to see the “world in a grain of sand,” Ed Wilson.