This is the community-written biography of Ed and Jean Christman and their years at Wake Forest University.

Ed and Jean Christman have been a part of the Wake Forest community for more than 60 years. Their presence has always reflected a constancy of joy, kindness, service, and a belief in progress as embodied in Wake Forest’s motto Pro Humanitate.

Both arrived at the old campus as college students in the late 1940s. They met in 1949 and married in 1952. Aside from Ed’s three years in seminary, Ed and Jean have spent their whole lives as part of Wake Forest, including Ed’s work as BSU Director, Baptist Campus Minister, Assistant Chaplain, and then University Chaplain.  Ed and Jean retired just a few miles away from the campus and still enjoy spending time there.

Ed and Jean enjoyed visiting the campus for special events. This is from the Celebration of Scholarships Dinner, 2012. Photo by Ken Bennett.

Ed and Jean, 2012. Photo by Ken Bennett.

Our family decided that the best way to chronicle the lives of Ed and Jean and the career of Chaplain Ed Christman was through a community-written biography on this website. This was a great success and readers will enjoy the comments, observations, and stories that are included in the narrative. Enjoy!

Carolyn, Ron, Francisco, Kim and Stan

  • From Al Hartness on October 19, 2010 at 9:15 am

    If i had not had (bad English–yes I am a ’61 grad of Wake) Ed, I probably would not be a graduate. MacLeod Bryan shook me up so bad that I had to confer w Ed to make sure I had any religion left. Well actually it was all to the good to make me sweat and think. Ed had a way about him that left you w the impression you were still a worthwhile person, at least human. With all the girl problems I had too, it was reassuring that I wasn’t completely off my gourd, although now maybe I need to have another conference with him being married to Shirley for over 45 years for the Grace of God. Anyway, thank you Ed for all you have meant to me and all Wake students that have benefited from your counsel, concern, and love!! God Bless you!!! Al Hartness, MD ’61, ’65

  • From Roger Pearman on November 22, 2010 at 2:06 am

    Because Ed and Jean have so important to my life all I can do is summarize! I am so grateful for all they have meant to me and my wife, Angela. When I arrived on the campus of Wake Forest in 1974, Ed welcomed me—as he did for thousands—to the first days of Freshmen orientation. The Chaplain’s Office hosted a student retreat at Camp Hanes which was my introduction both to Wake and Ed’s thoughtful and caring friendship. Ed performed our wedding ceremony in Davis Chapel on September 24, 1983. He performed the ceremony for my mother and step-father. Ed was so generous to do the eulogy for my father who died in 1984. Through the years, Ed and Jean gave us wonderful books to stimulate thought (Bechner series). And though our work and growing family meant we haven’t seen as much of each other as we would like but perhaps now that our adult children are now on their own journey we will get to visit. So we can enjoy their company. All the qualities of thoughtful caring, splendid questioning, warm friendship make Ed and Jean among the most important people in our life. We would like to think that the lessons they have taught are also lessons our kids have learned. Thank you Ed and Jean for all of the kindness through the years. Roger Pearman ’78 and ’81

  • From Chris Towles on October 3, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Ed and Jean still come to the BSU on Tuesday nights. The students love having them and I’m grateful as the campus minister for BSU to have them as a part of our group. It means a great deal to me that Ed and Jean have valued BSU so much through their years enough to still consider us a part of their family. Students enjoy having them at our meetings.

  • From Amy Long on February 11, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Ed are Jean Christmas are among my heros! Brother Ed called my family before Pre-school to make sure that the camp would be accessible for my needs as a wheelchair user. We were so impressed and touched at how far he went to make Wake and preschool a safe and wonderful journey for me. I was an active BSUer and loved chatting with the Christmans weekly. I loved the Christmas communion service he did every year at BSU, he would always tell of the Christmas bowtie his Mom gave him which he wore. Ed was a loyal supporter of Living Parables (the WFU Christian Drama Troupe) and we loved having him as part of our fan base. He told me shortly before I graduated: “Amy, You are a Living Parable.” I brushed it off and he said no “Amy your life is a Living Parable.” I think perhaps that really describes Ed better than anything else. A Living Parable, a tangible beautiful story of grace, faith and commitment to empowering and disciplining the next generation. So Grateful to have sat at his feet and listened to his story. Amy Long ’06 MD ’10

