General Duke University History
After the Civil War, as Durham became nationally known for brightleaf tobacco, Washington Duke, along with children Mary, Benjamin, and James, established a small business producing smoking tobacco on their farm, now known as Duke Homestead, a North Carolina State Historic Site. The business was founded as W. Duke, Sons, and Company in 1878 and would eventually develop into the American Tobacco Company. The family also had interests in Durham real estate, textiles, and later hydroelectric power, the foundation of today’s Duke Energy.
In 1890, Washington Duke provided $85,000 to Randolph County’s Trinity College to finance its move to Durham, beginning the family’s support for the school. Son James B. Duke’s creation of The Duke Endowment in 1924 provided ongoing funding for Trinity College (which changed its name to Duke University), Johnson C. Smith University, Furman University, and Davidson College, along with organizations supporting child care, churches, higher education, and hospitals throughout North and South Carolina.
Doris Duke, James B. Duke's only child, continued the family’s philanthropic work by setting up the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The foundation supports the arts, child care, the environment and medical research. Another family philanthropy is Durham's Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, established by Benjamin N. Duke's daughter, Mary Duke Biddle.
You’ll find a number of resources about the Duke family on the University Archives’ website, including:
- 1838-1842: Brantley York (b. 1805, d. 1891)
- Principal of Brown's Schoolhouse (1838-1841)
- Principal of Union Institute Academy (1839-1842)
- 1842-1863: Braxton Craven (b. 1822, d. 1882)
- Principal of Union Institute Academy (1842-1851)
- President of Normal College (1851-1859)
- President of Trinity College (1859-1863; 1865-1882)
- 1863-1865: William Trigg Gannaway (b. 1825, d. 1910)
- 1883-1884: Marquis Lafayette Wood (b. 1829 , d. 1893)
- 1884-1887: Trinity College governed by a committee of the Board of Trustees
- 1887-1894: John Franklin Crowell (b. 1857, d. 1931), oversaw the move from Randolph County to Durham, NC in 1892
- 1894-1910: John Carlisle Kilgo (b. 1861, d. 1922)
- 1910-1940: William Preston Few (b. 1867, d. 1940), oversaw the transition from Trinity College to Duke University in 1924
- 1941-1948: Robert Lee Flowers (b. 1870, d. 1951)
- 1949-1960: Arthur Hollis Edens (b. 1901, d. 1968)
- 1960-1963: Julian Deryl Hart (b. 1894, d. 1980)
- 1963-1969: Douglas Maitland Knight (b. 1921, d. 2005)
- 1970-1985: Terry Sanford (b. 1917, d. 1998)
- 1985-1993: H. Keith H. Brodie (b. 1939, d. 2016)
- 1993-2004: Nannerl O. Keohane (b. 1940)
- 2004-2017: Richard H. Brodhead (b. 1947)
- 2017-present: Vincent E. Price (b. 1957)
The University's current charter, bylaws, and mission statement can be found on the "Governing Documents" page at the Duke University Board of Trustees website. These documents, including sections of James B. Duke's Indenture of Trust that concern the University, may also be found in Appendix A of the Duke University Faculty Handbook, which is distributed by the Office of the Provost.
Duke University Archives holds the Constitution of the Union Institute Society, dated February 1839. This is the first governing document of the university and the oldest official record in the Duke University Archives. To view a digitized copy of this document, please visit our webpage.
Duke's Latin motto, Eruditio et Religio, translates to English as Knowledge and Religion, and is perhaps a reference to a hymn written by Charles Wesley, brother to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The motto appears in both the University's shield and seal.
The shield was commissioned in 1964 and decommissioned in 2009. While no longer used as part of the Duke brand, one may find the shield on street light signage throughout campus.
The seal also includes the Latin motto. As it is the legal signature of Duke University, it appears on diplomas and other official documents.
In March of 1890, after a lobbying effort and pledges of money and land from Durham leaders, the Trinity College Board of Trustees approved Trinity College’s move from Randolph County to Durham. It took two years for the school to complete its move and Trinity College officially reopened in Durham on September 1, 1892.
