The Deacon Blog

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


The Wake Forest ‘mystique’

As an alum who worked on the Old Gold & Black when I was a student, I like to keep up with what the modern-day OG&B staff is producing in print and online. “Breaking the Wake Forest Bubble/Hamlin’s Ramblins” caught my eye in this week’s issue. Senior columnist Hamlin Wade of Charlotte addresses the question of what Wake Forest has to offer “in the sleepy town of Winston-Salem.”

He wrote days before the U.S. News and World Report announcement Tuesday that ranked Wake Forest once again 25th among national universities in its 2012 Best Colleges guide, a point of pride for many. Wade is interested in something else beyond metrics: “something perhaps intangible and undefined” about the University’s character. He recounts how student leaders last spring tried to come up with what composed the Wake Forest “mystique.” No one could pinpoint it.  There was no consensus.

“Wake is a place of reverence and passion, a place of community, and a place of individuality,” he writes. “The mystique of Wake Forest is its diversity and its layers. What may be mystical to one student may be completely common stance and mundane to another.” Take your pick: magnolia trees, bell tower, academic tradition, athletics, or, in Wade’s words, the university’s “long and storied history.”

What do you think? What is that mystique about Wake Forest that Wade urges us as individuals to define for ourselves? Send me an email, and I’ll share your comments:

P.S. I, for one, can point to one element of the mystique: enduring friendships. You know who I’m talking about, fellow Deacons.

Meredith-Leigh Pleasants’ confession

At a “Dancing with the Stars”-style event to raise money for a local homeless shelter this month, the conversation at my table took a turn as comic as the amateur hoofers’ spins that evening. Mary Pugel, President Nathan Hatch’s chief of staff, told me it had been interview time earlier that day for Wake Forest students who hoped to serve as President’s Aides. It’s always an impressive group of applicants. This year was no different. Mary said at the end of the interview the students were invited to divulge something unique about themselves that might not appear on their CV. One student had Mary in a state of happy amazement hours after the interview. I didn’t find out her name that evening, but I learned the distinction: The applicant was a chicken-clucking champion.

I knew I had to track her down.

I succeeded this week after acceptance letters went out. President’s Aides are student leaders who serve as representatives of Wake Forest and the student body and participate in a variety of University events throughout the academic year. They meet regularly with President Hatch, keeping the communication lines buzzing between students and the administration. The new group will include Meredith-Leigh Pleasants (’12), a student with a list of activities as long as her arm and unwavering pride in her hometown of Siler City, N.C., population 8,000, final resting place of Aunt Bee and, as the town’s website boasts, “known for its friendly people, prosperous business environment, and easy living.” And don’t forget the poultry.

“Siler City is not the cultural educational center,” Meredith-Leigh acknowledges. But she adds, “I LOVE my hometown.”

Meredith-Leigh (photo by Karleigh Ash, a first-year student)

In the interview for President’s Aides, she surprised even herself when she blurted out her singular distinction. The young man on one side of her had his answer. He had been abroad. Meredith-Leigh had that covered. She’d been to Germany. The young man on the other side of her revealed he had been struck by lightning. How could she top that? “I won the chicken clucking contest in my town!” In Siler City, they might have called it a ‘coop’ de main, such was her swift line of attack. She couldn’t believe she had said it. That bird was out of the hen house. There was no escaping the interview without demonstrating what landed her the championship in the children’s division at age 11 and a trophy she guesses is about two-feet tall with a hen on top. The panel thus invited her to cluck.

Her cluck was a winner, again. Look for Meredith-Leigh in the president’s office and all over campus. She’s the president of the Kappa Delta sorority, a resident adviser at Luter Hall, a representative for the committee on student life, an intern at Joel Coliseum and a marketing employee at Benson Center.

As much as she loves her hometown, she might love Wake Forest more. “You can get a degree anywhere, but you can’t get community like you can at Wake Forest,” she told me.

Too bad she can’t go home to cluck for old time’s sake. Siler City’s Chicken Festival is dead, replaced by the Siler City ALIVE festival. For now, hometown and Wake Forest fans will have to tune in here to marvel at Meredith-Leigh Pleasants’ award-winning cluck.