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Thomas K. Hearn Collection

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Dr. Thomas Kermit Hearn was a native of Alabama, born in Opp, Alabama on July 5, 1937. He graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a degree in English and philosophy and earned a divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate in philosophy from Vanderbilt University. Hearn taught philosophy at William and Mary for ten years before joining the faculty at the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 1974 to start the philosophy department. There he served as dean of the School of Humanities, vice president, and finally senior vice president for non-medical affairs.

In 1983, Hearn was named twelfth president of Wake Forest University, succeeding Dr. James Ralph Scales. He arrived at a time when Wake Forest was poised to make big changes. During his tenure, he began what was then the largest building program on the Reynolda Campus since it had been constructed, guided Wake Forest to end its governing relationship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and become an independent school, established a Divinity School, led the Plan for the class of 2000 program that provided a laptop to every incoming student, and hosted two presidential debates in 1988 and 2000.

Hearn was also very involved in the local community, chairing organizations such as Leadership Winston-Salem, Winston-Salem Business, Inc., and numerous others. He supported the expansion of the Piedmont Triad Research Park where Wake Forest has a large presence and worked with others to help improve the lives of the people who live in Winston-Salem.

By focusing efforts on fundraising as well as sustained commitment to developing professional schools, Hearn moved Wake Forest from being a regionally-known school to a nationally-known one. The teacher-scholar model was central to his efforts and the resulting programs to enhance the undergraduate's experience at Wake Forest make that apparent.

Hearn was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2003 and underwent surgeries and treatments that put his cancer into remission. He retired in 2005 as planned, and died in 2008 after the tumor recurred.

Selected materials in this collection document the years of Hearn's presidency at Wake Forest University.

Recent Additions

Below are a few recent additions in the Thomas K. Hearn Collection collection.