Union Institute was founded in 1838 by Methodist and Quaker parents, but had no formal denominational connection. Over time, most of the leaders of the school wereMethodists. When the school was chartered as Normal College in 1851, the Methodists were intimately but informally involved. The rechartering of Normal as Trinity College in 1859 led to an allMethodist board, although that was not mandated by the charter. However, the new charter of 1891 specified that 12 trustees each--out of thirty-six trustees total--be selected from the two Conferences of North Carolina. It was during this period that the Methodist Church was most closely tied to the institution. At no time did the school require that students enrolled be Methodist.
In 1903, President John C. Kilgo led an effort to change the charter to ensure that new trustees were recommended by a majority of current trustees, rather than simply having the individual conferences elect replacements. In this way, the role of the Methodist Conferences was reduced. As the College grew and became Duke University, President William P. Few saw the Divinity School (established in 1926) as being the appropriate place for a close tie between Methodism and Duke. Today, the Divinity School retains a connection and receives part of its funding from the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church. Trustees are no longer selected or recommended by the church.
I’ve heard that James B. Duke initially pledged his fortune to Princeton University, if the school would change its name to Duke University. When Princeton declined, Duke approached Trinity College. Is this true?
We hear this myth about Duke University frequently! Records in the University Archives show that Trinity College President William Preston Few initially proposed the idea of building Trinity College into a university to the Dukes several years before James B. Duke included Trinity College in the 1924 Duke Endowment Indenture.
Why Princeton became the university connected with this myth is a matter of speculation, but there are some connections: James B. Duke’s Duke Farms is located in Somerville, NJ, less than 20 miles from Princeton, and Princeton’s Holder Hall is often seen as a possible inspiration for the Duke Chapel’s architecture.
In the late 1880s, the student body of Trinity College, the institution that preceded Duke University, chose dark blue for its school color. By 1910, blue and white were often paired together in the college's songs and cheers and were regarded as the school's colors. The color known as Duke blue came about in 1961, when President J. Deryl Hart appointed a committee to develop a distinctive doctoral robe for the university. In 1965, the committee recommended to Douglas Knight, Hart's successor, that "an official University blue be accepted and approved. The color we recommend is neither royal nor Yale, but Prussian blue." Prussian blue is neither as dark as navy blue nor as light as royal blue—two colors often compared to Duke Blue. At its meeting on Sept. 23, 1965, the Executive Committee of Duke's Board of Trustees "unanimously adopted the recommendations of the subcommittee that Prussian blue be officially adopted as Duke blue."
Additional information about Duke blue can be found in the Duke University Brand Guide.
In the fall of 1911, members of the Trinity College Class of 1912 began a movement for a yearbook. The student newspaper The Chronicle reported that over 100 names for the proposed book had been submitted by the students, and that the name would be selected on January 15. The paper did not report on the selection procedure or the results, but the first use of the name in The Chronicle was on February 21, 1912. The first issue of the yearbook came out in May 1912.
While we don’t know exactly why the name was chosen, when used as a verb, "to chanticleer" means "to crow" and the rooster was a symbol of “crowing.” The 1912 yearbook, as well as subsequent issues, featured rooster icons on the title page, endpapers, and throughout the illustrations of the yearbook. It has also been suggested that a rooster was Trinity's mascot before the Blue Devil was adopted in 1922.
You'll find digitized copies of The Chanticleer here.
In addition to the legendary Duke-UNC basketball rivalry, both schools have historically had a long standing football rivalry as well. The first game between UNC and what was then Trinity College took place on Thanksgiving Day, 1888. Trinity won, 16-0.
