From the president: Summing up the first year

As Duke was celebrating its newest graduates, President Vincent E. Price was marking the end of his freshman year. Here he responds to questions from the magazine’s editor, with first-year reflections on campus hangouts, canine habits, presidential portraits, leaping lemurs, and more.
June 12, 2018

What’s your best piece of advice to newly arrived Duke first-years?

Embrace the creative confusion of your time at Duke, the freedom to explore new ideas and try out the full range of possibilities before you. And more important, get some sleep!

What’s your best piece of advice to freshly graduated seniors?

Stop now and then—especially when you are at your busiest—to pause, reflect, and relax. These pauses will help clear the path ahead.

What’s your favorite place to hang out on campus?

Duke Gardens or the Al Buehler Trail with my dogs, Cricket and Scout.

What’s your favorite space to stroll in the Duke Gardens?

I enjoy the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, which demonstrates North Carolina’s rich biodiversity, although the dogs aren’t allowed in that section.

With the move south, what’s the favorite season for your dogs?

Cricket and Scout have absolutely loved their first spring on campus, which they’ve spent chasing the squirrels. Scout has taken to closely observing—I might say obsessing over—the ducks at the Gardens. She’d like to get closer, but that’s why we have leashes.

What course would you love to take at Duke?

I’d love to take one of the first-year seminars: maybe “Game Theory and Democracy” or “From Quarks to Cosmos.” And while it may not count as a traditional course, the Spring Breakthrough experience over spring break offers some enticing opportunities, from learning to build a bike to building a March Madness bracket for U.S. presidents.

What food choice most appeals to you among the Brodhead Center’s offerings?

Falafel. It’s become a mainstay.

In burning off falafel calories, what’s your favorite piece of workout equipment at Wilson Rec?

You’ll find me in the morning on one of the two elliptical machines, just at the bottom of the stairs, that permit running at full-stride.

What was your favorite Nasher exhibit this past year?

I enjoyed Solidary and Solitary: the Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, and I loved the exhibition of Bill Bamberger photographs of basketball backboards around our region, which was co-curated by undergraduates through a Curatorial Practicum taught at the Nasher Museum by assistant curator Molly Boarati.

The Nasher has also loaned our office a wonderful collection of prints by Risaburo Kimura, the Japanese printmaker. We’re displaying his brightly rendered geometric depictions of world cities in the second floor of the Allen Building.

What research project out of Duke this past year most intrigued you?

Not a specific project so much as a program: Bass Connections. I visited the showcase recently and was so deeply impressed by what I saw—students and faculty are teaming up to explore dozens of real-world issues, from population health in Durham to digital archaeology to professional ethics.

Which is your favorite presidential portrait in the subdued setting of the Allen Building board room?

William Preston Few, my fellow four-eyes.

How would you describe the noise level at a Cameron game?

Delightfully deafening.

What was the most eye-opening city you visited on the alumni circuit?

As a native of Southern California, I enjoyed returning to Los Angeles for the first time as Duke president. L.A. has changed a lot since I was a kid, but it still has that Hollywood magic.

If you could have a conversation with one (no-longer-present) figure out of Duke’s past, who would you choose?

I wish I had an opportunity to get to know Samuel DuBois Cook, who casts a deservedly long shadow at Duke. Dr. Cook was here for such a tremendous period of transition for the university–he helped Duke begin to realize its potential as a welcoming, diverse academic community.

Though they aren’t good conversation partners, how would you and Annette feel about a lemur or two taking residence in Hart House?

They sure are cute, but we’ve already got two pretty wild animals in the house– plus Scout and Cricket.