Wake Forest University

Written By Shane Williams

Wake Forest University was founded in 1834 with heavy influence from leaders of the Baptist State Convention, Martin Ross and Thomas Meredith. They hoped that the university would provide a Christian educational training facility for ministers and laymen as well as a “literary and manual labor,’ school for young boys.

In the year 1838, Wake Forest transitioned into a liberal arts college and began rapid expansion during the mid-nineteenth and throughout the twentieth century. Wake Forest University’s rapid development occurred beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, when several additions to the school were made. In the year 1936, the law school was added as well as the Bowan Gray School of Medicine. In 1941, the Bowman Gray School of Medicine was inaugurated as well as the first academic honor society for the school, Phi Beta Kappa. With World War 2 coming to an end in 1946, total enrollment surged from demand of returning veterans. In 1949, the number of students increased to over 2,000 and new religion and business academic departments were acquired by the university.

As student enrollment grew rapidly in the early-20th century, there was a corresponding increase in the number of faculty and as new academic departments, including religion, English, and the social and physical sciences. During this time, the number of science laboratories, dormitories, and sports facilities increased, as well as reputable baseball and basketball programs.

Wake Forest began making drastic changes in growth and expansion during the post-war era. Initially, Wake Forest University was located in Wake Forest, North Carolina for 122 years, but under the guidance of President Harold Tribble, the campus moved to Winston Salem North Carolina in 1956. The school received major funding assistance from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation of Winston Salem, the trustees and board members of Wake Forest College as well as support from the Baptist State Convention. In the year 1967, Wake Forest College, officially became what is today known as Wake Forest University. Beginning in 1979, the influence of the Baptist Convention on the university began dissolving as the university severed funding from the Baptists and instituted a more liberal selection of university trustee members.

As of 2024, Wake Forest has become a national leader in higher education, providing top programs in teaching, business, accounting and medicine. Wake Forest offers 50 majors, 60 minors and over 400 international programs in over 200 cities and 70 countries. The university has 5,447 enrolled undergraduate students, as of 2022, and 3,516 enrolled graduate students. The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has been ranked as an international leader in providing the principles of regenerative medicine to treating human diseases and disabilities. Wake Forest’s commitment to research and a strong liberal arts program has made the university one of the nations most highly selective and respected private schools in the country.