A private memorial service for the late Maya Angelou, who died May 28 at the age of 86, will be held 10 a.m. June 7 at Wake Forest University’s Wait Chapel in Winston-Salem, N.C., the school announced this week.
Due to limited seating capacity—the chapel seats 2,250 people—the family decided to reserve the service for family and friends only.
Fans of the beloved poet and orator, however, can view the service via livestream at go.wfu.edu/angeloumemorial. Media outlets will also be able to embed the livestream link on their websites.
The family also announced that additional celebrations of her life will be held in cities across the nation in the future, and asked that in lieu of flowers or other memorials, donations be made to the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Angelou had a long-lasting relationship with Wake Forest, first speaking at the institution in 1973 then receiving an honorary degree from the institution in 1977.
Since 1982, Angelou served as its Reynolds Professor of American Studies, teaching a variety of humanities courses, including “World Poetry in Dramatic Performance,” “Race, Politics and Literature,” “African Culture and Impact on U.S.,” “Race in the Southern Experience” and “Shakespeare and the Human Condition.”
“When I saw my first group of students…I looked at them and I thought, ‘You poor darlings.’ I laughed at them and laughed with them and I said, ‘I can imagine…you think you’re going to be studying with a celebrity—aha! In fact you’ll never work as hard again as you will work in my class. However, you will never be the same,” recalled Angelou while speaking at the school’s Dignity and Respect Campaign in October 2013.
The last class she taught at Wake Forest was in the summer of 2011, though she was planning to teach a course this fall called “Race, Culture and Gender in the U.S. South and Beyond.”
“I am grateful to be a teacher,” she said at the October 2013 event. “I thought for a long time that I was a writer who could teach. But after being at Wake Forest for five or six years I realized that I was a teacher who could write.”
Several of Angelou’s students shared the personal and professional impact she had on them over the years, on the university’s memorial page:
“It was an absolute privilege to share that special time with Dr. Angelou and my fellow classmates. She taught me how to be a better human being in contemporary America and helped me to understand my responsibilities to others and to my communities as an emerging adult. I remember her both for her wisdom and remarkable intelligence – as well as her generosity of spirit,” wrote Matt Imboden (’06), director of integrative academic and student services at the Wake Forest University School of Business.
Several praised Angelou for her elegance and class, but also her warmth—her willingness to listen, her obvious interest in them as individuals, her tendency to open up her home to them.
“In class, Dr. Angelou made us learn each other’s names,” wrote Nicole Little (’13), program coordinator with the art-based nonprofit Authoring Action. “She wanted us to understand how you feel when someone calls your name across the room. She wanted us to experience what it meant to have your chest swell with pride because someone remembered your name. Sometimes she asked us to share what was going on in our lives. She listened. In those moments, she was studying us and what we could contribute to the group and to society at large.”
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