Wake Forest University continues to build toward the fall 1999 opening of its new divinity school, hiring a new fundraiser and student recruiter.
The hiring of L. Wade Stokes Jr. as director of development and Scott Hudgins as director of student recruitment comes as the school has already raised $10 million in contributions or pledges toward a $15 million goal and completed the first phase of renovations in Wake Forest’s Wingate Hall, the future site of the school. The remainder of the work will be completed next summer.
“We wanted to put the divinity school in a positive financial position and raise enough money to operate the school until there’s tuition income,” Stokes said. “Last year, we raised $384,978, enough to pay overhead and the cost of running the school.
“That is one of many signs of the momentum and excitement building toward opening day in 1999 as we recruit faculty and students, and complete the development of the curriculum.”
Bill J. Leonard, the school’s dean, said that it will open with four to six faculty members and about 30 to 40 students, building to about 150 students in three years. In addition to the school’s core curriculum — featuring the standard courses on biblical languages, theology and preaching — half of the courses will be taught by Wake Forest faculty outside the divinity school, drawing on the strengths of several departments and disciplines.
Hudgins brings strong ecumenical credentials to the divinity school. A graduate of the University of Richmond, he received his master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he was associate director of admissions for master’s level students. Hudgins also was Baptist chaplain at Columbia University and Princeton University.
At Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Hudgins directed the studies of its Baptist students, who comprise 14 percent of total enrollment – overseeing their course work in Baptist history, theology and practice and helping them find jobs after graduation.
At Wake Forest, Hudgins hopes to recruit students of varied denominational backgrounds and geographic locations who seek the theological equivalent of the professional training provided to the university’s business, law and medical students.
“One of the things that excites me the most about the divinity school is its truly ecumenical commitment to training students in an environment that moves beyond the traditional parameters of a denominational school,” Hudgins said. “To me, ecumenical does not signal the least-common-denominator approach to education, but a real seriousness about the traditions of which students are a part.
“We have the opportunity to do something that is quite unique – to work with a variety of Christian traditions and to struggle together and learn together. Any kind of professional education should challenge you at the deepest parts of who you are.
“Baptists have always valued the freedom to engage one’s own faith commitments and scrutinize and critique them,” Hudgins said. “It is one of the greatest gifts that we have, so to do that at Wake Forest is just natural.”
Stokes, a 1983 graduate of Wake Forest and former student government president at the university, brings strong Baptist and marketing credentials to the Divinity School’s fundraising efforts. A deacon and former Sunday School director at Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte, Stokes had been senior account representative for Graphic Packaging Corporation since 1985.
“I had been active in the local Poteat selection committee (scholarships that Wake Forest awards to North Carolina Baptist students) for several years, and the move seemed like a natural fit for something I have a passion for,” Stokes said.
“The school will be Christian by tradition, ecumenical in outlook and Baptist in heritage,” he said. “I think that is what will distinguish us from some of the other new schools that have opened – the phenomenal educational resources Wake Forest can bring to bear to train and equip the next generation of ministers for service to God and their congregations in changing times.”
Stokes is a native of Greenville. His wife, Tara, is a 1983 graduate of Wake Forest’s Wayne Calloway School of Business and Accountancy. They have three children: Anna, 10, Carrie, 7, and Bradley, 4, and live in Winston-Salem.
Hudgins and his wife, Mary Foskett, assistant professor of religion at Wake Forest, also live in Winston-Salem.