WFU Presidents’ Papers

Samuel Wait (1789-1867)

Dr. Wait was born in Washington, New York, December 19th, 1789. He was baptized in Vermont, March 12, 1809, and ordained at Sharon Church, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, June 3rd, 1818. Feeling the need of the best possible preparation for the work to which he had committed his life, he went to Columbian College in Washington, D.C. Although he pursued his course at Columbian College, that institution was not empowered to confer degrees, so he received his degree from Watersville, Maine. For a time he was a tutor at Columbian College, and he came to North Carolina in February, 1827, on a collecting tour for the college. While in New Bern he made such a favorable impression on the Baptists of the place that they called him to be their pastor, and he assumed pastoral charge of the church in November, 1827.

Soon after settling in New Bern Wait began to labor for two things: the organizing of a convention and the founding of a Baptist newspaper. He saw both of these things accomplished and was the moving spirit in laying the foundation of their success. He was the first Corresponding Secretary of the State Convention, and while traveling over the state in the interest of missions he solicited and received subscriptions for a Baptist newspaper, which he regarded as a necessity for the success of the denomination. Thus he prepared the way for the state Baptist newspaper, the Biblical Recorder.

In 1832 the Baptists, realizing the necessity for a school where preachers might be educated, decided to establish a “Manual Labor School” at Wake Forest, and they chose Dr. Wait to be principal of the school. From 1833 to 1846 Dr. Wait was president of Wake Forest. He retired from the presidency in 1846 and was pastor of a church in Yanceyville until 1851, when he became president of a female school in Oxford. In 1856 he retired from this position and spent the rest of his life in the home of his only child, Mrs. J. B.(Ann Eliza Wait) Brewer, at Wake Forest College. (cf. A History of the Tar River Baptist Association 1830-1921 by Thomas J. Taylor, pp. 323-325)

William Hooper (1792-1876)

An Episcopalian turned Baptist, Hooper was a Theological professor at Furman Institute, S.C., 1838-40; professor at South Carolina College, 1840-46; President of Wake Forest College, 1845-49 (elected in 1945, but did not start until 1847); teacher in a classical school near Littleton, N.C., 1849-51; pastor of New Bern Baptist Church, 1852-54; President of Chowan Female Collegiate Institute, Murfreesboro, N.C., 1855-61; teacher in the Female Seminary, Fayetteville, N.C., l861-65; and associate principal with his son-in-law, John D. Hooper, of Wilson Collegiate Seminary for Young Ladies, 1866-76. He moved to Chapel Hill, N.C. where he died Aug. 19, l876.

John Brown White (1810-1882)

  • John Brown White Papers, 1835-1869, MS164: Finding aid not yet online; please contact us

Educator and college president, White was born in Bow, New Hampshire in 1810. His father had been a colonel in the War of 1812. Mr. White attended Pembroke Academy and Brown University where he graduated with the B.A. and M.A. degrees in 1832. He then taught for several years in the New Hampton Institute in New Hampshire. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in Greenville, Illinois in 1836. He was elected Judge of Probate in 1837 and appeared to be settled in the profession of law.

In 1838 his future wife, niece of the president of Wake Forest College, persuaded him to accept Dr. Samuel Wait’s invitation to become a Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Wake Forest College. White served as secretary of the Board of Trustees and later as Treasurer of the Board. After the resignation of William Hooper as president of the college, White was chosen first as acting president and then as president. He served in this capacity from 1849 to 1853.

White tendered his resignation at Wake Forest and accepted the presidency of a girls seminary in Brownsville, TN. He served there from 1853-1855, and then became president of Almira College in Greenville, IL in 1855. White served as president of Almira until 1864.

Washington Manly Wingate (1828-1879)

  • Washington Manly Wingate Papers, 1865-1879, MS123: Finding aid not yet online; please contact us

Baptist minister and college president, Wingate was born in Darlington, SC in 1879. He graduated from Wake Forest College in 1849. He continued his education at Furman Theological Institution from 1849-1851. He was ordained as a Baptist minister while pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and assistant pastor at Darlington Baptist Church.

In 1852, at the age of twenty-four he was elected agent of Wake Forest College to raise a $50,000 endowment. He completed this task in 1857 after he became president. He was elected as Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy and Rhetoric, and as president, pro tempore, of Wake Forest College in June 1853. He served as acting president from 1854 to 1856, and as president from 1856 to 1879.

