As we approach our beloved alma mater’s centennial in 2024, I am reminded how young Duke University is. However, in that short 100 years, what our students, faculty, staff and alumni have accomplished is incredible. From the humbling beginnings as a school in Randolph County, North Carolina, to the transformation to Trinity College and moving to Durham in 1892, and finally the renaming to Duke University after the establishment of the Duke Endowment in 1924, Duke has become a world-renowned institution. Its higher education and health care system are equally prestigious, attracting students and patients from Durham and around the world due to its cutting edge and innovative approach to the most complex of problems.
As I lead our alumni to the end of our first 100 years and into our second century, we will be celebrating our journey and embracing our future. 2020 was a tumultuous year for our country, both dealing with a global pandemic and grappling with the aftermath of the senseless killings of George Floyd and others. We were reminded that much work is left to be done to make sure that the voices of all people within our community and society are heard. We asked ourselves the hard questions of who we are and have we done enough. We also were taken out of our comfort zones and engaged in difficult conversations. President Price outlined the university’s commitment in how diversity, inclusion and equity are embedded in the five aspects of the university’s strategic framework. During the coming years, the Duke Alumni board will continue to champion this work we have started and will lead and represent our nearly 200,000 diverse alums in an inclusive and equitable manner.
We will continue to celebrate and recognize our fellow alums, including their achievements and the impact they are making to their local communities and the world. A small sample of this is highlighted by our most recent Beyond Duke Award winners. They have championed nonviolence and dedicating one’s life to the service of others; started an alternative to college for low-income Black and Latinx recent high school graduates; advocated for the tremendous work that our nurses do; organized the Jewish community in raising support to provide food, medical and psychological care for those in need; and, finally, improved cancer survival in Africa.
As we come out of the pandemic, we learned that we could engage in new and innovative mediums, which will provide opportunities to a much larger segment of our alums and support and enhance the lives of our students. We want to build upon our partnerships and continue the momentum to a much larger community. The alumni of Duke University are a diverse, global network that reaches every corner of our world, but we are all connected by a single thread back to the bricks of stately East and the stones of Gothic West. That single thread provides us the opportunity to activate anything we can imagine as we approach our second century.