Laney Funderburk '60, director of Alumni Affairs for the past twenty-two years, retired in December. In November, he was honored at a dinner in the Bryan Center by alumni, colleagues, and friends. One of the many presentations was a book of congratulatory messages to Funderburk written by Duke Alumni Association presidents. Here are excerpts from that book:
"It is hard to imagine Duke without you standing at the university's front door with a welcoming smile and warm handshake. So much has been accomplished on your watch, and we are all the better for the time we have spent with you working on all things Duke. You are leaving the alumni association in fabulous shape and poised for future success in its mission. Thank you for your 'outrageous ambition' to make DAA the best."
"Your leadership brought incredible changes to Duke alumni, to Duke, and to her future."
"Anyone who knows me would guess that I am pretty proud of being the first African-American alumnus to become DAA president. What you might not know is that Laney Funderburk is solely responsible for planting the seed that led to that accomplishment.... On behalf of those touched, prodded, plugged in, inspired, and improved as a direct result of contact with Laney Funderburk, I'm here to say, Thank you for being you, and for helping me be me."
"You have been a wonderful 'captain' of our team--always willing to consider new opportunities, always willing to engage in critical self-examination and renewal to keep the alumni association strong and dynamic."
"For the more than twenty years you have been at the helm, we have all admired your energy, your enthusiasm, and your commitment to sustaining ties between Dukies and their alma mater.... The university is in transition right now; and your legacy has set the groundwork for the new leaders to take us all to the next step."
"Duke is lucky to have had you in this job."
"No one understands the university better, and no one could have interacted with the alumni better than Laney. He was equally at home in dealing with an alumnus who graduated in the early 1930s or with a senior who was about to become an alumnus."
"You have been one of Duke's biggest cheerleaders.... You seemed to value all of our individual contributions, while recognizing our somewhat unique perspectives and different Duke experiences.... Thanks to your exceptional management skills and effective leadership, the alumni board could focus on the more creative side of alumni affairs, and I enjoyed the freedom you gave us to think outside the box."
"Through your insightful planning and leadership, the DAA developed outstanding relationships and programs to meet the needs of our alumni. The first alumni-wide survey that you commissioned provided us with an accurate picture of our alumni constituency. With this information, we were able to embark on many new and exciting programs and to develop significant member benefits. Through your leadership, we instituted the Life Membership Program as well as financially successful credit-card arrangements.... In our minds, you are Duke's No. 1 Ambassador."
"You have an amazing ability to make everyone feel important--that, at that moment, they are the most special person in the room.... I have so many wonderful memories.... Hard work, horseplay, friendship, family. And the friends I made during those years are some of my closest friends today. I can't imagine my life without them. And I count you among them."
"Over the years I've learned that Laney is greatly admired and respected by his peers not just for his expertise in the field of alumni affairs, but also, and probably even more importantly, because of his personal qualities.... Under his guidance, the alumni program has become one of the most respected programs in the country. His reputation among his peers as a 'good man' who 'really knows his stuff' has proven to be an invaluable asset in Duke's climb to prominence."
"It was truly you who drove the very successful DAA machine for the entirety of my involvement in it. The accomplishments of Duke's Office of Alumni Affairs and the DAA under your leadership are simply too long to try to summarize.... These organizations have had a major impact on the lives of Duke alumni, as well as on the student and academic life at Duke. While familiar with many other university alumni organizations, I don't believe any hold a candle to what you have accomplished in your tenure at Duke."
"You have led by example--the paradigm of what it means to be 'true blue.' My strongest impressions ... are of the respect and affection with which you were held by your colleagues [and] other alumni directors and program professionals from colleges and universities across the country."
"Your always-patient and affable leadership style, along with your professional skills, guided us to recurring success through the constant change of volunteer leaders. I learned a lot about the leadership of complex organizations from watching you during those years, and will always respect you for your success."
"You had put together a terrific group of alumni who were not only committed to Duke but also shared your vision of where the alumni association needed to go. This led to the creation of the Life Memberships ... [and] the now-famous Duke Credit Card. Happily, both will be your legacies that will help the alumni association continue to thrive. Another one of your, or our, successes was the Duke Magazine.... Clearly, the magazine was ahead of its time and has become a standard for other alumni associations. But in the end, Laney, I will remember you as 'Mr. Duke.' You were the one who attended so many Duke events all around the world and made everyone feel that they were still very much a part of the family."
"In the oil and gas industry, huge positive events are called 'company makers!' That is the rare occurrence whereby a company can vault many rungs up the ladder of prestige and relative impact simply relating to the one occurrence. I view you as a 'company maker!' for Duke University. As you know, I long ago noted that a degree from Duke University was an asset that constantly appreciated in value, and you, my friend, have been a major cause of that phenomenon."
"You have done a terrific job by any means of measurement.... Thank you for making my tenure on the DAA board so gratifying and fulfilling."
"Your effective enthusiasm, accessibility, perceptiveness, timing, and wisdom have spearheaded the blue-chip prestige that all Duke alumni enjoy today."
"When you began as director of Alumni Affairs in 1982, there was much to be done to make the Duke Alumni Association more dynamic and effective in serving Duke alumni and Duke University. You had a vision then, and your efforts and leadership over the years expanded the services ... and broadened the role and experience of alumni within Duke University."
"You served with distinction and have made everyone proud to be associated with you and, more importantly, to have you as a friend. I sincerely appreciate what you have done for me and Duke University."
"You answered the call and took the alumni office by storm, and success quickly followed: Duke Magazine, Alumni Scholarships, the Duke Credit Card ... to mention only a few. By every measure, the alumni association grew by leaps and bounds. We are indebted to you for your leadership through the years, characterized by your special talent for establishing a warm and welcoming 'open-door policy' for alumni in their every Duke encounter or event."
"We now have a wide range of alumni gatherings and programming that reinforces in everyone's mind why Duke is the unique institution that it is. Laney's willingness to experiment over the years with events such as reunion weekends has led to the truly amazing turnouts we see each spring. The excitement and enthusiasm that occurs in the middle of the semester sends a powerful message about the extended
"The Duke of today is in many ways quite different from the Duke you attended as a student or the Duke to which you returned twenty-five years ago. But your infectious affection for the place and its mission and its people has never changed."
"You have meant so much to so many of the now more than 125,000 Duke alumni and have instilled so much pride and loyalty in all of us."