  • From Angie Silva on February 12, 2013 at 2:01 am

    I love this sweet, fun couple. Some of my fondest Wake Forest memories are times spent with them: nights watching movies with a group of Wake students at their house, tacos and brownies for BSU Council served at their house, and eating out at K&W or the Mexican restaurant. Just seeing this great picture of them makes me miss them tons.
    Angie Denison Silva ’95

  • From Sarah Greer on February 12, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Ed and Jean were such a special part of my time at Wake Forest and especially in BSU, but one of the most fun memories was just as I was finishing my time there. I was a Poteat Scholar and some dear family friends came with my parents to hear me speak at the Poteat Senior dinner. Ed and Jean were there as they always were to support such events.

    After the dinner I was talking with these family friends and little did I know that the couple I had grown up hearing of because of their influence on my parents’ time at Wake, also had a connection to the Christmans who were so dear to me. I learned that evening that Wilhelmina Bracey had been Jean’s college roommate and they had not seen each other in years. I had the pleasure of pulling them together that evening and it was like seeing two young, giggling, excited girls. They kept interrupting each other in the process of telling the story of how Wilhelmina had a hand in setting up Jean and Ed as a couple during their college days.

    I could also share dozens of stories of Chaplain participating in some of our games at Horizons (and usually cheating), but as I think about the Christmans’ impact, I cannot help but thank them for their love of the students, their passion for the spiritual health of the university, and their Demon Deacon spirit!

  • From David DeFoor on February 12, 2013 at 5:05 am

    Ed spoke to the Furman BSU my senior year. He tried to challenge us to be intellectually rigorous in our faith, that an unexamined faith wasn’t worth having.

    He asked individuals in the crowd what Christian authors we read. I stammered a bit trying to remember the last book I’d read. He shouted, “Buechner! You should read Buechner!” Then Ed threw a Buechner book at me and hit me in the head. The Alphabet of Grace, I think it was. I’ve been a Buechner fan ever since.

  • From Scott Kyles on February 12, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    I had the opportunity to spend six years as a student at Wake Forest, and had the privilege to serve as BSU president in 1991-1992. I will never forget the impact that Ed and Jean had and still have on me today. Ed Christman is considered both a legend and a Wake Forest institution for good reason. At times prophet, at times preacher, at times counselor, at times ecumenical leader, and at all times with a sharp intellect and sense of humor, Ed’s presence was always good for the soul. He had an amazing ability to both challenge me and encourage me at the same time. And what is the secret to Ed’s longevity? I suspect it has a lot to do with relying on the quiet strength of his partner and soulmate, Jean. Ed and Jean, you made my Wake Forest experience richer by being there, and you still inspire me today. Thanks for pouring yourselves into the lives of students and into our Mother So Dear.

  • From Doug Murray ('77) on February 16, 2013 at 1:22 am

    Two memories from the mid-seventies:

    My first impression of Ed: prancing about the Quad dressed in a Blue Devil suit, being exorcised by the WFU cheerleaders before a Duke game. I heard someone say, “That’s the chaplain!” I was impressed that such a school would have such a chaplain.

    A cherished memory: being invited over to Ed and Jean’s home to carve pumpkins for Halloween. How they share their lives with so many!

