Alumni Happenings & News Briefs


DAA is pleased to announce winners of our 2015 awards. The 32 individual and group award winners were honored during a special Homecoming Weekend reception in October. The Distinguished Alumni Award, the association’s highest honor, was presented during the weekend’s Founders’ Day ceremony. The awards recognize outstanding achievement and commitment to Duke and its alumni around the world.


Mark Hecker A.B. ’03

Washington, D.C.

Service to a Local Community

Oftentimes it’s in helping others that we help ourselves. Mark Hecker’s revolutionary approach to tutoring is built on this concept and embodies the Duke principle of helping our peers. Hecker’s nonprofit organization Reach Incorporated has built a unique and flourishing tutoring community in the greater Washington, D.C.-area by pairing highschool students struggling in reading with elementary-school students who also are having trouble reading at grade level. The Reach program trains high-school students to be effective reading tutors and then pays them to tutor the elementary-school students. Both groups benefit through the interaction. Best of all, the program has shown results with all ages improving and attaining success in their reading efforts. Hecker—who holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke, a master’s of social work from the University of North Carolina, and a master’s of education from Harvard University—is a 2011 Echoing Green Fellow and a 2013 Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network Fellow.

Nominator Mike Ambrose, a former teacher and current education-policy advocate, says of Hecker: “I spend my days thinking about how to bring better educational opportunity to all students. If possible, one of my first steps would be to clone Mark Hecker. Where much of the country sees low-achieving high-school students who are statistically too late for intervention, Mark sees untapped talent and new hires who can positively shape the next generation of D.C. students.”

Maria Gibbs B.S.E. ’12

South Bend, Indiana

Service by a Young Alumna/Alumnus

Maria Gibbs understands more than most how to bridge the gap between poverty and prosperity. The recent Duke engineering graduate demonstrated that fact by earning recognition as one of the New Faces of Civil Engineering from the American Society of Civil Engineers for her impressive work designing and building footbridges to isolated communities around the world. Gibbs’ passion for this work first ignited when she learned of a rural community in El Salvador whose elementary-school students had to swim across a flooded river to get to school during the rainy season. Spurred to action, she traveled to El Salvador to help these students with a Denver-based nonprofit organization called Bridges to Prosperity.

Since then Gibbs has traveled to Nicaragua and Rwanda to help build and test suspension footbridges over impassable rivers. It is her desire to alleviate poverty by using her knowledge and experience to create safe access to education, health care, and economic opportunities. Gibbs received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and studies bridge aeroelasticity, focusing on wind-induced effects on Bridges to Prosperity’s suspension footbridges. She is earning her Ph.D. in engineering at the University of Notre Dame.

Sally Rankin M.S.N. ’78 and Rev. William W. Rankin II A.B. ’63, Ph.D. ’77, A.M. ’79

Tiburon, California

Service to the Global Community

The Rev. William “Bill” and Sally Rankin would be the first to tell you that their work is just a drop in the bucket of what needs to be done in the global-health arena. However, their dedication to putting knowledge in service of society is bringing hope to thousands in the sub-Saharan nation of Malawi.

In 2000, while working with an interfaith peace-building organization, Bill learned that a $4 dose of an anti-retroviral drug could halt the transmission of HIV from mother to newborn. That information was transformative for Bill. In response, he founded the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA), which brings HIV/AIDS health care and education to the estimated 930,000 Malawi citizens with HIV/AIDS and to their families. Sally’s contributions to global health match Bill’s in passion and reach — most notably her research on the adaptation of patients and their families to chronic illnesses, particularly families dealing with the challenges of HIV/AIDS. Sally also is recognized as a public-health scholar and expert and has worked with GAIA to empower women and to expand the number of trained health-care professionals in Malawi.

Collectively, the Rankins have written sixteen books or book chapters and more than 141 peer-reviewed articles. Both Bill and Sally have taught at the university level for more than twenty years and have held major leadership positions—he as dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and she as associate dean for global health at the School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco.