The football rivalry was especially prominent in the 1920s, and UNC and Duke built new stadiums in 1927 and 1929, respectively. In 1931, Duke hired Wallace Wade, a successful University of Alabama coach who had led two teams to the Rose Bowl. He repeated that success at Duke, as the Blue Devils played in the Rose Bowl in 1939 and 1942. Wade’s assistant, Eddie Cameron, also took a Duke team to the Sugar Bowl in 1945 while Wade was in the Army during World War II. From 1931 through 1945, Wade and Cameron compiled an 11-3-2 record against the Tar Heels, avenging a series of seven losses and one tie in the 1920s.
Duke has had a number of traditions relating to its football rivalry with UNC, including bonfires, parades, and the exchanging of the Victory Bell, which was created in 1948 by cheerleaders from both Duke and UNC. Duke and UNC continue to regularly play each other as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Yes. The 1942 Rose Bowl was held in Durham on January 1, 1942. The Rose Bowl was moved from its traditional home in Pasadena due to security concerns after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Over 55,000 spectators watched the game at Duke Stadium (now called the Wallace Wade Stadium). Duke faced Oregon State in the Rose Bowl and lost 20-16.
Trinity College fielded its first men’s basketball team in 1906, coached by Wilbur Wade "Cap" Card (namesake of the Card Gymnasium). An alumnus of Trinity (Class of 1900), Card had returned to serve as Director of a new Physical Education program. Trinity put together a team, using the Angier B. Duke Gymnasium (also known as the Ark). Held on March 2, 1906, the Wake-Trinity game resulted in a Trinity loss 24-10 but is notable as the beginning of the "Big Four" Tobacco Road Rivalry. Even though the Duke-UNC rivalry is the better-known Tobacco Road matchup today, UNC did not play Trinity until the 1922 season.
Edmund Cameron took over coaching duties in 1929, bringing stability to a program that had seen ten coaches in fifteen years after Card left the basketball program. Later Duke's football coach, Cameron's tenure as basketball coach started a tradition of winning seasons at the collegiate level.
First adopted in the early 1920s, Duke’s Blue Devil mascot originated with the Chasseurs Alpins—nicknamed "les Diables Bleus"— well-known French soldiers during World War I. The soldiers' distinctive blue uniform with flowing cape and jaunty beret captured public imagination in the United States. Soon after the war ended, the Trinity College Board of Trustees lifted its quarter-century ban of football on campus and, in September of 1921, the Trinity Chronicle, launched a campaign to select a school mascot. Believing that the choice should incorporate the school color of dark blue, the newspaper editors urged a selection from among the nominations of Blue Titans, Blue Eagles, Polar Bears, Blue Devils, Royal Blazes, or Blue Warriors. However, there was no clear winner and no selection was made that year.
The following year, student leaders from the Class of 1923 decided to select a name and agreed that the newspaper staff should make the choice. William H. Lander, as editor-in-chief, and Mike Bradshaw, as managing editor, of the Trinity Chronicle began referring to the athletic teams as the Blue Devils in October 1922. Surprisingly, no opposition materialized, not even from the college administration. The newspaper staff continued its use and, through repetition, Blue Devils eventually caught on.
The Campus and its Architecture
According to the final report of the Duke Endowment’s Duke University Building Committee, dated June 28, 1932:
- $4,782,710.57 for the expansion and reconstruction of East Campus (then known as the Woman’s College).
- $16,373,421.84 for the brand-new West Campus, including the purchase of 5,080 acres of land.
The university spent an additional $1,124,195.75 of its own funds for a gymnasium, football stadium, athletic practice fields, and twelve residences for administrators and faculty members.
- On East Campus, Washington Duke, who began the family's tie to Trinity College with a donation of money for buildings and endowment in 1890, is memorialized by a unique seated statue near the main entrance to East Campus.
- Also on East Campus is Washington Duke’s son, Benjamin Newton Duke, whose statue is in front of Baldwin Auditorium.
- Another East Campus statue, The Sower, depicts a passage from the Bible. The Sower was a gift of James B. Duke in 1914.
- On West Campus, a large statue of James B. Duke, another son of Washington Duke and founder of The Duke Endowment, is located in front of Duke Chapel.
