For the four McGlockton siblings, Duke has been far more than an institution of higher learning. It has served as a “catalyst and springboard for our success in life,” says the youngest, Tamara McGlockton Hill ’86.
There are other Duke families that can make similar testimonials. But what makes the McGlocktons’ experience stand out is that, over a span of twelve consecutive years, all four siblings attended and graduated from Duke. They are believed to be the first African-American family to achieve that distinction.
The McGlocktons were a military family. Their father, William Howard McGlockton, was a colonel in the U.S. Army, and the family moved frequently while the children were growing up. As a result, the siblings formed a tight bond, relying on one another for support, encouragement, and friendship. “We were very close as a family,” the eldest, William H. McGlockton II ’80, says. “We played a lot of gin rummy and Monopoly.”
After he graduated from high school in Germany in 1976, the family moved to Raleigh. William visited Duke and fell in love with the campus. “The architecture reminded me of old Europe; it gave me a sense of comfort,” he says. “I thought it was a beautiful, peaceful place to learn. It just felt right.”
Each sibling followed in his footsteps. The second oldest, Michael A. McGlockton B.S.E. ’81, whom Tamara describes as having “all the math brains in the family,” had earned a scholarship from NASA to attend another college, but his parents encouraged him to choose Duke instead. Michael says that, having lived in so many places, the McGlockton children adapted easily to new environments. “College wasn’t that big of a shock.”
The third sibling, Tarshia A. McGlockton ’84, M.B.A. ’88, says she considered attending Wellesley College, but chose Duke because “it was a good school and because my brothers were there.” By the time it was Tamara’s turn to decide on colleges, there was no need for deliberation or second guessing: She applied to Duke early decision. “I had looked at it for all of us,” William explains.
All four siblings agree that Duke was a life-changing experience. And, although some African-American alumni report that they felt out of place at Duke in the 1980s, all four McGlockton siblings say they felt comfortable, even embraced, while in school.
“Duke made me intellectually fearless,” Tarshia says. “It gave me a sense of not being afraid of challenges, to embrace new ideas.” While at Duke, Michael, a self-described introvert, says he “stretched out of [his] geek, nerd mode,” and wrote for Prometheus Black, the premier African-American publication on campus at the time. All the McGlockton children say they enjoyed their educational experience above all else. “Classes were so interesting,” William says, “it was an opportunity to expand your mind.”
The siblings say they attribute their success to the encouragement and support of their parents, William McGlockton Sr. and Lutrelle Winifred McGlockton. As a thank you, the McGlockton children gave them a piece of Cameron Indoor Stadium’s famous wood floor for their fortieth wedding anniversary, a symbol of the family’s intimate connection with Duke.
Although each sibling has grown up and moved on from Duke, the McGlockton family still maintains a special bond with the university. “It’s wound into my family—who I am,” William says. “I would never change it. I can’t imagine going anywhere else. It’s one of the proudest things I’ve ever done.”
Four Siblings, Twelve Years, One University
April 1, 2007