The Deacon Blog

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

Kerry M. King

Happiness is recognition from our peers

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Wake Forest Magazine has been honored by its peer institutions in the 2014-15 District III (Southeast) competition of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

“An Artful Friendship,” written by Editor Maria Henson (’82) and published in the Spring 2014 issue, received an Award of Excellence in feature writing. The touching story is about college roommates Dick Peterson (’67) and Charlie Stott (’67), who reunited after many years apart and re-established their friendship through art.

artful-friendship“When I moved back to Winston-Salem it was Charlie, the painter, who put a brush in my hand and said, ‘Why don’t you come over and paint with me?’ I had never painted before, but Charlie gave me a gift that has greatly enhanced my life and deepened our friendship through art,” Dick said.

Editor Maria Henson ('82)

Editor Maria Henson (’82)

Charlie said of the article, “Beyond the obvious story, you recognized that there was something more to our friendship. As I went missing for three months of cancer treatments, you told the story of how cancer has impacted our friendship. It’s a story that has resonated with many others.”

The alumni magazine, which is published three times a year in print and year-round online, won an Award of Excellence in print/digital publications. In addition to Henson the magazine staff includes Cherin C. Poovey (P ’08), managing editor; Kerry M. King (’85), senior editor; and Janet M. Williamson (P ’00, ’03), deputy editor. Members of Wake Forest’s creative group on the magazine production team are Hayes Henderson, creative director; Jill Carson and Kris Hendershott, graphic designers; Gretta Kohler, project manager; and Ken Bennett, University photographer. Julie Helsabeck, a freelance designer, is also part of the team.

— Cherin C. Poovey (P ’08)

Our man in Bahrain

Roebuck-at-HearingAfter serving in some of the hottest spots in the world — Libya, Iraq, Syria and Israel — William Roebuck’s (’78, MA ’82) next posting might seem like a day at the beach for the career diplomat.

In July, President Obama nominated Roebuck as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, an archipelago in the Persian Gulf with about 1.3 million people. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Roebuck’s nomination last month, but he still awaits confirmation by the full Senate. (Bill Roebuck was confirmed by the Senate in November and began his posting in Bahrain on Jan. 8, 2015.)

Testifying before the foreign relations committee, Roebeck summed up his impressive 20-year career: “I have spent most of my career posted in the Middle East … fostering political dialogue, providing support for elections, helping governments address the threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism, promoting and protecting human rights, and encouraging regional security efforts between neighbors.”

Roebuck follows in the footsteps of at least two other alumni. Jeannette Wallace Hyde (’58) was ambassador to Barbados and areas of the West Indies from 1994 to 1997. The late Graham Martin (’32) was a career diplomat who served as ambassador to Thailand and Italy and was the last U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam before the country’s fall to North Vietnam in 1975.

“Bill” Roebuck, 58, grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and received a George Foster Hankins Scholarship to Wake Forest. He wrote for the Old Gold & Black and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in English literature.

As reported on the news site, AllGov.com, and in his State Department biography, Roebuck served in Côte D’Ivoire during a stint with the Peace Corps and taught English in Saudi Arabia. After earning a law degree from the University of Georgia, he joined the Foreign Service in 1992. In the two decades since, he’s become a well-traveled and respected diplomat.

He was a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv for several years before moving to Damascus, Syria, where he served as acting deputy chief of mission. After a short stint in Washington, he went back to the Middle East as deputy political counselor at the embassy in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.

Roebuck was sent to Tripoli, Libya, in early 2013 as chargé d’affaires — the top U.S. diplomat in the country in the absence of an ambassador — several months after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Most recently, he was deputy assistant secretary of state of Egypt and Maghreb Affairs, based in Washington.

While Bahrain doesn’t attract the headlines of its Middle East neighbors, Roebuck isn’t likely to have much time to spend at the beach. He’s sure to be tested as he and the U.S. government push back against the Bahrain government’s human-rights record and targeting of opposition groups.

