The new residence hall on south campus will be named Maya Angelou Hall, in honor of the late poet, author, activist and Wake Forest faculty member.
Angelou worked as the university’s first Reynolds professor of American studies from 1982 until her death in May of 2014. Prior to that, she celebrated Wake Forest’s first Black Awareness Week as a speaker/singer in 1973, and was awarded an honorary degree in 1977.
“We are pleased to honor Maya Angelou — a towering figure at Wake Forest and in American culture — with a space that will introduce new students to the residential and academic life of the University,” President Nathan Hatch said.
The residence hall will open in January of 2017, in order to allow students returning from abroad to live there for a semester before the hall becomes a freshman dorm in the fall semester of 2017.
The name of the dorm does not come as a surprise, given Angelou’s strong connection to the university and general prominence as a highly respected public figure. After her death in 2014, several prominent figures, including Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, attended her memorial service in Wait Chapel.
“Upon hearing the news of Maya Angelou’s death in my high school English class, I wondered how I could feel so connected to someone I had never personally known,” senior Allison Thompson said. “As I watched the memorial service take place in Wait Chapel, my ultimate decision to attend Wake Forest seemed to make perfect sense. Naming the new building after Maya Angelou feels like a continuation of the unabating legacy that she left with me and many others.”
Throughout her 32 years on campus, Angelou was a professor to some but a mentor and inspiration to many.
In 1985 alone, she gave the commencement speech at graduation and directed a production of “Macbeth” with the campus theatre. Angelou’s presence still resonates on campus, as her personal collection of her own works lives in ZSR Library, after she donated them in 2007.
“I’m not a writer who teaches. I’m a teacher who writes. But I had to work at Wake Forest to know that,” Angelou said in 2008 during an interview with “USA Today.”
“I will say that our office was so thrilled when we found out that the building was to be named after Dr. Angelou,” said Residence Life coordinator Sarah Magness. “She was such a force for good and left an amazing legacy. What a role model she was and continues to be for Wake Forest students.”
Students had similar reactions to the naming of Maya Angelou Hall. Originally intended by Residence Life and Housing to celebrate the beloved professor and member of the community, the importance of her time at Wake Forest does not go unacknowledged by the current student body.
“I think this is a perfect way to honor her and all of her accomplishments she had at Wake Forest and beyond,” said sophomore