When a tiny schoolhouse in Randolph County, North Carolina opened in 1838, it launched an educational institution that grew to become today's Duke University. This timeline traces the history of the institution as it transformed from Brown's Schoolhouse to Duke University, and moved from Randolph County to Durham. Each day, Duke students, faculty, staff, and alumni make history in their own way and continue to write the story of Duke. The events showcased here represent just some of the most important events in Duke's history.
Timeline created by Maureen McCormick Harlow, 175th Anniversary Intern, and the Duke University Archives.
The school is re-chartered by the Legislature of North Carolina as Normal College, and its graduates are licensed to teach in the public schools of the state. The following year, the state authorizes Normal College to grant degrees, and the first are awarded in 1853.
Chi Phi is organized with assistance of the Alumni Association as the first student social organization. Alpha Tau Omega follows in 1872 and Kappa Sigma in 1873.
Braxton Craven had been a key figure Trinity College (and its predecessors) since he arrived in 1842. At some point, he taught nearly every class offered, and served as president.
On Thanksgiving Day, Trinity defeats the University of North Carolina 16-0 in one of the first modern football games played in the South.
A college cheer, beginning "Rah! Rah! Rah! For the deep dark blue!" is printed in April's Trinity Archive. This is the earliest evidence of the adoption of a school color. Oral tradition suggests that the color chosen was Yale Blue in honor of President Crowell, a Yale graduate. However, Yale did not adopt blue as its official color until 1894.
Then called Benefactor's Day, the annual celebration was established to honor Washington Duke. The tradition continues today.
Much of the charter and bylaws still remain intact. When Duke University was created in 1924, the only change that was made was to replace "Trinity College" with "Duke University." The first article in the 1903 bylaws, "The Aims of Trinity [later Duke] University," is reproduced on the plaque in the middle of the main quad on West.
After an all-night debate that began on December first, the Trinity College Board of Trustees refused to accept John Spencer Bassett's resignation, and on December 2 issued a statement in support of academic freedom. Bassett had recently published a controversial article and was under pressure from some factions on campus.
The group was in Washington as part of its annual Spring tour, a series of six away games.
In an early instance of a blowout, the Trinity basketball team defeated the Furman team by the score of 84 (or 85; sources differ) to 5. A home game with Wake Forest that year had to be canceled because the Trinity team wouldn't agree to play according to Wake's rules. Obviously, this was before the NCAA was established.
Alice Mary Baldwin took up her role as Dean of Women at Trinity College, becoming the senior female administrator and the first woman to hold a faculty appointment here. As Dean of Women, and later, Dean of the Woman's College of Duke University, Baldwin would guide generations of women students until her retirement in 1947.
Duke University is founded, named in honor of Washington Duke and his family. On December 11, James B. Duke signs the indenture of trust establishing The Duke Endowment, a family philanthropic foundation that supports education, religion, and health care in the Carolinas. Each fall, Founders' Day commemorates the event. Trinity College would become the name of the new university's undergraduate college for men.
Its admission into this prestigious organization of research universities helped to cement Duke's place among the top tier of America's research universities.
Duke University celebrates the centennial of its founding as an educational institution. Delegates from nearly four hundred colleges and scholarly societies attended. Speakers included the Presidents of Princeton and Brown Universities. The highlight of the celebration was an address by Eduard Benes, the exiled president of Czechoslovakia, who spoke about European politics on the very eve of World War II.
Formal faculty participation in university governance begins with the establishment of the University Council, a high-level advisory committee.
Senator Joseph McCarthy threatened legal action against the University if it did not suppress a faculty member's study of his Senate hearings about communists in the U.S. State Department. The study, "McCarthy versus the State Department," was conducted by Dr. Hornell Hart, of the Sociology Department, and was critical of McCarthy's methods. Duke maintained its traditional support for academic freedom. President Edens replied to the threat that, "It is axiomatic in the University circles that a professor has the right to pursue research investigations of his choice."
Over the next four decades Bill Griffith (known as "VPG" after being named Vice President for Student Affairs) would be one of the University's most dedicated staff, and a friend and mentor to generations of Duke students.
The renovated and renamed Flowers Building (formerly the adminstration building) is dedicated for use by the student-led organization responsible for planning and carrying out a variety of campus-wide cultural activities.
The term "Duke University Medical Center" is first used to designate the combined facilities for medical and nursing instruction, treatment, and research.
The group, called the Academic Council, forms partially in response to the resignation of President Edens and the Gross-Edens Affair.
A student-run symposium on national defense policy drew former CIA head Allen Dulles to Duke as the keynote speaker. The Duke Symposium series ran for eleven years and was ranked among most topical and significant public affairs programs in American universities.
After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., students first marched to University House, where Dr. Knight lived, and presented him with a list of demanded policy changes. When Dr. Knight refused the demands, about 200 students remained in the public part of the house for two days. The protest moved to the quad in front of Duke Chapel, where, for four days, over 1500 students stood silently on the quad in support of higher wages for Dining Services and Housekeeping employees.
The Institute is later renamed in honor of Terry Sanford and is now the Sanford School of Public Policy.
The merger of the Woman's College and Trinity College forms the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.
Researchers affiliated with the Duke Marine Lab announced their discovery of the wreckage of the Civil War ironclad U.S.S. Monitor, off North Carolina's Outer Banks. The wreckage site was discovered the previous August, and the ship's identity confirmed after several months of study.
Jean O'Barr is appointed the first director of the interdisciplinary program.
In the midst of the unmitigated, emerging AIDS crisis, Duke University Medical Center was one of the first two hospitals to conduct human clinical trials on AZT, a groundbreaking drug to improve the quality of life for AIDS patients.
This was the first major residential change to go into effect in 20 years. Living groups in the dorms are named Randolph, in honor of Trinity's birthplace, Randolph County, and Blackwell, after Blackwell Park, the old Durham fairground that Julian S. Carr donated as the site for the college's new home.
The School of the Environment is renamed the Nicholas School of the Environment in recognition of a $20 million gift by Peter M. Nicholas, Class of 1964. This gift, the largest exclusively for endowment in our history, supports a school with an emphasis on interdisciplinary teaching and research. The School had its origins in the former School of Forestry and the Duke Marine Lab.
The University begins a major project to upgrade recreational facilities; the Keith and Brenda Brodie Recreational Center is opened on East Campus, and planning begins for a similar center on West.
The team has been a powerhouse in recent years, going on to win National Championship titles in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2014.
The plan includes construction of a new dormitory complex to link Edens Quad with the main West Campus residence halls.
The initiative examines the experiences and needs of women at Duke and seeks to develop strategies to address the challenges faced by both women and men.
The program is created to inspire and support undergraduate women in the classroom and in campus leadership roles.
Previously named the Duke Museum of Art, the museum is re-dedicated in a new location after a major donation from the Nasher family.
False accusations of rape are made against three members of the men's lacrosse team. The scandal puts Duke at the center of an intense national debate about race, gender, and legal issues. The charges were dismissed and the students exonerated in 2007.
The program encourages undergraduates to examine and tackle societal problems both domestically and internationally. It provides select undergraduates with full funding to pursue a summer of service either in the United States or abroad. As of 2010, more than 1,000 Duke students had volunteered through the program.
It is Duke's tenth and newest school.
The largest capital campaign in the university's history, the seven-year drive aims to raise $3.25 billion.
The gift--the largest in Duke history--goes toward renovations of the West Union Building, and Page and Baldwin Auditoriums.