Why do you volunteer for Duke?
I volunteer for Duke because I can’t say no to you. Like so many of our alums, I love Duke. I’m a first-generation student. Duke helped me find my voice. It opened up to me possibilities of what my life could be like. It helped me figure out what I wanted it to be like—and I want other students to be able to come here and have the same experiences I’ve had.
What has been your favorite volunteer role over the years?
I do love calling people and asking them for money, as a Duke Annual Fund volunteer. It’s July 1, and they’re like, “Jack, you have to stop. The deadline for the fiscal year was yesterday.” The reason I love it so much is I got a lot of financial aid to come to Duke. I feel like it’s my chance to help someone like me. Beyond volunteering for the Annual Fund, Duke Alums Engage has been a real passion. I really believe in the mission of Duke Alums Engage. Every year for the past six years in New York City, where I live, Duke Alums Engage puts on a free health fair in a Harlem neighborhood. We have engaged hundreds of alumni. I think it’s a tremendous way for alums to come together and do great things in the name of Duke. I think it speaks to the spirit of Duke. Knowledge in the service of society resonates with so many of us alumni. It’s such a proud moment for me.
What is your message to Duke alumni who haven’t found a way to get involved with Duke after graduating?
I think as a student I thought of an alumni association as a place where people come together to relive the past. That’s what alumni associations mean to many people. If you look at what the Duke Alumni Association actually means today, it’s about making connections and being part of education. So it’s really about the present and the future. If you want to get involved in Duke, it’s not about the past, it’s about the future. The Duke Alumni Association is headed in an exciting direction. We’re planning an alumni and visitor’s center for the future, and I think that sends a message that Duke cares about its alumni. We’re 163,000 people. We are the biggest constituency of the university by far. Our voice has to matter. Our place in the university has to matter as well. To have a physical place speaks to that in a big way. It’s a place where connections are going to happen. If we can use the power of the 163,000 alums that we have to strengthen those connections and to help each other, then that is really meaningful. I would hope that people would see other ways to be engaged with Duke as a result.