Wake Forest University renames street to honor pioneers

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Wake Forest University has renamed four existing roads on campus in honor of “pioneering professors”, in a decision that removed a road name associated with a former school president linked to the institution of slavery.

The new names will honor two black professors who were the first male and female tenure-track faculty members, as well as a woman who was the first full-time female faculty member and another woman who became the first female chair of the English department.

“Each of these exceptional leaders has left an indelible mark on the university,” Wake Forest President Susan R. Wente said in a statement released with the news. She went on to say that “honoring them and telling their stories will expand the narrative of leadership and excellence at Wake Forest”.

The four professors honored are Herman Eure, Marjorie “Marge” Crisp, Dolly McPherson and Elizabeth Phillips. Eure is still alive, but the others are deceased.

The new names became official on August 15, when they were approved by the Winston-Salem City Council.

During the same meeting, street names were also assigned to certain roads on the Winston-Salem State University campus that were mostly unnamed.

At both schools, the new names will also help rescuers get to the scene by providing them with the addresses of buildings on the newly designated streets.

Last spring, Wake Forest established an administrative honors committee to rename two sections of Wingate Road, a main road on campus named after Washington Manly Wingate, who was the college’s fourth president.

Wingate was not just a slave owner; he led the school when it created its first endowment with $10,718 proceeds from the sale of 16 slaves.

The name change is part of a larger academic effort to acknowledge its ties to the institution of slavery. Part of that effort, renaming Wingate Hall, was derailed in 2021 when the new name – May 7, 1860 Hall – was criticized and only lasted 19 days.

The university had chosen the new name to mark the date of this endowment sale. But black students and alumni opposed the new name, saying it would enshrine a traumatic date in the school’s history. For now, the building is designated as the building of divinity and religious studies.

Here are the routes that have new names, along with some information about the honorees:

(asterisk) Elizabeth Phillips Way is the new name for the portion of Wingate Road that connects Polo Road to Carroll Weathers Drive, one of the school’s internal roads.

Phillips, who died in 2008, was one of the university’s first full-time female professors and the first woman to head the English department. She began her career at Wake Forest in 1957. She published books on Emily Dickenson, Marianne Moore and Edgar Allen Poe, and helped establish the Women’s Studies Committee, which laid the groundwork for the creation of the department of women’s, gender and sexuality studies. She received the university’s Medallion of Merit, its highest honor, in 1992.

(asterisk) McPherson Road is the new name for the section of Wingate Road that runs from Wake Forest Road next to the Sutton Center, passes Maya Angelou Hall and connects to Faculty Drive to the south.

McPherson, who died in 2011, was the first black woman to become a faculty member at Wake Forest. She arrived in 1974 and taught over a 27-year career. She has taught courses on British literature and African-American fiction and biography. She supported the creation of the Office of Minority Affairs, which has since become the Intercultural Center. She encouraged Angelou to join the faculty in 1982.

(asterisk)Crisp Lane leads from the new McPherson Road to Haddock House, where the golf teams practice.

Crisp, who died in 2005, became Wake Forest’s first full-time female faculty member in 1947 when she was hired in the physical education department. She founded Intercollegiate Women’s Athletics at Wake Forest and became the first Director of Women’s Athletics 50 years ago. She also created the women’s intramural program, coached the women’s golf team and was one of the first two women inducted into the Wake Forest Athletics Hall of Fame.

(asterisk) The creation of Eure Drive is linked to the extension of Wake Forest Road currently under construction. Wake Forest Road will run directly through Davis Field once the work is complete, essentially recreating the original entrance to that side of campus that was in place until 1991, when the road was rerouted. Eure Drive will be the new name for the section of Wake Forest Road that has been rerouted.

Eure, who was born in 1947, completed his doctorate at Wake Forest in 1974 and was named the university’s first male, black, tenure-track faculty a few months later. He taught in the biology department for nearly 40 years and held administrative positions, including associate dean. He established the Office of Minority Affairs in 1978 and paved the way for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Currently vice-chairman of the board of directors, he received the medal of merit in 2017.

Meanwhile, at WSSU, Alumni Drive, Welcome Lane, and Victory Circle are streets that extend west from Cromartie Street.

Wilson Hall Drive and Rams Commons Lane extend east of Rams Commons Drive. Health Center Drive extends north from the new Rams Commons Lane.

Success Way runs northeast of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, while Conference Circle runs north of Reynolds Park Road. Rams Pride Way runs west of Reynolds Park Road, while Rams Lane runs southeast of Rams Drive.

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