  • From Carolee Williams on February 18, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    One of my first impressions of Wake Forest was a post card inviting me to the Preschool Retreat with a handwritten note on it. I still have the card along with a picture of Ed in front of the stained glass windows in the chapel. Why is it that I don’t have any photos of academic mentors, but I do of Ed and other spiritual mentors? Perhaps, because Ed and his team, provided my first impression of Wake through that preschool retreat and provided a place where several life long friendships and memories were made. Ed and team also created a comfortable and yet challenging place where your own individual spiritual pilgrimage could thrive. All of this led to my being Ed’s driver from time to time as well as Kim’s driver when she needed to take the SAT and they were out of town. What great memories driving in Western NC. Was Ed the first adult to treat me as an adult? Perhaps. Like Roger (above), I too was blessed with some Bechner books that remind me of Ed and Jean, their Christian fellowship and warm hospitality and friendship. Ed and Jean, I’m so appreciative of your role in my life and thank your families for creating these pages to share and mostly to explore your studies and writings.
    Carolee Williams ’79

  • From Robert Braxton on May 3, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Two times I signed up and went to the Retreat just before the beginning of the school year: 1962 and 1964, when I “did” music with Beth Pirkle (Ed married us at First Baptist’s chapel 1967 September 3). Chaplain Hollingsworth saw me show up at the start in 1962, nudged Ed Christman and said to him “there comes Jonathan Beam.” I read the novel (Russell Brantley) eventually, probably my second year (1963-64) at the same time I was taking Victorian poetry and Victorian novelists (two consecutive courses). Beth and I were married students and enjoyed the whole Christman family (including a bit of “babysitting”) at Van Dusen Hall, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY. Our studio was on the fourth floor and their place was above us. Along with professor G. MacLeod Bryan, Ed and Jean are strong influences on Rev. Dr. “Beth” Pirkle Braxton and on her spouse “Bob” B.A. Philosophy 1966.

  • From Kevin Cox on May 2, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    When my mother was nearing the end of her life, Ed was there for me. We had conversations that helped me considerably. I will be grateful, always.

  • From Mark Hall on June 13, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I was concert chair for the Student Union for two years in the 80’s, and Ed was always extremely gracious in letting us use his office as a “dressing room” for the bands that came through the chapel. His office served as headquarters for the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Grace Slick and Bruce Hornsby among many others. We tried to be conscientious about cleaning the space at the end of the night, but it was frequently 1-2:00 AM and we may have been more focused on getting back to our rooms after an 18-hour day. In retrospect, I cringe to think of what may have been left behind. Of course, Ed never complained.

    I was fortunate enough to eventually work with Ed as a colleague at Wake Forest. Not surprisingly, he was every bit as valuable as a mentor (and friend) in that role as he was during my undergraduate years. Ed and Jean are truly special people.

  • From Lynn Parker on June 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Jean and “Brother Ed,” what a team. I appreciate so much the quiet, steadfast examples of both. Favorite remembrances – BSU’s Taco Salads at their home at beginning of academic year; Senior Worship at end of year; seeing their love and care for the students and their delight when renewing friendships; sharing concerns with them; coordinating with Ed all sorts of Denominational Relations and Poteat Scholarship events. I was a co-worker with them for almost 20 years, and they were, and remain dear friends of Hugh and me. I deeply appreciate their examples of love, care, and Christian service.

  • From David Fouche on December 24, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    I grieve with you Jean, Kim Carolyn, Ronnie and Stan. I am deeply grateful to have known Ed and to have worked with him so many years. Your whole family is a joy to know, and I pray God’s peace be upon you as you grieve. Ed had a dramatic flair and knew well how to make entrances and exits. Christmas Eve was quite a choice, my dear Chaplain. Challenges us to dig deep into our convictions to find consolation. But that’s what you always loved to do.

  • From Patricia Dixon on December 24, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Dear Ed
    As you enter the next dimension that awaits us all, you will have no trouble fitting it. You knew all along that “the answer keeps blowing in the wind” as you so eloquently stated in your retirement speech. You knew how to embrace uncertainty, to remain open to all, and to give generously. You also had faith in the power of prayer, acknowledging that divine gifts which we so often take for granted, are the true gifts.
    You were one of those divine gifts to many who new you as you traveled with us on this dimension.
    May your soul be full of all the love you gave to others as you embrace the eternal journey.

