Institutional Leadership

Nathan O. Hatch, President

Dr. Nathan O. Hatch became Wake Forest’s 13th president on July 1, 2005. In his eighth year at the helm, U.S. News & World Report named Wake Forest 23rd among 281 national universities, the highest-ever ranking for the University.

His time leading Wake Forest has been characterized by achievements on five fronts:

  1. Clarifying Wake Forest’s mission and strategic plan.
  2. Assembling a remarkable team of leaders.
  3. Making significant realignments in business and medicine to better position the University.
  4. Undertaking bold initiatives to make standardized tests optional for applicants, develop new programs to educate the whole person, reinvent the 21st century liberal arts education with personal and career preparedness a key focus, and build greater community through a three-year residency requirement.
  5. Leading Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest, the largest fundraising effort in the University’s history.

The WFU Strategic Plan, approved by the Board of Trustees and embraced by the college community, strengthens Wake Forest’s position as the nation’s premier “collegiate university.” This approach to education integrates an undergraduate liberal arts tradition with the vitality of a research university.

Additionally, Dr. Hatch completed a master planning process to ensure the physical development of the campus is aligned with the University’s strategic goals. That plan also takes on important challenges in making the campus more sustainable. Since Dr. Hatch assumed leadership, the campus has added three new residence halls, the Porter B. Byrum Welcome Center, Farrell Hall, the Barn, the Garage at the President’s House, Zick’s, the Arnold Palmer Golf Complex, and Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park.

Under Dr. Hatch’s leadership, Wake Forest has also completed two major integration projects. Wake Forest’s separate undergraduate and graduate business programs were combined into one school. Farrell Hall houses the School of Business. He also was instrumental in merging Wake Forest University Health Sciences and North Carolina Baptist Hospital—each with revenues of about one billion dollars—into a single entity with common management under Dr. John McConnell.

With the idea that leadership starts at home, Dr. Hatch has assembled a remarkable team of academic and administrative leaders. Throughout his academic career, he has been drawn to challenges that involve people and building organizations. “A university is a very complicated organization in modern society,” he notes, “and it is critical to have outstanding leaders in all spheres, from academic programs to athletics, from investments to student development.” Most recently, Penny Rue, former vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of California San Diego, was named Wake Forest’s vice president for campus life. Rue, who joined the senior administration in July 2013, is nationally known for her creative leadership in strengthening campus communities.

Dr. Hatch has also undertaken bold steps to make the Wake Forest experience more personal and to challenge students to lead lives that matter. A student can apply to Wake Forest without standardized tests, but all applicants are encouraged to have a personal interview.

On campus, students are given opportunities to learn in and out of the classroom. With dedicated teacher-scholars, Provost Rogan Kersh ’86 leads the effort to educate the whole person.

Dr. Hatch established the Office of Personal Career Development under the leadership of Vice President Andy Chan. The mandate of that office is to develop mentoring programs, course offerings, lectures, and retreats that will help students think through larger questions about how one’s deepest values should shape professional choices.

In a world that is increasingly linked via technology, Dr. Hatch emphasizes the art of face-to-face connection. In implementing a three-year residency requirement, he is building greater community by ensuring there are opportunities to collaborate, engage in conversation, and solve problems together.

In one of Dr. Hatch’s boldest moves to date, he publicly launched Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest in October 2013. This represents the largest fundraising effort in the University’s history.  The original goal was for Wake Forest University and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to collaboratively invest $1 billion into their community over the next five years. Six hundred million dollars will support Reynolda Campus students, faculty, and enhancements to campus life. Wake Forest Baptist will devote $400 million to its blended mission of patient care, research, and education in a campaign to be shared with supporters in the near future.  In surpassing its goal two years ahead of schedule, the University increased its fundraising goal $400 million to a total of $1 billion.

“With this investment, we will strengthen our ability to provide opportunity for worthy students, we will forge an even stronger community of learning, and we will extend our reputation in American higher education,” Dr. Hatch said. “We have the ability and the will to step forward and confront the challenges of our time. My vision for the future of Wake Forest is that we may prepare students to lead lives that matter for generations to come. This is our calling, our purpose, our mission.”

Dr. Hatch is an active leader in American higher education and in local and community affairs. He served on the board of the American Council on Education and as chair of the Division I board of directors of the NCAA. He is a past chair of the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. In 2014, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected Dr. Hatch among its newest members. He has also been very active in community development in Winston-Salem. A board member of the United Way of Forsyth County, he also served as chairman of the 2010 United Way campaign.

Often described as affable, approachable, and a lively conversationalist, Dr. Hatch has established a strong rapport with students; he can occasionally be found taking a coffee break with them at Starbuck’s in the Z. Smith Reynolds library or having lunch in dining hall. He made an early positive impression when he arrived at his student-sponsored Inaugural Ball on the back of a motorcycle driven by the Demon Deacon mascot.

He is regularly cited as one of the most influential scholars in the study of the history of religion in America. He received national acclaim for his 1989 book The Democratization of American Christianity, in which he examines how the rise of religious groups in the early 19th century helped shape American culture and foster democracy. The book was chosen in a survey of 2,000 historians and sociologists as one of the two most important books in the study of American religion. He is also the author or editor of seven other books on American history.

Penny Rue, Vice President for Campus Life

Dr. Penny Rue joined Wake Forest University as vice president for campus life and professor of counseling in July 2013, with broad responsibility for the safety and well-being of students and their education outside the classroom. She served as vice chancellor-student affairs at the University of California, San Diego, for six years. She previously served for eight years as dean of students at the University of Virginia. She served for five years as senior associate dean of students at Georgetown University and for seven years as Georgetown’s director of student programs.

Earlier in her career, she held posts at the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her doctorate is in counseling and personnel services from the University of Maryland, where her dissertation research focused on a conceptual study of community on the college campus.

Rue has taught the Capstone class in the San Diego State University Master’s Program in Student Affairs and College Student Development in the Higher Education doctoral program at the University of Virginia. She has a master’s degree in student personnel services from the Ohio State University, from which she received the Maude Stewart Outstanding Alumna Award in 2011, and an AB magna cum laude in English and religion from Duke University. In 2011, she was named a Pillar of the Profession by the NASPA Foundation.  Dr. Rue was recently selected as Board Chair-elect of NASPA, the leading association for student affairs professionals.