The college grew steadily under his guidance until the Civil War when it was forced to close. The college buildings were used as a hospital and financial security of the college was invested in Confederate States bonds. During the war, Wingate preached as an evangelist to the soldiers, served as associate editor of the Biblical Recorder, and from 1862 to 1866 served as pastor of Baptist churches in Franklinton, Oxford and Wake Forest.

After the war, the college reopened and Wingate began his second term as president in 1866. He was faced with the problems of finance and sent James S. Purefoy to secure endowments from Northern Baptists. The James W. Denmark loan fund was established and a new building was completed. Wingate selected an excellent faculty for the college. While a strict disciplinarian, he was aware of the needs of the students. He was an able preacher and speaker, and presented the cause of Wake Forest College in many association and convention meetings.

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Thomas Henderson Pritchard (1832-1896)

  • Thomas Henderson Pritchard biography file: Not available online; please contact us

Born in Charlotte, NC, Henderson received his pre-college education there and in Mocksville, NC and was graduated from Wake Forest College in 1854. His pastorates included Hertford, Raleigh, Wilmington and Charlotte in North Carolina and, outside the state, Petersburg, Baltimore and Louisville. While in North Carolina, he was very active in the Baptist State Convention and served for many years as the president of the Board of Missions. For three years, 1879-1882, he was president of Wake Forest College and for a much longer period he was a member of the Board of Trustees. He was also a member of the trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. For a time he was associate editor of the Biblical Recorder, the official journal of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention.

During his entire life, Pritchard was an ardent spokesman for education and while in Raleigh lent his talents and interest to assist in the establishment of a college for agriculture and mechanics (now North Carolina State University). The University of North Carolina presented him with the D.D. degree in 1868.

Pritchard was married to Fannie Gulielma Brinson of New Bern, NC, and they had five children. He died in 1896 at the home of his son in New York city, but was brought back to Charlotte, NC for his burial.

Charles Elisha Taylor (1842-1915)

  • Charles Elisha Taylor Papers, 1863-1913, MS111: Finding aid not yet online; please contact us
  • Charles Elisha Taylor Papers, 1861-1894?, PCMF28: Finding aid not yet online; please contact us

Born in Richmond, VA in 1842, Taylor entered Richmond College at the age of fifteen, but left to join the Confederate Army in 1861. He served with the 10th Virginia Cavalry and the Signal and Secret Service Bureau in Richmond. After the war he entered the University of Virginia at Charlottesville and was graduated in 1870. In 873 he married Mary Hinton Prichard and the couple had six daughters and one son.

From 1870 to 1883 he was professor of Latin and Greek at Wake Forest College. He taught law and moral philosophy from 1883 to 1884. He was elected president of the college in 1884, and continued to hold this position until 1905. In 1875 he began work on the endowment of the college. This work occupied most of his time for the following twenty years. It included and extensive trip north to appeal to Baptists for donations. In 1885 he persuaded Jabez A. Bostwick of Standard Oil to give three very large donations, the largest ever given to the college. Taylor’s efforts at endowment were successful. Endowment for the college increased from $20,000 in 1875 to $100,000 in 1883.

As president of the college, he erected three modern, fully equipped buildings; introduced the elective system; added a number of deprtments; and helped to organize the School of Law and the School of Medicine.

He died at Wake Forest in 1915.

William Louis Poteat (1856-1938)

Poteat was born in Caswell County, NC in 1856. He graduated from Wake Forest College with the A.B. degree in 1877, and received the A.M. degree in 1889. He received LL.D. degrees from Baylor, North Carolina, Brown, and Duke; and the Litt.D. degree from Mercer. He engaged in postgraduate studies at Marine Bilogy Laboratory and University of Berlin. He married Emma J. Purefoy of Wake Forest in 1881 and had three children.

Poteat played a prominent role in the development of Wake Forest College, serving on the faculty from 1878 until 1905, and as president from 1905 until 1927 – longer than any other president in Wake Forest’s history. He was active in the affairs of North Carolina Baptists and Southern Baptists. He was popular as a lecturer on religion, science, temperance, and education. He was a member of North Carolina Conference for Social Service (president), North Carolina Anti-Saloon League (president), Southern Baptist Education Association (president), Council of Church Schools of the South (president), North Carolina Reconstruction Commission, North Carolina Academy of Sciences (president), and many other movements of his day.

Francis Pendleton Gaines (1892-1963)

  • Francis Pendleton Gaines Papers, 1927-1974, MS308: Collection in process; please contact us
  • President’s Office, Francis Pendleton Gaines Records, RG1.8: Finding aid not yet online; please contact us

Served as president of Wake Forest College for three years (1927-1930) and president of Washington and Lee University for nearly 30 years (1930-1959). Gaines became Wake Forest’s president at the age of 35 and during his brief tenure, he insisted on a strong faculty, and helped establish the policy that members of the faculty should receive adequate salaries. He was intensely interested in the welfare of students and appointed an office hour especially for them, a new thing at Wake Forest. He put the quality of students ahead of mere numbers. And it was on this point that he ran into his greatest difficulties.