  • From Kevin Cox on December 24, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I will be forever grateful to Ed for how welcoming he was to me when I joined the WF staff in 1990. Most importantly, I will always appreciate his ministry to me when my mother was approaching the end of her life in the late 1990s. Ed was concerned about her and me, always taking time to listen to me as I grieved and needed simply to talk about it. When that day came, Ed reached out again, comforting me.

  • From Frank Dew on December 24, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Thanks, Ed Christ man! Class of 73

  • From Nancy Pickelsimer Elkins '59 on December 24, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    What a guy! I will always cherish my time with Ed as my Campus Minister while an undergraduate on the new campus and immediately thereafter at Southeastern Seminary as my fellow student on the old campus. From there I spent much of my life in New York, but I visited Ed when my two sons were university shopping. He set a very high standard for all of us.
    Nancy Pickelsimer Elkins ’59

  • From Michelle Baker on December 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Although I did not personally know Mr Ed Christman, I feel the sense of loss of a great man knowing his daughter Kim and all of him that she embodies: character, compassion, love for Christ, and cheerleader of others! He now rejoices in heaven surrounded by heavenly hosts and looking into the face of our savior. Much love and prayers for strength and comfort Christman Family!

  • From Ollis J. Mozon Jr on December 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    In 1971, when African-American student population was about 3% I began my freshmen year. Ed Christman was the most significant person I met during those first days and his significance to me grew through the years. I will never forget walking into his office and seeing a larger than life framed portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I sensed immediately that this was a man I could trust. Over the years Ed was more than my chaplain. He was a mentor, friend, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brother. Brother Ed Christman poured into my life and shaped my ministry more than anyone else at Wake Forest. He allowed me to lead Thursday chapel services, encouraged me in establishing the Afram Gospel Choir (later the WFU Gospel Choir) and modeled the type of ministry I desired – inter-racial, multi-denominational and focused upon young people living their faith away from home. During my 30 years as a US Navy Chaplain I was able to periodically stay in touch and to continually draw strength through his Words of guidance and affirmation and prayers of intercession. My wife, Almena,and I were both enriched as students and people because of knowing Brother Ed.

  • From Judith Hogshead Jordan on December 25, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    My heart goes out to your family. Ed was a very special human being. I graduated from WFU in 1974. Ed Christman was a beacon for the student body, dispelling apathy and encouraging engagement & social responsibility at every turn. Another legacy has left this level of existence…

  • From Susan Speas Worsley on December 26, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Our sympathy to you, Jean, Carolyn and Kim. Ed touched so many lives. He was like a son to my mother.
    In Christian love,
    Janice Brown Speas
    Susan and Ed

  • From Beth Cockman-Wood on December 26, 2014 at 1:16 am

    I was honored to work as a student assistant to Chaplain Christman in my senior year at Wake and to speak in the Senior chapel service that year. I will treasure my many memories of Ed and Jean at BSU meetings, his many great stories, the chapel services I attended, and lunches after chapel in the Mag Room. He had such a gift for connecting with students. He was so kind, thoughtful, and genuine.

  • From William D. Hill on December 26, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Thank you Ed for the wonderful life.

  • From Jim Trent on December 26, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    A good man left us all. I mourn his passing.

  • From John Simms '76 on December 26, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    In sympathy and in gratitude for the many years of faithful service to the WFU community. Thank you.

  • From Neal Jones on December 26, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Brother Ed,

    You helped me plan programs for our weekly BSU meetings; you challenged me to have a thinking, activist, liberal faith with your chapel sermons; you introduced me to the writings of Frederick Buechner (to which I still refer); you incarnated God, Noah, and Samuel Wait with abandon on the stage; you officiated my wedding; you made me laugh; you made me feel at home at Wake Forest and in my own skin; you made me believe in myself; you served as my mentor and model for ministry; you and Jean were my adopted parents. You were a gift from Life to my life and to the lives of so many of us who will be forever grateful.

