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Hatch named Wake Forest president

Claire Heininger | Monday, January 24, 2005

The second-ranking officer in the Notre Dame administration will leave the University July 1 to become the president of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Wake Forest board of trustees announced Friday.

University Provost Nathan Hatch, who joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1975 and has overseen its academic affairs as provost since 1996, will replace Thomas Hearn, Jr., to become Wake Forest’s 13th president.

“It’s not a job that I sought,” Hatch said. “We think it’s the right thing to do at this moment, but it’s also painful because we have such strong feelings for Notre Dame and its people.”

Wake Forest’s presidential search committee chose Hatch after meeting with him and his wife, Julie, in November and January, according to a press release on the Wake Forest Web site. Hearn, who began serving as president in 1983, had announced his retirement last April.

“It was clear from the moment we identified him as a prospective candidate that Dr. Hatch did not simply possess the qualities and experience we were seeking, but that he is a genuine role model of the teacher-scholar, a highly-valued ideal at Wake Forest,” said Murray Greason, Jr., chairman of Wake Forest’s board of trustees and of the presidential search committee, according to the press release.

With an enrollment of 6,500 students, Wake Forest is smaller than Notre Dame, but has an environment very similar to the University’s, Hatch said.

The school’s religious roots (it was founded as a Baptist institution but became self-governing in the 1980s), commitment to fostering a deep sense of community identity and dedication to an academic-athletic balance created a sense of “symmetry” with Notre Dame, Hatch said.

“It’s an ecumenical environment … that takes faith, learning, intellect and character seriously,” he said.

Presiding over a similar interplay at Notre Dame proved to be Hatch’s most significant challenge and biggest accomplishment during his years as provost, he said.

“Holding together in creative tension aspects that can pull on each other … not letting one thing overwhelm another … is part of Notre Dame’s complex mission,” he said, listing improved research, superior undergraduate education, more attention to diversity and maintaining the school’s Catholic character as key components of that mission.

University President-elect Father John Jenkins, who worked under Hatch for four years as vice president and associate provost until he was named president-elect April 30, issued a statement thanking Hatch for being a “wise, humane, and nurturing supervisor from whom I learned much.”

“Notre Dame owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Nathan for years of truly distinguished service to the University,” Jenkins’ statement continued. “He is a scholar of the first rank, who, as an administrator, has consistently shown a commitment to excellence and an ability to identify and attract outstanding scholars and academic leaders. He has tirelessly fostered the University’s distinctive Catholic identity, and under his leadership Notre Dame has made remarkable progress.”

University President Father Edward Malloy, who will step down from the presidency June 30, also praised Hatch’s service to the University.

“Nathan is a person of deep faith and strong academic achievement,” Malloy said in a statement. “I have come to admire his integrity and high moral standards, his skill as an articulate spokesperson for the University, his capacity for building consensus, and his ability to create a productive and supportive work environment.”

Malloy’s and Jenkins’ statements also wished Hatch and his wife success at Wake Forest.

Hatch, who grew up in Columbia, S.C., and whose family has roots in North Carolina, earned his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Illinois and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. At Notre Dame, he was the associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters from 1983-88 and served as acting dean in 1988-89. He was also elected as the University’s vice president for graduate studies and research in 1989 before taking over as provost. He is also currently the Andrew V. Tackes Professor of History.

He and Julie have three children: Gregg, a 1997 graduate of Notre Dame; David, a 2000 graduate of Notre Dame; and Beth, a current sophomore at the University.

Between now and July 1, Hatch said he will strive to balance the two presidential transitions with which he is now engaged.

“I think one has to do both appropriately,” he said, adding that this period is “bittersweet.”

“We’ve been at Notre Dame a long time,” Hatch said. “Notre Dame is a marvelous place [that] we love deeply and has a fantastic mission and an array of talented, committed people, many of whom are close, close friends.”