Wake Forest Sets Up New Campus, 1951

President Harry Truman helps break ground on the new Wake Forest campus. Image from the Wake Forest Historical Museum.On October 15, 1951, President Harry S. Truman spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Winston-Salem campus of Wake Forest College. The president spoke for 20 minutes covering the history of the college and praising the people who made the move possible. A scale model of the planned campus was available for attendees to examine.

The move was several years in making. College trustees and the Baptist State Convention had agreed to move the school to the Forsyth County site during the previous decade, after the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation promised to fund the college in perpetuity if it moved. Charles and Mary Babcock, the daughter of R. J. Reynolds, donated 350 acres near Reynolda House for the campus.

The school’s roots, though, go back much further. The Baptist State Convention launched Wake Forest Institute in 1834 on the site of a Wake County plantation with an enrollment of 16. Designed to teach Baptist ministers and laymen, the school required students to spend half their day performing manual labor on the plantation.

In 1838, the school was renamed Wake Forest College, and the provision for manual labor was abandoned in favor of rigorous academic training. The village in Wake County that developed around the college became known as Wake Forest.

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