In his will, dated December 11, 1924, James B. Duke stipulated a "sum not exceeding four million dollars" for use by Duke Endowment trustees "in erecting and equipping, at the Duke University mentioned and described in said trust, buildings suitable for a Medical School, Hospital, and Nurses Home." On July 20, 1930, 15,000 people assembled on the new university's campus to tour the result of his bequest: the newly erected building housing the Duke School of Medicine and Hospital.
"It was the hottest day I have ever encountered," Wilburt C. Davison, first dean of the medical school, would later recall. "I lost six pounds and ruined a white linen suit showing visitors through the building and repairing overloaded elevators. The suit shrank so much that I gave it to a friend half my size."
The hospital opened to patients on July 21. On October 1, thirty first-year and eighteen third-year medical students began classes; twenty-four nursing students began classes on January 2, 1931.