Kimberly Blackwell A.B. ’89, H.S. ’00

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Kimberly Blackwell embodies the innovation, passion, and drive that make Duke University the special place it is. As a clinical oncologist at Duke since 1994 and now as the director of the breast-cancer program at the Duke Cancer Institute, Blackwell has dedicated her time, research, and expertise to the mission of fighting breast cancer and saving the lives of women everywhere.

Over the past several years, Blackwell developed a new breast-cancer treatment known colloquially as the “smart bomb.” The FDA approved the treatment—officially named T-DM1—in 2013. T-DM1 attacks a particular protein found in an aggressive type of late-stage breast cancer while leaving the healthy cells untouched. The results are nothing short of miraculous. Women undergoing Blackwell’s treatment are surviving at higher rates and experiencing fewer side effects from chemotherapy.

Blackwell also played a major role in the development of another breast-cancer drug, known as lapatinib. Her research at Duke as the principal investigator for these two drug trials established Duke as the place where two of the last six drugs approved for breast cancer were engineered.

Blackwell’s groundbreaking research in the fight against cancer earned her a spot on Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list in 2013.

In addition to her innovative research, Blackwell serves as professor of medicine and assistant professor of radiation oncology at Duke University Medical Center and maintains an active clinical practice. Her clinical and research interests surround the formation of blood vessels in breast cancer, breast cancer in younger women, and hormonal therapy.

“The Duke community is what kept me here,” Blackwell says. “The brain-tumor group at Duke has a slogan: ‘At Duke there’s hope.’ And that’s really true. We do things here that can’t be done anywhere else.”


Edward J. Balleisen

Look no further than an oil spill or a financial recession to see ethical tensions begin to build as governments respond and recalibrate. Crises provide the perfect storm to influence governmental regulation throughout the world.

Understanding how the perception of risk in the midst of crises influences regulation is at the center of the “Rethinking Regulation” project by Duke history professor and vice provost for interdisciplinary studies Edward Balleisen. The interdisciplinary research program at Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics brings together more than forty faculty members and twenty students from Duke, N.C. State, and UNC-Chapel Hill to explore regulatory governance.

For his commitment to creative, interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship on the intersections of government, business, law, and policy, the Duke Alumni Association has awarded Balleisen its 2015 Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award (ADUTA). Balleisen was selected by a panel of undergraduate students randomly selected by the registrar who evaluated nominees on the basis of original teaching, fostering intellectual curiosity, and student engagement. He will receive $5,000 and the option to donate an additional $1,000 to a Duke library of his choice.

For the past decade, Balleisen has been a leading participant in the Tobin Project, an organization that fosters the creation of multidisciplinary scholarly networks focused on pressing public policy challenges. His work with the Tobin Project earned Balleisen a 2013 MacArthur Foundation Award for Effective and Creative Organizations. In addition, Balleisen has written widely on the evolution of American regulatory institutions and contemporary debates on regulatory governance.


Duncan F. McKechney ’19

A desire for answers in all areas of life set freshman Duncan F. McKechney on a path toward studying physics early in his academic career.

“I’ve always been into the biggest questions, the most abstract, out-there, what-can-bend-your-mind-the-most questions—and where I’ve always gone to find those is in physics,” says McKechney.

But McKechney, who was awarded the Duke Alumni Association’s annual Alumni Endowed Undergraduate Scholarship, says physics isn’t his sole interest.

McKechney has played piano since he was three and is a singer. He recently joined three campus music groups, including the Duke Chorale. He’s studied German for the past six years. McKechney is hoping to blend his love of the natural sciences, music, and languages during his time at Duke.

A visit to the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy lab that brings together Triangle-area faculty and students to study low-energy nuclear physics, solidified McKechney’s desire to attend Duke. He saw how collaborative and innovative the university was by bringing together top area faculty working in the physics field, and he could see exciting possibilities for his own research.

“It was the combination of what a pleasure it is to be here, as well as the people and the facilities, that made me want to come to Duke,” he says.

Every year since 1979, the Duke Alumni Association has awarded the Alumni Endowed Undergraduate Scholarship, a full-tuition scholarship for the children or grandchildren of Duke alumni. DAA selects the recipients on the basis of academic achievement and merit, as well as leadership that extends beyond the classroom. McKechney, who is from Fairport, New York, is the son of Heather McKechney ’92 and her husband, Michael.

