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Keohane's remarks

President Nan Keohane and Board of Trustees Chair Harold "Spike" Yoh held a press conference Sunday in the Old Trinity Room in the West Union Building on West Campus to announce Keohane's retirement as president on June 30, 2004. Below is a transcription of that press conference:

Question: Recently in the last year you have said that you weren't going anywhere, that you really planned to stay on beyond the years that the Campaign was winding down. What changed your mind?

Nan Keohane: It's not as simple as changing my mind. There were a lot rumors that were swirling around and some of them were premature from any point of view. I really didn't make a decision until last fall. I had been thinking about a variety of possibilities: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. I said some time ago that I would stay through the end of the Campaign, and that was the only firm thing that I had said and meant. But that left a great deal of scope at the other end. Some people interpreted that to mean that Jan. 1, 2004, I was going to step down. But that was the only thing that I had ever said firmly. I never said when I was going to leave until last fall when I made this final decision and I told Spike and Bob and Pete.

Question: As the first female president here at Duke university, what kind of impact do you think you've had on Duke as far as that is concerned?

Keohane: ... I think there has been a wide impact in a number of dimensions and only some of them have to do with being a woman president. But since you ask it that way, I will answer specifically one of the things that I have been particularly engaged in and proud of over the last year, which I certainly continue to work with and will do so until I leave and even afterward is the Women's Initiative, which looks at the status of women across the university. I think the fact that I am a woman, made it easier to open that topic and made people feel enthusiastic and free in talking about it. And it's released a lot of energy around the status of women at Duke, and I'm very pleased that we did that together, and we'll have time to create some strong foundations for the future in the years ahead. That's probably the most visible way in which being a woman has been relevant. I know it's been helpful to a number of women undergraduates, staff members, faculty members who look at the president or a dean or department chair and say, 'Wow, she can do it, maybe I can do it too,' and I'm pleased by that.

Harold "Spike" Yoh: Having had a wife, a daughter and a daughter-in-law who are all Duke alumni, they've been very proud of what Nan has done in that regard. But from an overall viewpoint from the entire Board it's been her leadership since day one. I mean, she came in it will be 11 years, she will have had five chairmen that's she's worked with, and that's a task. But she started off, if you go back and look 10 years ago they were talking about 'New Duke,' 'Old Duke,' and in reality, Nan represented both. And she was more Old Duke than anybody that was around here and she was more New Duke and what she has done mainly as a leader is what we all feel very blessed for. I told the board that if there was one failure that I have done in my term, it was not being able to convince her to stay longer. But as she explained from both a personal and professional viewpoint, the timing is ideal for her and she has the complete support of the entire community.

Keohane: I think the timing-it is an important point. I will be 63 this fall and really do want as many years of being an active teacher scholar. I have missed it. I plan to teach a course next spring after the Campaign is over, and I look forward to that. And as I began to think about planning that course and realized how much I looked forward to it, that helped solidify my decision: That I really didn't want to wait any longer before I went back. But it was not an easy decision because there are so many things that I have enjoyed doing here and would like to continue to see built and extended, but I have every confidence that I will have a wise successor who will build on the things that I have tried to make strong here, and take Duke to ever new heights in the directions that he or she will choose.

Question: What sort of qualities do you expect the Trustees to look for in the next president?

It's an interesting and complicated job, and I would hope that the Trustees will be looking for someone who combines the kind of academic qualifications that lead to genuine respect by the faculty and the students with a capacity for management, because it is a very complicated enterprise. And also a sense of empathy for everyone at Duke. It is a complicated institution, and there are lots of people here who do a really important job. One of the things that I've found most rewarding about this job is getting to know people in every part of the University. People who do all kinds of jobs-students from every school, alumni and staff members. And simply stopping by and asking a group of guys who are working on the grounds you know why are we digging that ditch right now? And somebody who doesn't have that sense of curiosity or empathy for all parts of the institution, I think is going to have a hard time when the complex moments come. I also hope they'll choose somebody with a sense of humor and a lot of stamina and a high tolerance for stress.

Question: What about the process for looking for someone new? Time frame and when you'll hope to have someone?

Yoh: Timing wise we spent a good deal of time this morning talking about that and as written, Bob Steel, vice chairman, will be the chairman of our search committee. And we talked about many of the attributes and the process of how we will go about it. It will be a broad search committee made up of faculty and trustees and other interested parties and will kind of follow the format of Nan's predecessor and how we went about that. And in response to the last question, one of the things is that Nan has developed a wonderful, very talented management team so the weaknesses are very, very nil and she also has created a very open environment, so with building on that, the new president should have everything going for he or her.

Question: Specific time you want to have a name by?

Yoh: We are aiming for next February's Board meeting to be able to present to the Board the final one or two candidates.

Question: And the final vote will be by the Board itself?

Yoh: The Trustees, yes. Throughout the entire process it is the Trustees and we have an executive committee that acts when they aren't here or whatever, but the final word in all issues in University governance is from the entire board.

Question: Do you have any idea of where you would like to be a teacher/scholar further out?

Keohane: Yes, I do. I expect when I go on sabbatical to go somewhere away from Duke. Because I think it will be important for my successor to get settled in and everybody to think of that person as the president of Duke, and stop thinking of me as the president of Duke. When I come back from the sabbatical, it is our expectation that we will come to Duke. Bob and I both enjoy it here, we have tenure in one of the best political science departments in the world, and our current thinking is that that is where we will be. Because this is something that we are just announcing nobody has any other ideas and somebody may come along with some options that we'd have to consider. So I am not making a firm promise that I'll be here, but it is certainly our expectation. Anybody who comes along with another offer is gonna have a very high hurdle, because we really like it here very much and we feel very much at home here and it's a great university to teach in.