  • From Greg gerbil gelburd on December 27, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    it is difficult to sum up what Brother Ed meant to so many of us. My dad and I drove up to go to the preschool retreat at camp Haines and we could not get into my dorm over at kitchen. There was brother Ed carrying my giant stereo speakers and clothes along with my dad and I and stacking it all into his office. The retreat was magical and hanging out with Ed wa a great way to start school. We got closer as he was the advisor to our fraternity lambda chi. He got us out of a lot of messes, somehow w grace and love at times when he should have taken us out back and whipped us. Even 39 years later when he saw me he would always shout out “hey Gerbil”. Like how could he keep up with all of us and after reading all these posts how could he make each and every one of us so special. I love you Ed, you show me the wayto Christ and always will.

  • From Andrew V. Ettin on December 27, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Ed’s gracious, welcoming reception of me and the WFU Jewish community was memorable. Not only was he filled with generosity of spirit and truly of caritas. He knew how to listen to the experiences of others and learn from them; I recall him saying that he put aside sectarian prayer for meetings of the college and university communities beginning with the visit of Eli Wiesel to speak at Founders Day and receive an honorary doctorate. Ed and Jean also came to numerous campus seders and the earliest Rosh Hashanah gatherings at our house of the nascent Jewish Students Organization. I know that countless WFU faculty members came to know him as a friend, regardless of their race or religious allegiances. Ed was indeed a mensch!

  • From Stephen Walker on December 27, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Ed and Jean Christman have had a profound influence on my life for which I am grateful. They challenged my Christian faith to grow up and inspired me to take the first of many trips to serve in Africa. We were in the Passion play together in 1985 when we were all amazed at his acting ability as Noah where his slight of hand allowed the dove to fly off and land in his paws. As a freshman he allowed me to attend his Sunday school class for 4 years which was an enormous blessing. He helped introduce me to a medical practice in Elkin, NC where I have practiced for 22 years and he supported me in so many ways during those years. I cannot thank he and Jean enough for their influence in my life and their friendship . God bless Jean, Carolyn and Kim at this time.

  • From Dotty Reinhardt Alspaugh on December 28, 2014 at 2:08 am

    Ed Christman is the best Christ Man I ever knew. This humble, witty, caring personality carried me through the greatest tragedy in my life and although he could not see well, he never forgot a voice. You were known and important to him. I love Jean, Kim and Carolyn as well. What a blessed family.

  • From george williamson on December 28, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Back when Martin Luther King was alive and still considered an anti-Christ by most of the white south, when Wake was still an all-white institution, Ed had the entire door of his office covered with a giant blow-up of Dr. King. He’s been my pastor my entire adult life. My friendship with Jean and Ed, and with Kim and Stan, are monuments of grace in my life.

  • From Catherine Frier Korzen '82 on December 29, 2014 at 1:06 am

    My (future) husband John and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Ed better during the first Passion Play. Ed was a natural performer and genuine fellow cast member. He was even at the post-show party when the police came due to the noise.

    I remember two times when he did remind us that he was our chaplain though, as well as a wonderful Noah and Lazarus. Once was when Ed came to check on me and wait in the emergency room with John after I had tangled painfully with the 200-pound cross backstage.

    The other time was during the chaotic day our massive cast all tried on costumes at once. The terrific actor who played Jesus was trying unsuccessfully to push through the mob, and began using strongly-worded language to get other students out of his way. Ed called out over the crowd: “You tell ‘em, Jesus.”

    Only Ed could come up with such a gently humorous way to settle everyone down and remind us of the significance of the roles we were soon to play.

    In the many years since that play, I have loved seeing Ed at every Lovefeast, as well around campus. I was delighted when he and Jean asked me to show Kim around Manchester and London while I was overseas. When I started my first job, writing for a local arts magazine, Ed took me to lunch to brief me on the ins and outs of the arts scene in town. His extensive knowledge impressed (but didn’t surprise) me–and I was very grateful for his insight and time. He let our young daughter “roll” him with toilet paper when the Wake Basketball team won the conference championship in 1995.

    Memories of Ed are so much a part of my life that I was talking about him and his roles in the Passion Play this Christmas Eve, shortly before we learned of his death. Thank you to the whole Christman family for sharing him so generously with all the rest of us.