His room in Gilbert-Addoms hall on East Campus is just a few doors down from his mother’s freshman room. Knowing that his mother has gone before him is special, McKechney says. “To have the same experiences that my mom did is going to be, I imagine, amazing.”


Jeremy Block B.S. ’03, M.P.P. ’10, Ph.D. ’10 —New York

Sarah Borns A.B. ’72 —Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Kwang-Lu Amy Chen B.S. ’00 —Boston

Cuyler Christianson A.B. ’76 —New York

Thomas Fousse M.B.A. ’94 —London

Alex Guttler A.B. ’05, M.B.A. ’12 —New York

Brian Greene A.B. ’05 —Marina Del Rey, California

Andrew Hananel B.S. ’01 —Chicago

Sarah Hostetter A.B. ’09 —Washington, D.C.

Katherine Hutton B.S. ’05, M.B.A. ’11 — West Point, New York

Jason Jones A.B. ’91 —Dunwoody, Georgia

Brooke Levin A.B. ’06 —Durham

Leslie Lewis A.B. ’79 —Longmont, Colorado

John Lipe B.S. ’02 — Charlotte, North Carolina

Pam Liu A.B ’11 —Cambridge, Massachusetts

Lyda Molanphy A.B. ’88 —Austin, Texas

Nicole Pilo A.B. ’95 —Charlotte, North Carolina

Kim Reed A.B. ’86 —Potomac, Maryland

John Shen M.S. ’96, A.M. ’98 —Long Beach, California

Jennifer Snook A.B. ’04, M.B.A. ’11., M.E.M. ’11 —San Francisco

Doris Stoessel A.B. ’67 —Tahoe City, California

Denis Weinstein A.B. ’12 —London

Class of 2009 Reunion Co-Chairs Duke Proceed Committee


Stuart Dean A.B. ’75 —Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sally Searcy Kleberg ’66 —New York

Harsha Murthy A.B. ’81 —Washington, D.C.

Karl Sheffield A.B. ’54 —Naples, Florida

Gregg Tenser A.B. ’89 —Manhattan Beach, California


Celebrate a Blue Devil

Know a fellow alum who is doing extraordinary things for Duke and the world? Help us find them. Visit to learn about our annual awards and to fill out a nomination form by February 1.

SAVE THE DATE FOR Women’s Weekend

The fifth biennial Women’s Weekend takes off in Durham February 18-20. Alumnae speakers working in diverse roles—from corporate CEOs to tech pioneers to activists—will lead interactive workshops for alumnae, students, faculty members, and other Duke leaders. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James ’79 will deliver the keynote address. Go to DukeAlumni. com for more information.

Rubenstein Library Reopens

Back on campus? Drop by the newly renovated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, named for Duke trustee chair David Rubenstein ’70. The redesigned space is now a state-of-the-art research facility where alumni, students, faculty members, and visitors can view rare books and scholarly materials. Stop by the soaring Gothic Reading Room and the new Mary Duke Biddle Room, where you can view Virginia Woolf’s original writing desk.

Duke Is Here: Houston

Number of alumni: 2,093

Young alumni (10 years out): 753

Local alumni events: About 20+ per year (Duke Forward is in Houston, December 9)

Who said it’s the Lone Star state?: Houston alumni get together regularly to volunteer at the Houston Food Bank, where they unpack and organize fresh produce, meats, milk, and other food supplies for the 800,000 consumers aided every year by the organization.

Good place to find a Blue Devil: Blue Devils are in good company at Pappadeaux restaurants, a chain owned by the family of Evy ’98 and Mary ’97 Pappas. Showing the flag: 83 Houston-area alumni volunteer to interview prospective students.

Notable Dukies: Duke trustees Christopher Brown ’81 and Ralph Eads ’81; Lin Giralt ’77, managing director at TestAnalytika, a company that helps doctors and patients in developing countries access U.S.-based cancer advisory services; Andrew Schneider A.M. ’95, Ph.D. ’96, a business reporter at Houston public radio 88.7; R. Chadwick Holmes ’00, a research geoscientist at Chevron; Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner M.Div ’08, a Houston minister who is leading a justice movement following the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell in July.


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