By Erik Johnson, Professor and Chair of Biology

Wake Forest biology professor Wayne Silver in his office in Winston Hall on Wednesday, September 28, 2011.

Dr. Wayne Silver has been the consummate example of the teacher-scholar ideal, and his career is a model for new and old faculty alike in the Biology department and across Wake Forest. His 38 years at Wake Forest have blended world-class scholarship with an unwavering commitment to his students and to the department. Dr. Silver has been a champion for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion issues before this term permeated academic culture. His service to the department, to the college, and to the institution has been exemplary and he has been a university leader in promoting the values of Wake Forest.  

One description that captures Dr. Silver’s career is that he has always been a fearless participant in everything he does. He launched the neuroscience minor and has led the interdisciplinary minor from modest beginnings to becoming one of the largest minors. He obtained extramural funding from NIH to provide neuroscience educational opportunities for underrepresented minorities, demonstrating his commitment to D.E.I. 

He has taken numerous graduate and undergraduate students to regional meetings like SYNPASE and international meetings on chemical senses. He has led several abroad adventures for Wake students, including Salamanca, Vienna, and Slovenia. 

WFU biology professor Dr. Wayne Silver (holding sheep's brain) and philosophy professor Dr. George Graham are working on the curriculum for a neuroscience minor.

I have had joint lab meetings with Dr. Silver, and he has pressed faculty and students alike to use precise language to help make the “science clear.” He has a question for every seminar speaker and has a comment or question in departmental and College faculty meetings that is pertinent, critical, and demands discussion. He has done all of this with humor – he really does have a joke for everything – and humility.  

Many faculty colleagues and students have offered testimonials, including: 

“The second time I ever met Wayne, he said, ‘With only the rarest of exceptions, the biggest (and perhaps only) real impact you can have on your field of study as a scientist is to invest in training quality students.” I am one of the many fortunate Wake Forest University students that have benefited from this attitude.”

“I assume this is known, but Wayne’s door has not just been open to students. He’s provided a listening ear for new colleagues and for grad students who are having difficulties communicating with their advisors.”

“At the end of my first-ever lecture, Wayne told me about an experiment that he had been in at UPenn as an undergrad, in which he participated in a study looking at controls on food intake. Wayne’s data was so compelling that a figure of his data is in the published paper (identified as W.S.). When Wayne attended the class, he’d talk about how he knew most of the others in the study and that he was the only one that didn’t cheat. It connected the material to someone the students knew, made it personal, and helped remind students that research is done on real people.”

“I am grateful that Wayne has the courage to say things in faculty meetings that need to be said, even if uncomfortable, as they usually make us reflect deeper into our own decisions.”