Innovation Honored

Founders' Day ceremony features remarks by former trustee chair Steel

Enduring tradition: Steel delivers keynote in ceremony honoring Duke legacy. Credit: Leslie Todd

In September, Duke celebrated its 109th Founders’ Day, honoring Robert K. Steel ’73, trustee emeritus, and Jean O’Barr, professor of the practice emerita of women’s studies, with the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service. The medal is the university’s highest honor.

Steel, who delivered the event’s keynote address, is New York’s deputy mayor for economic development and the former Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance. His remarks included a charge for Duke to make innovative strides in educating students to seek technological innovation, in institutional transparency, and in overall academic accountability. An impressive history, Steel said, “doesn’t guarantee success in the future.” He was chair of the board of trustees from 2005 to 2009.

O’Barr, the founding director of the Women’s Studies Program, retired last year after forty years of service to the university. She began her career at Duke as a lecturer in political science and then served as director of continuing education for twelve years. She founded the Women’s Studies Program in 1983 and served as its director for nearly twenty years, during which time she also taught the introductory women’s studies course and graduate classes.

Other honorees at the ceremony included Harold L. “Spike” Yoh Jr. B.S.M.E. ’58, trustee emeritus and former chair of the board of trustees, who received the Distinguished Alumni Award, and Thomas J. Ferraro, professor of English, who received the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award. Both awards are presented by the Duke Alumni Association. Ellen F. Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and practical theology at the divinity school, received the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award, given by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.

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