Exceptional Volunteers


Charles A. Dukes Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service to Duke were presented to thirteen leaders, selected for their work with advisory and executive committees, clubs, reunions, and the travel program. The awards are sponsored by the Duke Alumni Association. Named for the late Dukes ’29, director of Alumni Affairs from 1944 to 1963, the citations honor alumni and friends of Duke who reflect his dedication to the university. Selected by the DAA’s Awards and Recognition Committee and the Annual Fund’s executive committee, this year’s recipients are:

James “Jake” F. Akers ’73, longtime class agent and leader in each of his class reunions, including reunion class chair for his twentieth. As a class volunteer, he is described as “tireless (and relentless) on the phone asking his classmates to give to the Annual Fund.” As a past chair of the Annual Fund’s executive committee, he led the group through the decision-making process of setting the $100-million goal for the Annual Fund in the Campaign for Duke. He also helped the staff develop a new framework for reunion giving. “By volunteering for Duke,” Akers says, “we can help sustain the excellence and help ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to experience a Duke education.”

Peter Burian, professor of classical studies and comparative literature and Academic Council chair at Duke. Burian has assisted the Alumni Lifelong Learning and Travel program since 1993, when he chaired the first faculty committee to help recruit Duke faculty for the fledgling alumni continuing-education program. He served on the DAA board of directors from 1995 to 2000, both as a contributing committee member and faculty representative. In 1995, he led Duke’s first alumni college abroad program, based in Italy. The next year, he led its first family alumni college abroad; he has led two subsequent family abroad programs and an alumni abroad program each year since. He has also served as faculty speaker at many Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee (AAAC) student “accept parties,” and he has been a valuable resource in shaping alumni programs, including faculty recruitment. Says Burian, “It has been a special pleasure to work with active alumni, who are among the best informed and most avid supporters.”

James A. Byerly ’74, president of the Duke Club of Houston from 1989 to 2001. Over more than a decade, Byerly has overseen outstanding club programming, has cultivated new volunteers, and has encouraged broad participation through a variety of club events. As a member of since 1986, he has interviewed prospective students for the AAAC in his area. “Duke played an important role in my life,” he says. “My volunteer activities are a way for me to give back to the school that has given me so much.”

Melody Tope Hainline ’82, events coordinator for the Duke Club of Greater Jacksonville, Florida. Described as “a person of tireless energy and enthusiasm” who is “dedicated to seeing that anything and everything that needs to be done for the success of the organization is done,” Hainline has provided both leadership and guidance for the Jacksonville club, taking responsibility for organizing and arranging the details of most of its events. She has declined every invitation to move up to president, preferring her current role. She has served on the club’s board of directors and interviewed for the AAAC. Says Hainline, “I have continued to serve because of the caliber of people that I work with, both locally and at Duke. It is truly a joy and a privilege to work with the Duke club and to represent Duke University on a local level.”

Michael R. Hemmerich ’80, J.D. ’85, M.B.A. ’94, co-chair of the Fuqua School of Business’ Alumni Council and alumni chair of its Annual Fund from 1998 to 2000. Hemmerich has served two consecutive terms on the Alumni Council, 1995-2000. He was alumni chair during a time when Fuqua had few Annual Fund volunteers. He assisted its director by signing letters, making calls, and encouraging classmates and other alumni to support the school. Besides planning for his first five-year reunion at Fuqua, serving since 1995 on the AAAC, and serving on the Duke Law School Future Forum since 1999, he is a past president (1990-92) of the Duke Club of Northeast Ohio and, currently, a visiting faculty member at the business school. “Volunteering for Duke allows me to remain an active participant in the vibrant Duke community and to do my small part in helping the university achieve its ongoing mission of excellence and service,” he says.

Page Ives Lemel B.S.E. ’84, president of the Duke Club of Greater Jacksonville. Lemel began serving Duke immediately when she was appointed Young Trustee for a three-year term. She joined the engineering school’s Dean’s Council in 1985, where she was a member until 1998. From 1987 to 1993, she was a member of the DAA’s board of directors, where she chaired its Reunions Committee. She was a member of the AAAC from 1992 to 1998. She has served on the Jacksonville club’s board of directors since 1988 and as club president since 1994. Innovative programming, such as the annual dinner for both alumni and accepted students, exemplifies her creativity; she was also the first to encourage her club to have a website. “I volunteer,” she says, “as a means of demonstrating my appreciation to Duke. My hope is that others will leave Duke with the same commitment to stay involved.”