- Near the French Family Science Center, there is an unusual pair of statues, one depicting Knut Schmidt-Nielsen and the other a camel. Schmidt-Nielsen, a longtime professor of biology, did some of his most important research with camels.
- Within the athletics area of West Campus, there are mounted busts of Coaches Wallace Wade, William D. "Bill" Murray, Edmund M. "Eddie" Cameron, and John Wesley "Jack" Coombs marking athletic facilities named in their honor.
The Duke University Chapel Carillon refers to the set of bells installed in the top of Duke Chapel. The carillon was donated by George G. Allen and William R. Perkins of the Duke Endowment in April 1930. The Duke carillon was cast by the Taylor Bell Foundry of Loughborough, England. The carillon was installed in 1932, and the playing mechanism was completely renovated by the same foundry in the summer of 1992. The Duke carillon has 50 bells ranging over four chromatic octaves varying in weight from 10 to 11,200 pounds and in size from 8 inches to 6 feet, 9 inches in diameter. Traditionally, the Duke carillon is played on weekdays at 5:00, as well as on special university occasions.
The Duke carillon is played by the University Carillonneur. Previous carillonneurs include Anton Brees, who played the first recital in June 1932, and J. Samuel Hammond, who began playing the carillon in 1965 and was named University Carillonneur emeritus in 2018. The Board of Trustees named the carillon for J. Samuel Hammond in December 2018.
Read more about the Carillon on the Duke University Chapel's website.
Found near Wade Stadium in the Blue Zone parking lot, this is the privately-owned cemetery of the Rigsbee family. Brothers Jesse and T. J., along with their families, lived on and farmed a large portion of the land that is now Duke’s West Campus. The family sold their land to Duke University in 1925, with the exception of the cemetery, which the family still maintains.
Stone from a Duke University-owned quarry in Hillsborough, North Carolina lends a unique look to the buildings of West Campus. Selected in 1925 for its attractive variant colors and the low cost of transporting a local resource, the stone—sometimes called “bluestone” or “Hillsborough stone”—was brought directly to West Campus by train in the late 1920s, with a railroad spur running down what is now Abele Quad. The stone continues to be quarried for campus building projects today.
What information do you have about the stone figures flanking the portal to the Duke University Chapel?
Read more about the Chapel's stone figures.
Duke University's football stadium (named for Coach Wallace Wade in 1967) became the first building on Duke University's West Campus to see official use, when the Blue Devils faced off against the Pittsburgh Panthers on October 5, 1929 (Duke lost this game, but would go on to develop a strong football program in the 1930s under Wade's leadership).
Other buildings would not see official use until nearly a year later in 1930, when the hospital opened on July 1. The rest of the buildings were first used in September 1930 when the new academic year began.
Han Chiao-shun (Charles "Charlie" Jones Soong) was Duke's first international student. Soong was born in the Wench'ang district of the island of Hainan, China in 1866. At twelve years old, he was adopted by a maternal uncle and emigrated to the United States where he lived in Boston before relocating to North Carolina.
When Soong expressed interest in gaining an education to return to China as a missionary, his education at Trinity College was financed by General Julian S. Carr. In 1881 and 1882 Soong attended Trinity College as a "special and preparatory student" where he studied under Dr. Braxton Craven, Trinity's president.
In the fall of 1882 he entered the theological seminary of Vanderbilt University.
From its beginning, Duke relied on Black workers in positions within the dining halls, custodial service, and maid service. An African-American architect, Julian Abele, was the chief designer of the main quads of East and West Campus. These buildings were constructed by Black and white workers between 1925 and 1932. Desegregating Duke was a long process begun in 1948 with a petition by Divinity School students stating they “would welcome the fellowship, stimulation, and fuller Christian cooperation that we feel would exist here if Negro students were to join us in our common Christian study as ministers of the Gospel.” The 1951 basketball game between Duke and Temple University with an African-American starter, Samuel Sylvester, marked the campus’s first interracial basketball game.
