Dr. Nathan Hatch '68 Recognized as 2017 Alumnus of the Year for Distinguished Service to Society

May 4, 2017

The Wheaton College Alumni Association presented Dr. Nathan O. Hatch ’68 with the 2017 Alumnus of the Year Award for Distinguished Service to Society in a ceremony this afternoon.

Hatch, who has served as President of Wake Forest University since 2005, was recognized for his influential work as a scholar of American religious history and for providing innovative servant leadership in the world of higher education.

"We have many reasons to be grateful to God for the life and work of Nathan Hatch," Wheaton College President Philip Ryken says. "We are very grateful and encouraged to see Christians flourishing across the academy, not only in systemically Christian institutions like Wheaton, but also in many other colleges and universities. It is an important part of the kingdom of God, and it is important for us at Wheaton College to honor that kind of service." 

Hatch is a leading historian of religion in the early American republic whose publications include The Democratization of American Christianity (Yale, 1991). This influential volume is widely considered to be one of the most significant works in the field of American religious history.

With Wheaton classmate Dr. Mark Noll ’68, Hatch cofounded Wheaton’s Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals in 1982. For more than 25 years, the Institute produced leading books and research that transformed and cemented evangelicalism’s place in historical studies.

After joining the history department at the University of Notre Dame in 1975, Hatch expanded his career to include higher education administration. When he was appointed provost in 1996, Hatch was the first Protestant to hold the position at the renowned Catholic university.

As President of Wake Forest, Hatch has made significant realignments in the areas of business and medicine, launched the largest fundraising effort in the university’s history, introduced new initiatives in test-optional admissions and student career development, and enhanced the residential experience for students.

"Nathan is a terrific administrator," Noll says. "He knows how to recruit, support, train, encourage, and empower people at all levels, including undergraduate students, graduate students, colleagues, academic associates, and members of a wide number of other organizations. At Notre Dame and Wake Forest, he has done this with exemplary character."

Hatch’s service at Notre Dame and Wake Forest is marked by his belief that the mission of colleges and universities is to train the next generation of leaders.

“If there is anything missing in society, it is great leadership. So, to the extent that you can, you educate the whole person and build leadership capacity in all the variety of professions they will take on, whether Wall Street or the ministry. That is the best service you can offer to society,” Hatch says.

The Distinguished Service to Society award has been presented each year since 1953 to alumni who exemplify the mission of the College through excellence in their field of service. A list of previous awardees is available here.

Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.) is a coeducational Christian liberal arts college noted for its rigorous academics, integration of faith and learning, and consistent ranking among the top liberal arts colleges in the country. For more information, visit wheaton.edu.