    Catherine Frier Korzen, ‘82

  • From Jason Cogdill 98/01 on December 29, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Christman family, our prayers are with you and will continue. I can think of no person that I’ve known who will leave more of a legacy of love and faith than Chaplain Christman. My heart is filled with gratitude because of the ways that God blessed my life through him. He was a mentor and a friend to us all, and I cannot even think of him without smiling at the terrific memories. We have all been touched, and he will be remembered well in Winston-Salem and points far beyond.

  • From Kelly Starnes on December 30, 2014 at 12:48 am

    I lost my father suddenly in my sophomore at WFU. Ed Christman was such a comfort and help to me during that time. I am saddened by his passing but know that as a believer he is in a much better place with a loving, merciful God…the one he reflected so beautifully while here on earth with us. My heart and prayers go out to the Christman family. We love you.

  • From James A Garrison '85, '92 on December 30, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    To Jean, Kim, Carolyn, and all the family —

    You all will be in my prayers. Chaplain Ed was a mentor and encourager for me in life and ministry, and was the best listener I have ever known. His joyous approach to life inspires me still, and his humor… well, it was unforgettable!

    I am a better person because Ed Christman touched my life, and I thank God for him.

  • From Anna Crone Montgomerie on December 31, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Carolyn and family,
    Sending you love and prayers. I have fond memories of seeing your father at CHF and at a few horse shows. I know he cherished you greatly.
    Sending blessings. Anna

  • From Beth Honeycutt and Brian Graves on December 31, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    We send our love as you grieve and cherish your husband, father and grandfather. We remember Ed fondly from div student days (2003-2006), which included Beth’s internships at WFBC and Salemtowne. More generally, though, our lives are continuously enriched by our relationships with Kim and Stan. We know Ed inspires and strengthens them in their work and witness. Thanks be to God!

  • From Donetta Pedroza on January 2, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    My heart goes out to the Christman family and all those dear friends/acquaintances on both sides. Ed’s daughter is a colleague of mine, and I know that although I had not ever met Ed, I have him and his wife, Jean to thank for bringing such a wonderful teacher and co-worker to this world (Kim)!

    My deepest condolences and joy in reading all these stories of a life well spent in faith,


  • From Lillian Shelton on January 4, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Emphatic. Prophetic. Challenging. Memorable. Dedicated. Only some words to describe the unforgettable Ed Christman. One of the few giant pillars of people that shaped the character of Wake Forest. Can we name something on campus to honor him?

  • From louise r. davidson on January 6, 2015 at 2:30 am

    Jean and family we are so sorry for the loss of your husband father and friend. Dr.ED was such an inspiration to me during my stay at the University. He will be missed deeply, Our thoughts and Prayers are certainly with you during this difficult time. we love you……… Willie and Louise Davidson

  • From Ray on February 6, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Does anyone know where Ed was laid to rest? I’d like to visit one day.

  • From Teri and Drew Epting '72 on February 8, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Jean and family,
    We are so sorry for your loss. Brother Ed married us almost 43 years in April of our senior year. His loving humor made our wedding memorable and his kindness was inspirational.
    Our prayer are with you at this difficult time.

  • From Carolyn Christman on February 10, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks, everyone! To answer Ray’s question, Dad is laid to rest at Forsyth Memorial Park Cemetary on Yadkinville Rd, just about a mile from the intersection with Reynolda Rd. The gravesite is located in the ‘Wake Forest section’ which is section 14, and the site itself is back near the woods. It is a plain flat marker which says Love Always.

  • From Brenda Brewer (aka McBride) on April 3, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    On this 2015 Good Friday, I am once again filled with memories of Ed’s Easter duties/responsibilities. Easter was another of his
    of his favorite times of the church calendar… Especially with the Moravian link. Ed and Richard once repainted the campus water tower one Easter Sunday pm… A a not-to-be published student message had been painted on the tower Saturday night, and they transformed it into the message to Easter Joy! He performed every task joyfully.. Will love him forever…