Organizers are rescheduling the kick-off celebration for the 50th anniversary of Duke’s integration after an ice storm caused the cancelation of the original event.
The freezing rain storm that hit Durham Jan. 25 caused the majority of campus activities to be cancelled, including the official kick-off reception for the commemoration, which would have hosted students, faculty, administration, community members and alumni. More than 600 ticket holders were planning to attend the sold-out event at the Nasher Museum of Art.
The office is seeking to plan an alternative event this Spring that will bring together various members of the Duke community in the same way as the reception planned for last month. The new reception will have to take on a new theme, as it can no longer be a kick off now that the celebration is underway. It will still bring together a wide cross-section of the community to celebrate the 50th anniversary milestone, Benjamin Reese, vice president of the office of institutional equity and director of the 50th anniversary committee, wrote in an email Monday.
“Cancelling the kick-off has not at all dampened the enthusiasm or importance of this commemoration,” Reese said. “Our biggest disappointment was that we couldn’t have a formal kick-off with a large number of Duke and Durham community members together for an evening of reflection and forward-looking conversations.”
All other 50th anniversary events, including a civil rights lecture scheduled to be held at the law school Thursday, are going forward as planned.
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, noted that rescheduling the event as it was originally intended will not be an easy task.
“It took almost a year of planning to coordinate all the schedules, since we had a number of people who were coming in from out of town, so trying to replicate that event will be difficult, if not impossible,” he wrote in an email Tuesday.
Among others who came to town for the Jan. 25 event were the surviving members of the first class of black students at Duke, who held a discussion about their experiences Jan. 24.
Reese confirmed that the committee has begun discussions about possibly holding the Duke and Durham event during Duke Reunions weekend, scheduled for April 12 to 14.
“We’re trying to find a date and venue that is accessible to the widest cross-section of our community, including alums,” Reese said.
Schoenfeld declined to comment on the amount of money spent on the canceled event, but he noted that “some costs” were incurred as a result. The committee, however, made a contribution to Urban Ministries of Durham, comprised of the food that would have otherwise gone to waste. Urban Ministries provides food and shelter to the hungry and homeless in Durham.
Junior Marcus Benning, president of the Black Student Alliance, was a ticket holder of the original celebration.
“I regret that we were never able to formally kick off the commemoration,” he said. “I really hope that we can have an event in lieu of the event that was planned.”