Duke University Alumni Magazine

"The debacle currently unfolding aboard Mir space station argues against sending people to Mars any time soon. To think about a manned Mars mission now is like planning your next cruise during an abandon-ship exercise."
-- Alex Roland, history department chair and former NASA historian, in a July 3 op-ed piece for USA Today

"The wonderful thing about spirituality as it influences health is that it's non-invasive, usually portable, has few side effects, and it doesn't have to await approval by the FDA."
-- Sociologist Linda George Ph.D. '75, a specialist on social connections and health at Duke Medical Center, in The Arizona Republic's "Wellwords"

"Duke football, next to God and family, is my whole life. I'll offer no excuses, only a promise from the head coach on down, we're preparing better than ever."
-- Head football coach Fred Goldsmith, in a letter to the Duke employees, offering a deal on season tickets

"The role of a successful peacemaker cum provocateur at a university requires certain personality traits I would not have predicted before getting to know you. For example, there's your contrary nature: If I suggested one way of dealing with a problem, you frequently chose another--and proved to be right. Then there was the question of your background and preparation: In all honesty, no credible psychiatrist, myself included, would ever have recommended that the various factions in a university community could be best drawn together by a former special agent of the FBI. But there again, I would have been wrong."
-- H. Keith H. Brodie, Duke president emeritus, in remarks at the birthday celebration of another president emeritus, Terry Sanford, who turned eighty in August

Does collegiate football advance the interests of participating athletes and the sponsoring schools or, as critics charge, does it exploit and drain away resources?

     This is a loaded question because the answer depends a lot on what you want sports--and colleges--to be. I encourage my students to think about the values that undergird both sports and campus life so that they can better understand the relationship between them. Many are surprised to learn how old this controversy is, how deeply rooted in core American values are the contending positions, and therefore how difficult it would be to change the status quo. Colleges have long used intercollegiate athletics to advertise themselves to prospective students and encourage alumni to give generously. But only a minority of colleges make a "profit" from their intercollegiate athletics, and alumni giving is not boosted by athletic success nearly as much as by a booming stock market. Students learn that appearances on television do arouse public interest in the college (as measured by applications and licensed-apparel sales), but that interest soon switches to next year's winner--and that even winning programs have diminishing returns.

     As for exploitation, this is another loaded term. I show my students data on the academic performance of intercollegiate athletics so that they can determine whether young men and women are being seduced into ruinous academic choices by the lure of athletic scholarships. The six-year graduation rate of athletes is similar to that of non-athletes, but big-time football and basketball players are still at greater risk of not graduating than non-athletes, especially if they are male, black, and playing Division I of the NCAA.

-- John Wilson, professor of sociology, who teaches a course on "Sport and Society"

School may have started already, but we thought we'd check with Jerry Eidenier at the Gothic Bookshop to see what the campus reading public was buying this summer. Here's an eclectic list of top sellers:

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. A summer surprise, this book by a North Carolina author is about a soldier making his way home after the Civil War.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. The movie's winning an Academy Award has kept this title on the Gothic's bestseller list.

Straight Man by Richard Russo. "Unforgettable, compassionate, and laugh-out-loud funny."

Contact by Carl Sagan. It's 1999 and a multinational team journeys out to the stars for the most awesome encounter in human history.

Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon. A novel about Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon as they surveyed the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland during the 1700s.

Desperation by Stephen King. It's scary, it's Stephen, it sells.

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham. It's litigious, it's Grisham, it sells.

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. "Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood," writes the author.

The Dukes of Durham and The Launching of Duke University, both by Robert F. Durden. A Duke professor writes the quintessential histories.

Outlive Your Enemies, Grow Old Gracefully by Terry Sanford. The former state governor, Duke president, and U.S. senator says, "I got interested in aging as aging got interested in me."

North Carolina, a Photographic Journey by Ann McCarthy. It's a great coffee-table book cum souvenir of the Old North State.

The Perfect Storm, a True Story of Men Against the Sea, by Sebastian Junger. "She's a comin' on, boys, and she's comin' on strong...." And soon afterward the boat and its crew of six disappeared without a trace.

Home Court: Fifty Years of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Published in 1989, it's a book with a bullet.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose. This highly praised book is descriptively titled.

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