Duke University Alumni Magazine

We asked some editors of the summer edition of The Chronicle: What are you reading for pleasure this summer?

Besides copy and galleys during their summer stints on campus, our editors managed to read quite an assortment. Junior Jaime Levy, co-university editor, says she read Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities "for the third time and The Awakening by Kate Chopin for the first," as well as Judy Blume's Summer Sisters--"what's summer without a trashy novel?"

Sophomore Rami Zheman, an associate editor, finished Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, which he says he began reading last summer. To round out his pursuits, the double-major in biomedical and electrical engineering says he chose George Orwell's 1984 and James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. "I decided that meaningful books would do more for me than run-of-the-mill, formulaic Grisham-esque books."

Features editor and senior Kelly Woo re-read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, "an annual summer event for me." Having taken a class with Ariel Dorfman, "a wonderful professor," she completed his memoir Heading South, Looking North, as well as his new novel, The Nanny and the Iceberg.

The Chronicle's online creative developer, Rob Starling, a senior, read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams for its "light, fast-paced humor." He also tackled Why I Am Not a Christian, a collection of Bertrand Russell's essays "that comment on the foundations and effects of Christianity and religion in general."

Mary Carmichael, a senior, editor of the new TowerView magazine insert, and former summer intern at the News & Observer, apparently takes her field seriously. She discovered Personal History, the autobiography of Katherine Graham, retired publisher of The Washington Post. Besides "dipping into Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse," she's awaiting the new book on The New York Times' family dynasty by Susan Tifft '73 and Alex Jones, who share the Sanford Institute's Patterson Professorship. "He's something of a mentor, and I plan on buying it the second it comes out."

"The high quality of student athletes we have here at Duke, as evidenced by this significant national award, is one of the prime reasons I'm excited about being here."
--Football coach Carl Franks '83 on the team's receiving the American Football Coaches Association's Academic Achievement Award for the 100 percent graduation rate of all 12 members of its 1993-94 freshman class, in Duke Dialogue "I found Duke to be a laid-back, warm, and friendly sort of place. Duke versus Harvard is like 'warm fuzzy' versus 'cold prickly,' and not just because of the weather."
--Melanie Wood '03, one of 18 Angier B. Duke Scholars selected, and among the largest matriculating group of those offered the scholarship in the last few years "Respect for the Constitution and the institutions it created, all three branches--the judicial, the executive, and, yes, that unpopular first branch, Congress--and a willingness to participate in them are the glue that keeps the country together."
--Journalist Cokie Roberts in her Commencement address to the Class of 1999 in May at Wallace Wade Stadium "It's really important for us to promote this victory and do whatever we can to get the league established. I want women who love soccer as much as I do to be able to play."
--Carla Overbeck, Duke assistant women's soccer coach and member of the World Cup-champion U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, in the Raleigh News & Observer, on the media spotlight that included being honored at the White House and a team appearance on the David Letterman TV show in July

Where might we find God's work in the tragedies that have befallen the Kennedy family--most recently, with the death of John F. Kennedy Jr.?

I like the way the question is put; we aren't saying that God willed or wanted the death of this young man and the suffering of this much buffeted family. The Kennedys have borne a great deal of tragedy without, so far as I can tell, an ounce of self-pity. This is a great achievement in a society like ours; perhaps this is a tribute to their Catholic faith.

Mr. Kennedy's death might have been due to poor judgment, a lack of skill in aviation, or just unfortunate circumstance, but it was not due to God. Yet, when tragedy happens, particularly so much tragedy within one family, we wonder, "What is God up to now?" Not, "Why did God cause the tragedy?" but, "What can God do with such a tragedy?"

Martin Luther once said, "God can ride a lame horse or shoot straight with a crooked bow." Christians do not believe that we have an "answer" to the tragedies of life, rather that what we have is a God who, in Jesus Christ, enters tragedy, stands with us, and makes a way through. The cross of Christ, the greatest of the world's tragedies, is a sign. Not of an answer or a reason for the hurt that happens in life--it is something even better. The cross is a sign that God is with us, particularly in the dark times. The cross says, wherever there is tragedy, injustice, pain, there is God.

God is able miraculously to weave even the worst events of our lives into God's loving purposes for the world. When good is wrenched from evil, that is us--and God--at our best. How could a family so rich and privileged have so great a sense of public duty, so great a concern for those less fortunate than themselves? Perhaps the pain they know has made them more empathetic with the needs of others. Perhaps they know that, for millions, tragedy is a way of life, not a momentary occurrence. Perhaps they know that God does not will such pain, but gives us resources for reaching out to others in pain and, to some degree, setting evil right. If that is the case, then we can look at this family's considerable public service and say, there is God.

--William H. Willimon, dean of the Chapel and professor of Christian ministry in the Divinity School

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