ARTICLES BY Valerie Gillispie

  • November 25, 2021
    Duke recently announced a new residential plan, QuadEx, which will connect the East Campus freshman dormitories to one of seven quads on West Campus. As QuadEx is being launched, we might look back at another time when residential life underwent a massive change.
  • June 28, 2021
    Duke has always been a place with a sense of humor. From student pranks to improv groups, we like to laugh. Not everyone’s taste in comedy is the same, though, and in 1951, a difference in opinion between students and administrators led to the shuttering of Duke’s first humor magazine.
  • March 20, 2021
    Several years ago, I came upon striking photographic negatives of Duke students… boxing? Was that a real thing? A little research in the University Archives revealed a short but remarkable athletic program—one worth remembering.
  • Black Duke employees and white Duke employees, segregated at 1946 holiday party
    July 22, 2020
    I am writing two weeks after the murder of George Floyd, as protests against white supremacy take place across the country. Many Americans are reckoning with the impact of racism, especially as it relates to American history. I, too, am reckoning with the past, especially here at Duke. There are hard truths to accept in a place where many people feel warmly embraced—a place that many of us love.
  • February 26, 2020
    We are now approaching the 100th anniversary of the founding of Duke University in 1924. As we celebrate this milestone, it’s worth reflecting on how we came to have our two distinctive and beautiful campuses—and how different they could have looked.
  • Image of Central Campus construction, 1973
    November 19, 2019
    In May, students moved out of their Central Campus apartments for the last time. The buildings are now being razed, and the future of Central Campus is uncertain. Over its nearly forty-five-year lifespan as part of our university, the Central Campus apartments remained the same, but the vision for what they could be changed as the years passed.
  • May 17, 2019
    In the spring of 1987, Baron Maurice J.L. de Rothschild enrolled in the continuing-education program at Duke. He drove a Honda CRX but told fellow students that he had a Maserati at home in France, where his famously wealthy family lived in a 270-room chateau. He told new friends about dining with President Ronald Reagan and vacationing with the Kennedys on Cape Cod. He carried a cell phone and a laptop computer in the days when both were rare.
  • Duke library
    February 11, 2019
    Today, the libraries at Duke University are a hive of activity: As a space for reading, research, data analysis, the digital humanities, and socializing, the library is the heart of campus to many in the Duke community. When the institution was first formed, however, this central feature of today’s campus was absent. In fact, it would take decades for the library to occupy a place of prominence.
  • October 25, 2018
    World War II had an enormous impact on Duke, from the curriculum to the student body, from research to athletics. The campus hosted the Navy V-12 program, training thousands of servicemen. With so many students and local Durham citizens occupied with the war, the campus struggled to manage.
  • June 13, 2018
    This summer, anxious freshmen prepare to see their new living quarters and meet the person they will be living with for the next nine months. Duke students arriving as freshmen today live on East Campus, which has been specifically designated as a first-year campus since the fall of 1995. But the freshman experience has varied widely since Duke became a university in 1924.
  • February 7, 2018
    In an 1893 issue of the magazine Young Men’s Era, Trinity student Joseph S. Maytubby wrote an article titled “Opportunities Open to Educated Indian Young Men.” In it, he urges Native-American men to place a high value on education. “We see the advantages of an education,” he wrote, “no matter to what tribe or race he belongs who bears the brain in which the wisdom is stored.”
  • October 30, 2017
    As a former governor, Terry Sanford often used his political skills during his tenure as Duke president, from 1970 to 1985. One of his best-known missives, the “Avuncular Letter,” was sent to the undergraduate students in 1984. At once humorous and chiding, effective but gentle, the letter, signed “Uncle Terry,” is a triumph of Sanford’s acumen.
  • December 16, 2016
    As a popular cultural attraction in North Durham, the Duke Homestead offers residents and visitors a chance to explore the beginnings of the Duke family’s remarkable tobacco business. What most visitors do not realize, however, is that the homestead was part of the university for more than forty years.
  • October 21, 2016
    The extraordinary lives of the Duke family have inspired many endeavors— often artistic, occasionally fictional. Some efforts, like the television dramas about Doris Duke’s life, take great liberties in their effort to dramatize personal lives and can be unflattering or simply untrue.
  • June 6, 2016
    In 1956, the man to watch at the Olympic trials was sprinter Dave Sime, Duke sophomore and athletic wonder. He arrived at Duke on a baseball, not a track, scholarship; he had been offered twenty-two college scholarships but chose Duke with an eye toward a medical degree.
  • March 15, 2016
    As you travel past East Campus on Main Street and glance at the train tracks, you may not know that they were the site of a presidential visit 110 years ago, when Theodore Roosevelt brought his private train to Durham to praise Trinity College.
  • May 1, 2015
    Each spring, seniors are given the opportunity to climb to the top of the chapel tower and take in the stunning views. Within the tower are the carillon bells that ring each day at 5 p.m., as well as during university ceremonies. The chapel is perhaps Duke’s best-known building. But what is not well known is that a rarely visited room lies beneath the carillon level, about halfway up the tower.
  • February 24, 2015
    In the University Archives, we often get research questions about family members who attended Duke. Using yearbooks, photographs, and other resources, we can provide a general sketch of a person—he was a member of this fraternity, she lived in this dormitory. What’s missing is a rich description of the person herself. Did she enjoy school? Did he have lots of friends? What was she really like?
  • December 11, 2014
    One hundred and ten years ago, Samuel Fox Mordecai was named the first dean of Trinity Law School. Until his death in 1927, he earned a reputation as a brilliant scholar, but also as an eccentric: a man whose language was blushingly colorful and whose love of animals— especially dogs—made him unforgettable.
  • September 29, 2014
    The establishment of The Duke Endowment in December 1924 kickstarted massive construction plans at the newly renamed Duke University. Several existing buildings were to be removed: the library, Alspaugh Hall, Craven Memorial Hall, and Crowell Science Building. W.G. Pearson, treasurer of Kittrell College, wrote to Robert L.
  • Design for a Duchess
    November 19, 2013
    In 1942, the incoming freshmen arriving at the Woman’s College were offered a simple stapled pamphlet titled Social Standards. This document, produced by the Social Standards Committee of the Woman’s College Student Government, offered advice on how to behave, dress, and act at Duke. It included regulations—including four involving
  • Centennial year 1938 ceremony
    September 19, 2013
    Duke has the luxury of celebrating many anniversaries. Originally founded as Brown’s Schoolhouse in 1838, it formed a constitution as Union Institute in 1839, was chartered as Normal College in 1851, then as Trinity College in 1959, and finally as Duke University in 1924. Nearly any year can be celebrated as a milestone.


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