But it was not until 1961 that Duke agreed to admit African Americans into its graduate and professional schools. Walter Thaniel Johnson, Jr., and David Robinson entered the Law School in 1961. In Divinity, Reuben Lee Speaks entered as a special student in 1961, followed by regular degree candidates Matthew A. Zimmerman and Donald Ballard in 1962. Ida Stephens Owens, James Nathaniel Eaton, and Odell Richardson Reuben entered the Graduate School in 1962. The Medical School admitted Delano Meriwether in 1963. Also in 1963 Duke admitted its first Black undergraduates: Gene Kendall, Mary Mitchell Harris, Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, Cassandra Smith Rush and Nathaniel White, Jr.
- "The Road to Desegregation at Duke," an online exhibit based on University Archives materials.
- Legacy, 1963-1993: Thirty Years of African-American Students at Duke University, a book prepared by the Office of the President to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the integration of the undergraduate colleges.
Booker T. Washington, educator and reformer, first president and principal developer of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), and influential spokesman for African Americans was the first Black speaker on Duke’s campus. President John C. Kilgo had met Washington at the Durham County Colored Fair in 1896, and invited him to speak at Chapel exercises on the Trinity campus. Although the speech was not covered in local or state publications, the national progressive weekly magazine Outlook noted that Washington's speech was received with "marked enthusiasm" and that his entourage of a half-dozen colleagues was treated with the "greatest courtesy," even receiving a "hearty college yell" by the students as they departed the campus.
Find a complete list of student government presidents here.
Find a complete list of editors of The Chronicle here.
Trinity College awarded its first honorary degrees in 1855. Today, honorary degrees are bestowed by a Board of Trustees committee made up of trustee and faculty members. The committee provides this list of past recipients.
One of the highest honors bestowed upon members of the Duke community, the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service at Duke is awarded annually at the Founder’s Day ceremony. It recognizes outstanding contributions to the university by trustees and faculty or staff.
|1986||Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans (Trustee) & R. Taylor Cole (Faculty/Staff)|
|1987||Juanita Kreps (Trustee) & Reynolds Price (Faculty/Staff)|
|1988||W. M. Upchurch, Jr. (Trustee) & Richard L. Watson, Jr. (Faculty/Staff)|
|1989||Kenneth Goodson (Trustee) & Marcus E. Hobbs (Faculty/Staff)|
|1990||Charles B. Wade (Trustee) & Mary Grace Wilson (Faculty/Staff)|
|1991||Marshall I. Pickens (Trustee) & Anne Firor Scott (Faculty/Staff)|
|1992||David C. Sabiston, Jr. (Faculty/Staff) & Terry Sanford (Faculty/Staff)|
|1993||Samuel Dubois Cook (Trustee) & Pelham Wilder, Jr. (Faculty/Staff)|
|1994||Isobel Craven Drill (Trustee) & Paul J. Dumas (Faculty/Staff)|
|1995||John W. Chandler (Trustee) & Anne Walker Garrard (Faculty/Staff)|
|1996||William Griffith (Faculty/Staff) & Eugene Stead, M.D. (Faculty/Staff)|
|1997||Charles Johnson (Faculty/Staff) & Mike Krzyzewski (Faculty/Staff)|
|1998||Thomas Langford (Faculty/Staff)|
|1999||The award was not given this year. Honorary degrees were awarded to Anthony D. Duke & James H. Semans instead.|
|2000||Robert F. Durden (Faculty/Staff) & Ella Fountain Pratt (Faculty/Staff)|
|2001||Susan Bennett King (Trustee) & Thomas F. Keller (Faculty/Staff)|
|2002||John Alexander McMahon (Trustee) & William G. Anlyan (Faculty/Staff)|