His idea for Wake Forest was that it should be Christian, cultural and small. He urged a “limitation of enrollment, not as a gesture of snobbishness but as prerequisite to a serious purpose to accept only as many boys as could be given the very finest training.” But in seeking the views of faculty and others he soon learned, according to Paschal’s history “that every Baptist in the State felt that his son had the right to admission to Wake Forest College and to the enjoyment of its training, without being subjected to possible rejection on a scheme of limitation and selection of students…”

Dr. Gaines’s reputation as an excellent educator continued and was firmly established at Washington and Lee, where he brought to fruition his emphasis on quality in both faculty and students. One news article reported that though he made many contributions to the university in terms of financial and physical growth, “his primary interest as a college president, however, was not in raising assets, but in raising men.”

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Thurman Delna Kitchin (1885-1955)

Born in Scotland Neck, NC in 1885, Kitchin received his B.A. degree from Wake Forest College in 1905. He then studied at the University of North Carolina for one year, received the M.D. degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1908. He practiced medicine at Lumberton, 1908-10, and Scotland Neck, 1910-17. His brother, W. W., served as governor of North Carolina, with his father and another brother serving in the United States Congress.

Kitchin joined the faculty of the Wake Forest School of Medicine in 1917 as professor of physiology and pharmacology. He became dean of the medical school in 1919, and president of the college in 1930. He served as dean until 1936, and as president until his retirement in 1950. His administration brought tremendous changes to the college.

Kitchin was president of the North Carolina Medical Association, 1928-29, and was active in numerous medical and educational organizations. He was the author on several books in the medical field.

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Harold Wayland Tribble (1899-1986)

Tribble served as president of Wake Forest University from 1950 until 1967, the period when the school was moved to Winston-Salem and became established on its new campus. His 17-year administration has been described as the stormiest and the most progressive in Wake Forest’s history.

While he was president the school’s total assets increased from about $10.5 million to over $91 million and the annual budget from $1.5 million to over $13 million. The student body grew from 1,750 to over 3,000 and there was a proportional increase in the faculty. The number of volumes in the library tripled. The college tightened admission standards, admitted its first African American students, resumed a graduate program, and began Asian and honors programs. Tribble’s dream of seeing the college become a university was realized in 1967, just before he retired.

James Ralph Scales (1919-1996)

A one-sixteenth Cherokee, Scales was born in Jay, Oklahoma in May 1919. Educated in the public schools of Oklahoma, Scales attended Oklahoma Baptist University (B.A. magna cum laude, 1939), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. 1941. Ph.D. 1949), the University of Chicago, and the University of London. He returned to Oklahoma Baptist University after Naval duty and served as professor, vice president, and president. He moved to Oklahoma State University in 1965, where he was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of political science. He became president of Wake Forest University in July 1967.

During his ten years at Wake Forest, the University grew in enrollment, physical plant and budget, and academic stature. New departments were established in art, business, and accountancy. The Babcock Graduate School of Management began under his leadership. During his tenure the University intensified its interest in international education, offering many courses abroad and establishing two houses for international study. Casa Artom, on the Grand Canal in Venice was established in 1971, and in 1977 the Worrell House in London was dedicated. Both of these study centers currently continue to house students pursuing accredited foreign study.

Thomas K. Hearn, Jr. (1937-2008)

Thomas K. Hearn, Jr. was born in Opp, Alabama, on July 5, 1937, but grew up largely in Albertville, Alabama. He received bachelor’s degrees at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky and a doctorate in philosophy from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. He was appointed president in 1983 and served until June 2005.

Nathan O. Hatch

  • President’s Office Record Group, Nathan O. Hatch, RG1.13: Collection in process; please contact us

Nathan O. Hatch grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, where his father was a Presbyterian minister. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, he received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and held post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities. He joined the faculty at Notre Dame in 1975 and was named director of graduate programs in history in 1980, later serving as associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters from 1983 until 1988 and then acting dean for one year. He was appointed vice president for graduate studies and research at Notre Dame in 1989. He was named provost, in 1996; a Presbyterian, he was the first Protestant to ever serve in that position at Notre Dame. He was named president of Wake Forest University in January 2005 and took office in July 2005.