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Wake Forest University

a private coeducational research university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with an enrollment of approximately 4,800 undergraduates and 2,600 postgraduates

Wait Chapel on the Wake Forest campus

Wake Forest Manual Labor Institute was founded after the North Carolina Baptist State Convention purchased a 600-acre plantation north of Raleigh called the "Forest of Wake." Designed to teach both Baptist ministers and layment, the school's name referred to a requirement that all students and staff members spend half of each day doing manual labor on the plantation. Dr. Samuel Waite was selected as the principal of the institute, which opened its doors on February 3, 1834. The manual labor requirement was dropped and the institute was rechartered as Wake Forest College in 1838.

With the vast majority of its student body and faculty called into service during the Civil War, Wake Forest was forced to close its doors in 1862; it reopened in 1866.

A School of Law was added in 1894, and a two-year School of Medicine was added in 1902. The medical school was re-organized as the Bowman Gray School of Medicine, with a four-year curriculum, in 1941.

Wake Forest admitted its first female undergraduates in 1942.

In 1946, as a result of large gifts from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the entire college agreed to move to Winston-Salem. Charles and Mary Babcock (daughter of R. J. Reynolds) donated to the college about 350 acres of fields and woods at "Reynolda," their estate. Fourteen buildings were constructed on the new campus, and the move was completed for the beginning of the fall 1956 term. The old campus in Wake Forest was sold to the Baptist State Convention to establish the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

A graduate studies program was inaugurated by Wake Forest in 1961, and in 1967 the school became the fully acredited Wake Forest University.

Wake Forest has produced 15 Rhodes Scholars, including 13 since 1986, four Marshall Scholars, 15 Truman Scholars, and 62 Fulbright recipients since 1993. Notable alumni include author Maya Angelou, MSNBC news host Melissa Harris-Perry, Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, athletes Chris Paul, Tim Duncan and Arnold Palmer, and CEO Charlie Ergen.

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons play in the NCAA Division I, and are members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The official Wake Forest website is

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The Robinson Library >> Education >> Individual Institutions: United States

This page was last updated on 02/03/2019.