The Class of 2023 graduates

The last class of students to experience Wake Forest before COVID-19 enters the world


Evan Harris

Graduates throw their caps into the air.

Christa Dutton, Editor-in-Chief

After four years marked by anything but normalcy, Wake Forest President Susan Wente had a simple message for the Class of 2023 at Commencement: “You are ready.” 

Wente acknowledged that while graduation is a joyous occasion, it can also be marked by uncertainty — a feeling the Class of 2023 has known all too well as they navigated college during the COVID-19 crisis. Despite the uncertainty the future brings, Wente assured the graduates that they are ready because they’ve already overcome so much. 

“You did something that no other graduating class will hopefully ever experience again,” Wente said in her speech. “And you are so much stronger and more resilient because of it. I know you are ready, because through it all, you’ve also learned about yourselves.”

She continued: “You have grown as people, and it is this knowledge — truly understanding who you are, what is important to you, what you value, who you want to be — that will carry you through the inevitable bumps, twists, turns and the uncertainties that lie ahead.” 

In her speech, former Student Body President and Class of 2023 graduate Pilar Agudelo also addressed the uncertainty the graduating class may be feeling.

“It is okay to walk across this stage and be uncertain, to not know where you are going or what you are doing, because four years is a while, but this is just the start of all that is to come.” 

Commencement speaker Killian Noe also imparted the graduates with some words of advice. As the founder of Recovery Cafe, Noe has spent 40 years walking alongside people who are recovering from struggles like homelessness and addiction. Noe shared anecdotes about different people she has met through her nonprofit, and she shared what these people have taught her about purpose, power and proximity. 

Noe said that Wake Forest’s motto Pro Humanitate has taught Wake Foresters that purpose comes “from what you give, not what you get.” 

In her speech, Noe said that every person has a “unique power to influence others.” 

She charged the graduates: “Whatever ways you give your life, use your unique power to influence on behalf of some individual or group being left out, until their suffering becomes your suffering, until their joy becomes your joy.” 

In 1980, Noe earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Wake Forest, and Noe was also conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the ceremony.

Kimberly “Kym” Lucas was granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. She received a Bachelor of Science in biology from Wake Forest, and she currently serves as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Church in Colorado. She is the first woman bishop as well as the first African American bishop in the diocese’s 132-year history. 

The university’s 30 retiring faculty members were also honored during the ceremony. 

With the turning of tassels and the tossing of hands, the newest Demon Deacon graduates have entered the world.