The Academic Council met Thursday afternoon to approve degrees for the class of 2017 and honor President Richard Brodhead.

In his farewell remarks to the Council, Brodhead thanked it for its leadership and urged faculty to remember the importance of providing financial aid and taking risks. 

“One of Duke’s strengths is its culture of shared governance and for all who have helped strengthen this culture in my time, thank you most sincerely,” he said.

Brodhead said he thinks Duke is in “good shape” with major institutional projects including campus construction and Duke Forward nearing completion. Duke Forward—which is a capital and fundraising campaign that began in 2012—has now raised approximately $3.72 billion, he said.

However, he imparted final words of caution. Ensuring access to higher education must be a priority, he said.

Noting the work of former President Keith Brodie to increase financial aid, Brodhead said he was proud Duke has raised more than three quarters of a billion dollars to support student attendance during his presidency.

“Please remember, if we don’t budget with the goal of keeping this University’s opportunities wide open to students from every income and origin, we will not get the answer right,” he said.

Citing its approval of Duke Kunshan University, Brodhead also encouraged the Council to continue to prioritize long-term thinking in its decisions.

"The reason our competitors are not launching anything like DKU is because their cultures of faculty deliberation would never have permitted such a departure from the inertial orbit,” he said. “You did, I believe, the right thing.”

This spirit should continue, Brodhead said, noting that risks can be necessary for innovation. 

“Duke will not advance on the basis of risk aversion alone,” he said. “Faculty governance will continue to constitute a strength of this University to the extent that it perfectly blends caution with a well-tested will to innovate.”

Just as it was Brodhead's last meeting, it was also the last meeting for Nan Jokerst—J. A. Jones professor of electrical and computer engineering—as the Council's Chair. Before the meeting began in earnest, members of the Executive Committee of the Academic Council presented Jokerst with a stool to thank her for her service—a joke about how she needed an aid to be seen from behind the podium during meetings. Jokerst will be replaced by Don Taylor, professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy.

The current and former chairs also thanked Brodhead by each giving him a children’s book he can read with his granddaughter.

Jokerst gave Brodhead “The Complete Book of Flower Fairies” by Cicely Mary Barker. Professor of Medicine Dr. Nancy Allen, who chaired the Academic Council from 2002 and 2005, gave Brodhead “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey. Paula McClain, dean of the Graduate School and chair between 2007 and 2009, gave him Bill Martin, Jr.‘s book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

Brodhead thanked the Council and said he looked forward to sharing the books with his family.

“This was like the gift of the Magi except even better,” he said.

Academic Council approved the following degrees from each college:

  • Trinity College of Arts and Sciences: 1,233
  • Pratt School of Engineering: 370
  • Nicholas School of the Environment: 158
  • Fuqua School of Business: 612
  • Divinity School: 182
  • Law School: 324
  • Medical School: 366
  • Nursing School: 70
  • Sanford School of Public Policy: 90
  • Graduate School: 569

In other business:

The Council approved the University’s Strategic Plan, which has been in planning stages for several years.

The Council also signed off on changes to the Ombuds position in the Faculty Handbook.