Gail R. O’Day honored by new fund

by: C. Mark Batten | | 336.758.3959

The Gail R. O’Day Beloved Community Fund has been established at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in recognition and honor of the School’s Dean, Gail. R. O’Day, who is committed to providing opportunities for students, faculty, staff and friends of the School of Divinity to develop a life-transforming community ethos. Wake Forest University emphasizes the education of the whole person. Throughout her tenure as Dean, O’Day has highlighted this University emphasis within the School of Divinity by envisioning ways theological education can nurture community.

O’Day announced in April she would be stepping down as Dean on June 30, 2018, having served 8 years as the School of Divinity’s leader. The fund, established as a tribute to her leadership, received initial, significant commitments from several members of the School’s Senior Leadership Team, including Shonda Jones, associate dean of admissions and student services; Jill Crainshaw, Interim Dean; and Michelle Voss Roberts, associate dean for academic affairs. The fund was revealed to O’Day during a gathering of the School’s faculty and staff at her home on Tuesday, May 22.

The School of Divinity hosts many communal events, including weekly community worship services, shared meals and coffee hours, dialogue groups, and a variety of other opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to practice care and service. The events promote examples of working for the common good and a transformed world.

“These contributions reflect the giving spirit you have inspired. The Gail R. O’Day Beloved Community Fund will serve as a reminder of your service and dedication to the mission and values of the School of Divinity.” Sheila Virgil, Assistant Dean of Development
The Wake Forest School of Divinity hosts its first chapel service in the newly-renovated Davis Chapel on Tuesday, October 28, 2014.

This endowed fund will provide financial support for School of Divinity activities that build the communal spirit of the School of Divinity, including the events mentioned above.

“As the idea of establishing an endowed fund named in Dean O’Day’s honor began to take shape, I immediately felt compelled to give. Giving to this fund makes tangible what Dean O’Day has lived and preached about throughout her vocation as a minister, scholar, and administrator - a vision of diverse people learning, sharing, worshipping, and making a difference together in beloved community.” Shonda R. Jones, Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Services


During the gathering at her home O’Day was also presented with the Bill J. Leonard Distinguished Service Award Pro Fide et Humanitate, whose recipient is selected by the School’s faculty. The award honors those who embody the principles of Wake Forest’s motto of Pro Humanitate and the School’s commitment to educating leaders who are committed to justice, reconciliation, and compassion. O’Day’s leadership at the School of Divinity and in theological education has and will continue to influence students, colleagues, and friends as they seek to create better communities.

O’Day says she was profoundly honored by the presentation of these two recognitions.

The Bill J. Leonard Distinguished Service Award is awarded annually to faculty, alumni, or friends of the  School of Divinity who embody the principle of Wake Forest’s motto of Pro Humanitate and the School’s mission. The award was established and funded by the late James M. Dunn and his wife, Marilyn, to honor “the life contributions of Bill J. Leonard as teacher, scholar, historian, and as the first dean of the divinity school at Wake Forest.” Dunn served as resident professor of Christianity and public policy from 1999 until his retirement in 2014

“I am so grateful for all the faculty and staff and what you contribute to the Wake Divinity community. To have the Beloved Community Fund in my name is a completely unexpected gift for me and a wonderful way to sustain the activities that weave the tapestry of community in our school. The presentation of the Distinguished Service Award was a wonderful highlight. To serve as Dean and have the opportunity to build this kind of school is among the greatest joys of my life.” Gail R. O'Day, Dean and Professor of New Testament and Preaching

If you are interested in contributing to the The Gail R. O’Day Beloved Community Fund and honoring Dean O’Day’s impact on the School of Divinity, please visit You can specify your gift as a one-time donation or a recurring contribution. For more information on making your gift, contact Sheila Virgil, assistant dean of development, at or 336.758.3819.

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