Fitting for one who spent his college days studying literature, Roebuck occasionally writes poetry for the Foreign Service Journal. Bahrain’s leading English newspaper, the Daily Tribune, even described the “new amby” as a poet. Roebuck once penned a moving tribute to his late friend, Chris Stevens, which reads, in part:

“I think back to that long night last September: the frantic phone calls,
 The unreliable shards of information, the series of urgent plans drawn up and discarded, The crushing news, And no time to mourn, then or later.”

— Kerry M. King (’85)

The penguin that’s proud to be a Deacon

Deacon, and his brother or sister -- keepers still don't know the sex of either penguin. Watch a video  of the penguins.

Deacon, at left, and his unnamed brother or sister — keepers still don’t know the sex of either penguin. Watch a video of the penguins. Photos courtesy of Greensboro Science Center.

We know plenty of alumni who name their dogs Deacon, but a penguin named Deacon? That’s something we don’t hear every day, or ever for that matter.

Just down the road at the Greensboro Science Center there’s a new African penguin chick — one of two hatched in late August — that was recently named Deacon. In a story on the penguin chicks, the Greensboro News & Record took note of the unique name: “A Science Center patron bought naming rights in honor of a friend — and faithful Wake Forest fan — who died of ALS.”

The newspaper article didn’t mention the name of that faithful Wake Forest fan. But we knew it had to be Pete Moffitt (’84), who lived in Greensboro before dying of ALS in August 2013. Pete was indeed a huge Wake Forest fan and a friend to many here on campus.

A quick look at his wife’s Facebook page confirmed the penguin connection. Susan Gunter Moffitt (’86) posted a photo and this message several days ago: “Here is the newest member of the Moffitt family. Welcome Deacon! We are truly honored by this offering of friendship and love! Pete would be so moved by your thoughtfulness Washburn family.”

Deacon Taken September 10

When I called Susan Moffitt to learn more, she was still filled with gratitude to the Washburn family. The Washburn family — the Washburns and Moffitts have been friends for years — purchased the naming rights to the penguin. She didn’t know the penguin’s name until Jess Washburn made the announcement last week at the Science Center. (The second penguin is still unnamed.)

Washburn explained why he chose the name to honor his friend: “Pete was a passionate, devoted Wake Forest fan. Through winning and losing seasons, Pete was a die-hard. He rarely missed a game and always kept the faith!”

Deacon the penguin has a good Wake Forest lineage. In addition to Pete and Susan, Pete’s father, William E. Moffitt (’52), and late uncle Robert Moffitt Sr. (’58), are also alumni. Pete and Susan’s twin daughters, Mary Layton and Hastings, are high school seniors who are considering Wake Forest. (An athletic scholarship and the Moffitt Courage Award at Wake Forest are named for Pete Moffitt.)

Susan was on a mission this morning, searching for a “Proud to be a Deacon” pin to stick on the penguin. No, not the real penguin, she assured me, but a stuffed penguin much loved by one of her daughters, whose room is filled with penguins. How special is that?

— Kerry M. King (’85)

An off-the-court reunion in Vietnam

Al Koehler ('63), at left, and Butch Hassell ('64) at their impromptu reunion in South Vietnam in 1966.

Al Koehler (’63), at left, and Butch Hassell (’64) at their impromptu reunion in South Vietnam in 1966.

As a history buff and longtime Wake Forest sports fan, I was intrigued when I received a grainy, slightly blurry photo of two American GIs from former Deacon basketball player Al Koehler (’63). Al predates me to Wake Forest by 20 years, but I recognized his name; along with more widely known teammates Len Chappell (’62) and Billy Packer (’62), he was on Wake Forest’s 1962 Final Four team, still the only Wake Forest team to advance that far.

The photo shows Al and teammate Butch Hassell (’64, P ’94) at an impromptu alumni reunion in, of all places, South Vietnam, in 1966. The trifecta of Vietnam War history, Wake Forest basketball and a reunion of Deacon buddies was irresistible, so I called Al and Butch to learn more. Long before text messages and cell phones, how had they managed to find one another at a time when thousands of U.S. troops were pouring into South Vietnam?

