Duke Chapel has a special place in Alice Huckabee Crowell’s life. After all, she watched it being built from the ground up. As members of the Class of 1932, she and her peers were the first to commemorate commencement in the chapel when it was completed their senior year. Now 101 and living in Raleigh, Crowell recalls fondly the rhythms of student life—grabbing a pack of Nabs at the Dope Shop between classes, playing endless rounds of bridge, and spending weekends with day students who lived in Durham, where the sweet smell of tobacco wafted through the streets.
Her first two years at Duke were spent in Southgate, known as “the Shack.” The Woman’s College opened on East Campus in time for her junior year, and she and her classmates moved into Brown House. “Mary Grace Wilson was our housemother [my] junior and senior year when we lived in Brown House,” says Crowell of the beloved dean of the Woman’s College from 1930 to 1970. “We were told not to do anything that might reflect badly on ourselves or on Duke.” William Preston Few was the university’s president during her undergraduate years, which also saw the opening of the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and Duke Hospital.
Crowell’s family connections to Duke run deep. They include half-brother James Huckabee, Trinity College Class of 1904; brother William Huckabee ’25; sister Ellen Huckabee Gobbel ’28; niece Caroline Phillips Stoel ’35, J.D. ’37; niece Helen Phillips Aycock ’37; nephew James Huckabee Jr. ’40; niece Mary Weatherly Tilden Kavanaugh ’44; nephew Thomas Franklin Huckabee ’44; nephew Edgar Huckabee ’46; niece Margaret Huckabee Lawrence ’47; nephew Robert Huckabee ’47; niece Josephine Huckabee Fish ’48; nephew Rembert Ariel Rogers ’49, A.M. ’50; niece Page Huckabee Link ’53; nephew Carmon Huckabee ’61; and grand-nephews Arthur Huckabee ’82 and son Peter Stoel ’70.
After graduating, Crowell worked as a schoolteacher before marrying and raising their daughter, Molly Crowell Watters. For decades she returned to campus for football games, reunions, and Easter services and Christmas performances of Messiah in her beloved Duke Chapel. These days, she is an avid listener of books on tape (macular degeneration has weakened her eyesight), including The Queen of Palmyra, Zeitoun, and Unbroken. “I’m so proud of the education I got at Duke,” she says. “Everything was available to us.”
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All in the Family
101-year-old alumna has seen generations of Duke history
November 30, 2011