When Michele Miller Sales '78, J.D. '81 stepped down as president of the Duke Alumni Association at the board's May meeting, she left her successor, William P. Miller '77, not only the gavel of office, but also an entirely new set of university leaders: directors of both alumni affairs and university development, a vice president for alumni affairs and development, a medical-center chancellor, and a president.
The spring meeting was a weekend of transitions. An unusually large number of board members completing their service on June 30 were recognized. These included five undergraduate and graduate- and professional-school student representatives; three school and college representatives, Charlotte Reeves Clark '79, M.E.M. '83, Judith Ann Maness M.H.A. '83, and Allen Wicken M.S. '74 (all served the maximum six years); at-large members Joyce Harrold Hamilton '65, Bill Hanenberg B.S.E. '73, M.H.A. '80, Billy King '88, Bruce Ruzinsky '80, J.D. '83, and Jacquie Hatch Howard B.S.E. '85 (all served four-year terms); faculty representative Al Buehler, who retired from the board after seven years; past president Gary Melchionni '73, J.D. '81, who has served on the board since 1994; and honorary member Bill Griffith '50, who has been on the board since 1992. Also recognized was Edith Sprunt Toms '62, director of the Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee (AAAC) program for Alumni Affairs. "Their legacy," says alumni director Laney Funderburk '60, "is a stronger and more vibrant Duke Alumni Association and Duke University."
The weekend began with lunch on Friday and an update on the Kenan Institute for Ethics by its director, Elizabeth Kiss. Her presentation was followed by a student-made video on the role of graduate- and professional-school students, whose eight schools make up half of Duke's student body. Jackie Looney, associate dean of the Graduate School, and Cynthia Peters, associate dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, responded to questions from the audience. Lunch was followed by meetings of the various standing committees and then an evening reception and dinner to honor departing board members.
On Saturday, the board convened to hear reports from the trustee representative, the DAA president, and the alumni director. Immediate past president Wilt Alston B.S.E. '81 reported that, among the presentations to the trustees, Provost Peter Lange's on strategic indicators was of concern. A significant number of applicants to Duke and its peer institutions--including Stanford, Harvard, Penn, Yale, and MIT--consider Duke their safety school. Alston also reported that a survey of members of the Class of 2003 indicated dissatisfaction with their undergraduate experience. But, he added, the Class of 2004's senior-gift participation broke records.
President Sales reported that she had presented a state-of-the-alumni address to the trustees and had represented the DAA at the gala celebrating the success of the Campaign for Duke, the NCAA finals, and the Women's Initiative Steering Committee report to alumni in Chicago. She also reported that Alston had completed the Boston Marathon and that Tom Clark '69, the board's Regional Programs Committee chair, had been awarded an honorary degree by Kentucky's Union College.
Director Funderburk reported that the Alumni Endowed Scholarship would be upgraded to include full tuition and benefits, making it comparable to the A.B. Duke, Benjamin Duke, and Reggie Howard scholarships. He also announced that the DAA is sponsoring a new position at the Career Center: assistant director, alumni careers, which has been filled by Racquel White Williams. Her job is to provide individual counseling and career advice to alumni.
Standing committee chairs reported on their respective meetings. Tom Clark, who chairs Regional Programs, said his committee's charge was to explore the nature of volunteerism at Duke: why people volunteer, how to recruit them, and why they stop volunteering. The committee had been updated on AAAC activities by Carole Thompson LeVine '86, the newly appointed interim director of the program, and on the recent Reunions Weekend by director Lisa Dilts '83.
Charlotte Clark, chair of the Communications Committee, reported that the group's monitoring of Duke mailings revealed a diverse, if not excessive volume of material. Some committee members felt that e-mail options for receiving Duke information should be offered. The committee also discussed marketing strategies and the importance of the growing Web presence for connecting alumni and the university.
Pat Dempsey Hammond '80, Member Benefits and Services Committee chair, reported on the partnership with AllLearn, a provider of continuing education through online lectures and discussions. She noted that alumni travel was rebounding from the lull after 9/11, and that nearly 1,000 people attended the seventeen educational events in the Duke Directions program during Reunions Weekend. There was a discussion of the new dues solicitation, which will provide alumni who pay their dues a magnetic-strip card that gives them such benefits as library privileges and access to gated parking lots on campus after hours and on weekends.
The nominating committee then presented its slate of officers and new members for 2004-05, which was unanimously approved by the board. The gavel was passed to Miller, who declared the meeting adjourned.
A traditional feature of the spring weekend meeting is a Saturday afternoon community-service project. This year, Bill Griffith and his DURO (Duke University Retirees Organization) organized a project at Lakewood Elementary School in Durham that involved reworking the garden and greenhouse areas and assisting in the library. Nearly thirty members of the DAA board and alumni office participated.
Afterward, the board, alumni staff, and members of DURO gathered at the Bobby Ross Pavilion in Duke Forest for a friendly barbecue "cook-off," pitting, as it were, various regional styles against one another. The feast's centerpiece was an entire barbecued pig supplied by the DAA. Board members provided samples of their own favorite style: Bruce Ruzinsky brought Houston-style barbecued beef brisket; Ann Wooster Elliott '88 shipped Kansas City beef brisket and ribs; Allison Haltom '72 contributed Lexington, North Carolina, chopped pork barbecue; Kip Meadows '82 brought Eastern North Carolina chopped pork; and Bert Fisher '80, associate director of Alumni Affairs, provided a local "anonymous" pork barbecue.
"There was no outright winner," says Funderburk. "The voting was enthusiastic but inconclusive. The food was fabulous. We declared a tie and plan to 'take it up a notch' next year."