There wasn’t any military strategy or secret intelligence involved; Koehler simply played a hunch to see his old friend. Koehler had already been in Vietnam for six or seven months when he heard that a transportation unit from Ft. Eustis, Va., was arriving in Long Bien, a major staging area for incoming U.S. troops. Koehler had trained at Ft. Eustis and knew that Hassell had, too, and he knew that it was about time for him to come to Vietnam.

Al Koehler makes a move to the basket in 1962.

Al Koehler makes a move in 1962.

So he did when any enterprising Wake Forest graduate would do. He hopped in his Jeep for the 45-minute drive to Long Bien from his post in the Delta south of Saigon. “I took Sunday afternoon off and went up there and asked around if anyone knew him,” Koehler says matter-of-factly. (I wasn’t surprised when I learned later that he had a long career as an FBI special agent.)

Hassell picks up the story. First of all, he wasn’t thrilled to be there. He expected to serve stateside in “special services,” i.e., playing basketball. That all changed with the troop buildup in the mid ’60s. That’s how he found himself in Vietnam, needing a friend, and Koehler showed up.

“I look up and he’s sitting there in a Jeep, in his nice-looking uniform, being driven by a chauffeur,” Hassell says. “We were putting up tents; it was muddy, dirty, during the rainy season, and I started throwing mud at him.”

But he couldn’t have been happier to see his old teammate. “To tell you the truth I was as homesick as I could be, so seeing a good friend from back home was a real pleasure,” he says.

Butch Hassell drives to the basket in 1964.

Butch Hassell drives to the basket in 1964.

They were a long ways from their glory days playing for fiery Baptist preacher and coach Bones McKinney. Koehler was a 6’2” guard from Rahway, New Jersey, who also played on the Wake Forest baseball team. Hassell was a 5’11” guard from Beaufort, North Carolina, who had been an all-state quarterback in high school. The “Yankee” and the coastal Carolina boy became good friends and roomed together during basketball road games.

Both were backups on the 1962 Final Four team. Wake Forest lost to Ohio State in the semifinals before defeating UCLA by two points in the consolation game to finish third in the nation. Hassell laughingly notes that he scored two points against UCLA, although not THE two points. (Tommy McCoy scored Wake’s last two points on free throws, but it was Billy Packer’s defense that sealed the win.) Koehler and Hassell broke into the starting lineup the next year, splitting time at one guard position. Hassell was named second team All-ACC in his senior year in 1964.

Both were in ROTC and joined the Army after graduating, Koehler in 1963 and Hassell a year later. After their impromptu reunion, they went their separate ways in South Vietnam. Koehler was an executive officer of a transportation unit that unloaded ammunition from ships in the Saigon River onto landing craft for delivery to shore artillery units. Hassell established signal sites around the country. (Hassell relates one other story: he once received a box of golf balls and a wedge from classmate Bobby Edgerton (’64) while in Vietnam.)

The Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections houses letters from the Civil War, World War I and World War II. Donations from Wake Forest alumni veterans would be much appreciated. Please contact Tanya Zanish-Belcher to make your letters available for future generations.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections houses letters from veterans. The library is seeking additional letters, particularly from alumni who are Vietnam veterans, to add to the collection. Please contact Tanya Zanish-Belcher for more details.

Both men finished their tours of duty safely and returned home. Hassell had married a classmate, Joyce Hassell (’64), shortly before leaving for Vietnam, and he had a long career with a paper and chemical company; he’s retired and lives in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Koehler was director of criminal investigation for the N.C. Department of Insurance following his long stint with the FBI; he’s retired for good now and living in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Since that first reunion in South Vietnam in 1966, they’ve seen each other at football games and basketball reunions and at Homecoming. But nothing can ever match the surprise and excitement of seeing an old friend in a war zone far from home.

— Kerry M. King (’85)