|2003||A. Morris Williams, Jr. (Trustee), Joseph G. Pietrantoni (Faculty/Staff) & Nannerl O. Keohane (Faculty/Staff)|
|2004||Ernestine Friedl (Faculty/Staff) & Samuel L. Katz (Faculty/Staff)|
|2005||William E. King (Faculty/Staff)|
|2006||Ruby Leila Wilson (Faculty/Staff) & William "Jimmy" Wallace, Jr. (Faculty/Staff)|
|2007||John A. Koskinen (Trustee) & John J. Piva Jr. (Faculty/Staff)|
|2008||John A. Forlines, Jr. (Trustee) & N. Allison Haltom (Faculty/Staff)|
|2009||Joel L. Fleishman (Faculty/Staff) & Ernest Mario (Trustee)|
|2010||Jean Fox O'Barr (Faculty/Staff) & Robert Steel (Trustee)|
|2011||James Bonk (Faculty/Staff) & Karl von der Heyden (Trustee)|
|2012||Rebecca Trent Kirkland (Trustee) & Judith L. Ruderman (Faculty/Staff)|
|2013||Daniel T. Blue, Jr. (Trustee) & Gerald L. Wilson (Faculty/Staff)|
|2014||Cookie Anspach Kohn (Trustee) & Horst Meyer (Faculty/Staff)|
|2015||Al Buehler (Faculty/Staff) & Paula Burger (Trustee)|
|2016||Oscar Dantzler (Faculty/Staff) & Bruce Karsh (Trustee)|
|2017||Catherine Gilliss (Faculty/Staff) & Peter Lange (Faculty/Staff)|
|2018||Thomas Gorrie (Trustee) & Sally Robinson (Trustee)|
|2019||David M. Rubenstein (Trustee) & Brenda Armstrong (Faculty/Staff)|
|2020||no medals awarded|
How can I find past recipients of the Duke Alumni Association's awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award?
The Duke Alumni Association maintains a list of the past recipients of their annual awards, which may be viewed here.
Who has given the address at the annual Convocation for New Graduate and Professional School Students?
|1987||Robert F. Durden||Professor of History|
|1988||John Hope Franklin||
James B. Duke Professor of History
|1989||Leonard Silk||Economist, Columnist, The New York Times|
|1990||Dennis O'Connor||Provost, UNC-Chapel Hill|
|1991||Paul Hardin||Chancellor, UNC-Chapel Hill|
|1992||Craufurd D. Goodwin||James B. Duke Professor of Economics|
|1993||Nannerl O. Keohane||President|
|1994||John. W. Strohbehn||Provost|
|1995||Alasdair MacIntyre||Arts & Sciences Professor of Philosophy|
|1996||Karla F. C. Holloway||James B. Duke Professor of English|
|1997||William H. Chafe||Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and of Trinity College|
|1998||Nannerl O. Keohane||President|
|2000||Cathy N. Davidson||Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies|
|2001||Robert Richardson||Duke Trustee|
|2002||Douglas Breeden||Dean of Fuqua School of Business|
|2003||R. Sanders Williams||Dean of the School of Medicine|
|2005||Kristina M. Johnson||Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering|
|2006||Katherine Bartlett||Dean of the School of Law|
|2007||Paula McClain||Professor of Political Science & Public Policy|
|2009||Gregory L. Jones||Dean of Divinity School|
|2010||Jo Rae Wright||Dean of the Graduate School|
|2011||William Chameides||Dean of the Nicolas School for the Environment|
|2012||Mohamed Noor||Earl D. McLean Professor & Associate Chair of Biology|
|2013||John H. Aldrich||Pfizer-Pratt University Professor of Political Science and President-elect of the American Political Science Association|
|2014||Arlie O. Petters||Benjamin Powell Professor and Professor of Mathematics, Physics, and Business Administration|
|2015||Nan Marie Jokerst||J. A. Jones Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering|
|2016||Susan Lozier||Ronie-Richelle Garcia-Johnson Professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences|
|2017||David F. Levi||James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean of the Duke School of Law|
|2018||Richard Powell||John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History (link to address)|
|2019||James E. Coleman, Jr.||John S. Bradway Professor of the Practice of Law, Duke School of Law|