Ruth Ann Hall Sauter ’71, AAAC chair for Nassau County, New York. Sauter has been involved with alumni admissions interviewing since 1973. In 1978, she resurrected the AAAC in St. Louis, which she headed until 1984, when she moved back to Long Island and oversaw that AAAC. She assigns and coordinates nearly 300 interviews per year, as well as recruiting new members, planning annual accepted-students parties, and staffing college nights and fairs. She has been involved with New York City’s regional Duke club and reunion committees and co-chaired the Annual Fund’s Leadership Gift Committee in 1996 and this year. “I really enjoy meeting the students who want to be a part of Duke,” she says. “My husband [Michael A. Sauter ’71] and I are also proud to share Duke with both of our children,” Duke senior Ryan Sauter and Sheryl Sauter ’97, a 1997 recipient of a Charles A. Dukes Award.

John Tolsma ’95, a member of the Annual Fund’s executive committee since 1993. Tolsma is described as the “king” of the young alumni program. As a student, he helped develop the Building Bridges program, which served as the framework for communicating with and involving the most recent graduates. He became an AAAC interviewer immediately upon graduation. He worked for greater alumni participation by chairing the Graduate School program for the Annual Fund in 1998-99 and served on the leadership gifts committee for the Class of 1995’s fifth reunion. Says Tolsma, “Volunteering for Duke yields immediate benefits. You can feel the power of your time and service as the university rapidly advances. Yet in that dynamism, Duke still provides the foundation for building lasting relationships as we contribute.”

Joseph E. Walker ’51, M.D. ’60, class agent for the medical school’s Class of 1960 and past president of the Medical Alumni Association. Walker, a member of both the Davison Club Development Committee and the Medical Alumni Council Development Committee, also serves on the Medical Alumni Affairs Regional Planning Committee in the Charlotte area. For his medical class reunion, he spearheaded the fund-raising effort, raising a record amount for the Davison Club and Medical Annual Fund by issuing a challenge matching gift. Through his efforts, his class achieved a 60 percent participation rate for gifts to Duke Medical Center and a 47 percent participation rate for unrestricted gifts. He also recruited nine classmates as new Davison Club members. “I can never repay Duke—no matter how many years I contribute—for even part of what Duke has done for me,” he says.

Harold G. Wallace B.D. ’71, chair of the Divinity School’s board of visitors since 1998. Wallace, retired vice chancellor for minority affairs and special assistant to the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has served on the Divinity School’s capital campaign committee, building committee, and seventy-fifth anniversary planning committee over the years. He is particularly recognized for his efforts working with African-American students through various programs. He was a member of the advisory board of the Duke Institute for Care at the End of Life. “Since no person is self-made, we must acknowledge those persons and institutions that have helped us along the way in our careers,” he says. “My efforts at Duke are my attempts to give back to an important institution in my life. And I hope that I might make it possible for others to benefit from a Duke education.”

Patricia Speight Wilson ’76 and William T. Wilson III ’76, co-chairs of the Annual Fund Reunion Leadership Committee. The Wilsons, who were both members of the Executive Leadership Board for the Triad from 1993 to 1995, have a history of active volunteerism for Duke. He was president of the Forsyth County Duke Club from 1989 to 1992 and chaired the Regional Campaign Committee for the Campaign for Duke. She is a member of the Annual Fund’s executive committee; both are members of the Carolinas Challenge Committee. “Our volunteer efforts are one way we can express our gratitude to the institution and to attempt to ensure that the lifelong impact of Duke on its current and future students is as positive as it was for us,” says Wilson.

Russell S. “Rusty” Wright ’71, co-chair, Attendance Networking Committee, for the Class of 1971’s thirtieth reunion. Wright, who has been an involved volunteer in reunion planning almost since his first, developed a plan that recruits fraternity and sorority classmates to network within their groups for increased reunion participation. Even ninety days before his reunion, he had nineteen of the thirty-one Greek organizations connecting, and his personal follow-up correspondence made an impact on attendance. Says Wright, “Duke has opened many doors for me in life and I am happy to give something back in these ways.”

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