The set was meant to be like a traveling version of President Richard H. Brodhead’s office in the Allen Building: a few high-backed leather chairs placed around a Gothic windowpane that looked over a “view” of West Campus. But for alumni who attended one of The Duke Idea events during the past four years, it was the conversations themselves—lofty explorations of topics such as leadership, education, global health, and the arts—that offered a true window on Duke.
The traveling series, launched in November 2008, featured Brodhead engaging with various university and civic leaders on issues of the day. It concluded in May having visited thirty-three cities and drawing a combined audience of more than 6,000 alumni and friends.
Brodhead’s conversation partners included: medical chancellor Victor Dzau, who was joined, in Boston, by trustee Paul Farmer ’82, founding director of Partners In Health; deans Nancy Andrews (medicine), David Levi (law), Tom Katsouleas (engineering), Blair Sheppard (formerly Fuqua), Sandy Williams (formerly medicine), and Greg Jones M.Div. ’85, Ph.D. ’88 (formerly divinity); vice provost for undergraduate education Steve Nowicki; founding director of the Duke Global Health Institute Mike Merson, featured in a TDI program at Baltimore’s National Aquarium; and Nasher Museum director Kim Rorschach, who did one program at London’s Tate Britain and also was joined, in Miami, by Jason Rubell '91 of The Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation.
At Chicago’s Lyric Opera House, attendees were treated to “Lessons in Leadership” from Brodhead and men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. In Houston, one of Coach K’s stars, Shane Battier ’01, joined the president to consider “Duke’s Twenty- First Century Charge.” In Los Angeles, the conversation partner was behavioral economist Dan Ariely Ph.D. ’98, whose subject was “Using Social Science to Improve the World.” In Charlotte, Michael Kaston, executive director of the Duke Cancer Institute, engaged with the theme of “Meeting the Challenge of Cancer.”
The parents of another basketball standout, Grant Hill ’94, retired NFL star Calvin Hill and trustee Janet Hill, talked about “Building Character” in a Dallas program; in New York’s Gotham Hall, Judy Woodruff ’68 of the PBS NewsHour and John Harwood ’78 of The New York Times reviewed the media landscape; and former President Jimmy Carter and grandson Jason Carter ’97, a lawyer and Georgia state senator, offered thoughts on “Crises and Contemporary Politics” in Atlanta’s Carter Center.
At Washington’s Kennedy Center, the conversation featured trustee David Rubenstein ’70, cofounder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, on “Education, Investing, and Philanthropy”; in Orange County, William H. Gross ’66, manager of the world’s largest bond mutual fund; and in Charlotte, two philanthropy leaders, Russell Robinson ’54, J.D. ’56, chair of The Duke Endowment, and trustee Michael Marsicano ’78, M.Ed. ’78, Ph.D. ’82, president and CEO of Foundation For The Carolinas.
In Durham, Brodhead was joined on the speakers’ platform by Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Jim Goodmon ’65, president and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Company, for a recap of the revival of downtown Durham. And in distant Shanghai, the alumnus in the spotlight was Xiqing Gao J.D. ’86, president of the China Investment Corporation.
University officials say alumni around the country—and around the world—will continue to have regional opportunities to hear about Duke’s vision. Many of those programs will align with the new Duke Forward campaign.
“The Duke Idea series showcased the breadth of talent and expertise in the Duke community,” says Brodhead, “and was a great way to connect alumni to powerful thinkers on contemporary issues.”