Letters & Comments

What you thought of our storytelling
December 11, 2017

Like music to her eyes

The “Secrets” issue was Duke Magazine at its best. The issue was well sequenced (like a great album of music) and the pieces excellently edited. The photography for each piece augmented the text so well.

I can’t remember reading a magazine word for word, cover to cover in a long time.

Pamela George

Adjunct professor,

Nicholas School of the Environment

A door to more readers

This was a most unique style among the many university publications I have read over many years. All too often there is a “sameness” in these magazines— a narrowness that is sometimes overlooked by the writers and staff. Of course, I am sure that the writers will vigorously defend their work in terms of the “whats and whys” that flowed from their pens. And what, therefore, might I ask of the contributors, are the visions and goals of the publications? Answer: to reach as many readers as possible.

With this novel issue, to me, you have opened the door to do that very thing of extending (slightly outside of the usual norm) and achieving a bit more influence over and enjoyment for many of those who may be “cover gazers and page flippers.” Congratulations on this publication!

James Macomson, D.D.S.

Gastonia, North Carolina

Vandalism shouldn’t triumph

How ironic that the Robert E. Lee statue was removed from Duke Chapel shortly after being “outed” in the “Secrets” issue. I would like to think it will be returned after repairs, but I imagine that is wishful thinking.

My grandfather, J. Deryl Hart, helped shepherd Duke through some very difficult times, as his presidency (1960-63) coincided with part of the civil rights movement. Among other things, he was instrumental in formulating the committee that made the decision to admit qualified blacks to Duke. I am quite sure, however, that he would never have seen fit to alter Duke Chapel by removing the likeness of a great man—not to mention a great educator—due to a senseless act of vandalism.

Charles H. Warner M.D. ’85

Roanoke, Virginia

What about Washington Duke?

Is there no contradiction between Duke forming a committee to sanitize its statuary and yet prominently displaying a monument to the world’s greatest drug dealer, Washington Duke? Duke owned one slave that we know of, fought in the Confederate Army, and then afterward created the world’s largest cigarette company. He peddled a drug that has killed more people than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao combined.

Yet, we condemn Robert E. Lee.

Here was a man who graduated number one in his class at West Point, never receiving a demerit. He served these United States for thirty- two years, fighting in the Mexican War with bravery and distinction— a war Congressman Lincoln opposed and avoided. He was offered the command of the Union Army and in a fierce internal struggle chose his state over these United States.

If this school had a shred of honor, which is hard to believe after its participation in the lacrosse scandal, it would remove Duke’s monument on East Campus and rename itself Trinity College.

John Maclean ’77

Savannah, Georgia

Put this in your pipe and smoke it

I have two concerns about your “Secrets” issue cover picturing the James B. Duke statue.

1. Covering his cigar is inaccurate. It is no “secret” that Duke was founded on money earned from tobacco sales and, through The Duke Endowment, continues to receive significant funding from money earned from tobacco sales.

2. Given Duke’s pervasive climate of political correctness, it would not surprise me to hear someone or some group of “protestors” have decided “something must be done” about the cigar on the statue.

Were that to occur, I suggest it would be hypocritical for any alumnus, student, or professor who feels that way, but who has benefited from being part of Duke, were they not to give back all of the salaries, scholarship money, and any other benefits they have received.

Harry Nolan ’64


It’s not all about the surprise

Your antidote to the fear of spoilers is an effective one, I think (“Unspoiled Territory”). Excellent storytelling is not always about the surprise shock. If it were all about the surprise shock, then we would not revisit the stories that we love. And there would be no new Star Wars fans. There would be no Shakespeare revivals or festivals. There would be no classics.

Keith Underwood ’83

Lewes, Delaware

A geographical error

I was perusing the “Secrets” issue and something jumped out at me. “Walden Pond in Kunshan” by Patrick Thomas Morgan was an interesting read, but the thing that jumped out was the background graphics depicting a silhouette of China. It included Taiwan, insinuating that Taiwan is part of China, which is both erroneous and offensive.

As a proud Taiwanese American who grew up in the deep South, I’ve come across my fair share of people who may not be able to pick out Taiwan on the map or [who] confuse it with Thailand. I understand that most of the time, it’s an honest mistake born out of ignorance or lack of correct information. However, there are instances where the inclusion of Taiwan as part of China is being done with malice, intending to provoke, demean, and oppress Taiwan and its people. I hope this was just an honest mistake.

Eric Lai ’05

Chapel Hill

Another part of the story

My father, David L. Swain ’48, M.Div. ’51, is the one Johanna McCloy referred to as the “missionary” in her story [“Before/After”], and the setting was our family cabin in the mountains of Japan.

My mother confirms that, yes, both she and my father knew Johanna’s dad was a “spy.” And yes, my dad was incensed with the idea that his own U.S. tax dollars were paying for CIA agents, like Johanna’s dad, to spy on American nationals, like himself.

There is a chance my father did garner some attention: As a United Methodist missionary, David Swain worked on peace and justice issues in Japan, helping students grow in their faith, assisting persecuted Christians in South Korea, and ultimately winning awards for his co-translation of “Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical, Medical and Social Effects of the Atomic Bomb,” the first comprehensive study of the events and results of the 1945 nuclear bombing of Japan.

My father passed away two years ago in his hometown of Asheville. I’m immensely proud of my dad, for what he did and produced for the world—and my dad was so proud of being a Dukie, as am I.

Dinah Swain ’86


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