Provost Susan R. Wente appointed as Wake Forest’s 14th President

Wente served the Vanderbilt community for almost two decades as professor, provost and vice chancellor and interim chancellor. She starts at Wake Forest on July 1, 2021.


Hunter Long

Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan Wente and Dean of the Commons Melissa Gresalfi walk with new students during Founders Walk on Sunday on Aug. 8, 2019. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

Immanual John Milton and Avery Muir

Provost Susan R. Wente announced in a Jan. 31 email to the community that she will be serving as the 14th President of Wake Forest University, beginning July 1. 

Wente started at Vanderbilt in 2002 as professor and chair of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology in the School of Medicine. She has been the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs since 2014. Wente was Vanderbilt’s first female provost and the first provost promoted from within the university. She also served as interim chancellor for the summer after Chancellor Emeritus Nicholas Zeppos stepped down.

“I love Vanderbilt, its people and our community deeply,” Wente said in her email. “While it was not an easy decision for me to leave this special place, or the city that has been my family’s home, I am tremendously excited about what lies ahead and the opportunity to serve the Wake Forest community as its president.”

Chancellor Daniel Diermeier also sent an email commenting on Wente’s departure following her announcement. 

“Susan Wente is a singular leader in higher education, and Vanderbilt University is in the strong position it is today because of Susan and her tremendous leadership,” Diermeier said in the Jan. 31 email. “She combines a scientist’s precision and rigor, a leader’s strategic mindset and a dedicated mentor’s commitment to others. She leaves a lasting legacy on our community.”

Following receiving her bachelor’s in biochemistry with honors at the University of Iowa in 1984, she completed her Ph.D. at the University of California-Berkeley. Wente completed her postdoctoral work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York in biochemistry and molecular biology and later was a part of Rockefeller University for her fellowship. 

Then, in 1993, Wente researched and taught at Washington University School of Medicine, before becoming an associate professor. She was recruited to Vanderbilt in 2001 and eventually came to the university in 2002.

During her tenure as provost, Vanderbilt’s U.S. News and World Report ranking increased from No. 16 to No. 14. Under Wente’s leadership, Vanderbilt was No. 1 for financial aid and No. 2 for happiest students per the Princeton Review. She also contributed to the development of the current Academic Strategic Plan, which provided more trans-institutional programming, the launch of the Office for Inclusive Excellence (OIE) and the creation of Immersion Vanderbilt

“I am, and always will be, deeply grateful to the Vanderbilt community,” Wente said in the email. “In 2002, you welcomed me with open arms, and for nearly two decades, we have worked side-by-side to advance this university’s impact.”