Question: What is your fondest memory in being here at Duke? Is there one that sticks out among the others?

Keohane: Wow, I can give you three or four. It's hard to give you one. I think Some of the ceremonial moments when I was representing Duke at Commencement or at Founders' Day when I was proudly walking down that aisle with my Duke Blue gown-although it happens to be a Yale Ph.D. gown, but its the right color-and my chain of office, the organ was playing and everyone was gathering and thinking about the great history and the beautiful tradition of the place and that magnificent Chapel I just felt a real sense of exhilaration that I had the opportunity to do that. Some of the others are more informal. I remember the basketball championships and how magnificent it was to be out on the floor watching people cut down the net. I remember the times when I was able to-they are not as frequent as I would like-just sit down with a couple of faculty members or a couple of students and talk about what they were doing. And since, maybe, despite all the challenges that we face, maybe what they're so excited about-which is what really matters-is why I'm doing what I'm doing. And so when I go back to the office, and there's the little blue card, with thirty minute segments for the rest of the day, I can think, well, in the end, well, it's worth it, because people like that are doing things and I help make it possible. It's minutes like that, moments like that that make it very special. And I guess finally, moments walking in Duke Garden, when I needed a break, when I needed to think, and being able to just walk out the back door of my building and go over to Duke Gardens, and walk among those wonderful flowers and trees at almost any season of the year, just in solitude, and solve a problem, or think about an issue, or just take up a deep breath. Those were happy moments too.

Yoh: Five years ago I ran the review committee for Nan.... The warmth and sincerity that came through from 100 percent of the campus from all segments-faculty, students, alumni, administration-it was just a wonderful feeling that we had the right person at the right time. And as she said her warm moments walking around, everybody knows her as Nan, and everybody appreciates what she does for the school. And it's been a wonderful, wonderful relationship.

Keohane: Certainly for me.

Question: You made a lot of changes at Duke. Can you talk about some of your accomplishments that you're proudest of?

Keohane: I am sure you all know that my management style is to say before I answer any question like that is that it's not just me myself, that I've done it with the help and involvement of a lot of people. But as I think about the things that we've done together, and also the ones in which my own role has been probably been most important, that I've been most invested, some of them have to do with changes on campus: the creation of the freshman East, the reorganization of West with the building of the West-Edens Link around student residential life. Some of them have to do with the creation of the Health System, which over the past 10 years has moved into a new governance structure and a new relationship with the University and that has been complicated. The whole issue of how you run a very large, world-class medical system with sufficient freedom, but also sufficient support from the academic side-I've worked hard on that. Some of the others have to do with specific programs in which my own heart happens to be specifically invested-the Robertson Scholars program, the Kenan Ethics program, the University Scholars program; things that I think in retrospect would not have happened without me. Some of the others might have, but that's the kind of thing that I took an immediate and direct interest in in working with a donor or direct advocate in each case worked out a vision together, as I look back, I think that's a particularly important part of what I've done. But there are also many other things through the Strategic Plan, through the hiring of a very strong administrative team; I feel very good about the team that we've got here, and that has been a large part of a long part of what I've spent my time on and thought about. And then, I think the Campaign. The Campaign has been really crucial for Duke and it's been wonderful for me to be a part of it. People are always saying, well you know,fundraising, fundraising, but I really have enjoyed going out to people who have the capacity to make a difference and who have money they want to give, and persuading to give it to Duke. And I really enjoy those moments when that match is made and when I can speak for Duke to groups of alumni and parents and friends around the world. So, I certainly didn't do the Campaign by myself. I was just one piece of a much larger enterprise but I have spent a lot of time and thought with it and I have enjoyed most of it very, very much, and that's also part of what I am sure that that is what most people will look back on. There's probably a lot more, and as soon as this is over, I'll probably say, oops, why didn't I say X? But those are the things that immediately come to mine.

Question: You mentioned the medical side of Duke and your role in that. But particularly the Health System and the separate governing structure of that, do you see the next president having any role at all in the Health System?

Keohane: One of the interesting and distinctive features of our arrangement is that the Medical Center as such reports to the president, the Health System does not. And yet the people who make up these enterprises are often the same people, just wearing different hats, whether they are doctors or nurses or staff people and so one of the things I hope the Board and I can work out together before I leave so that it can be clearer for my successor, although I'm sure my successor will want to work on this, is how do you define the boundaries here more clearly without doing away with the fundamental academic purpose of the Health System? But it's sometimes hard to say, well, is it the Medical Center acting here or is the Health System, and therefore, is the president involved or not? And I think as we set up that structure five years ago, I've been spending a long time over this past year in the Health System and the Medical Center trying to learn more in depth about how people are feeling about it. And I think the decision that we made to create a hybrid structure, instead of leaving the Hospital entire under the control of the University as it had been, or spinning it off entirely in a model like the Harvard model where it really is just a contractual relationship, we made a deliberate decision to create a hybrid. And as with all hybrids there are complexities and sort of opaqueness that we haven't figured out. I think in general the structure has worked well and we don't intend to change the basic structure, but I think we need to do some fine-tuning. And I'd like to work that out with the Board and with the Health System before my successor is chosen so that I can hand that person a clarified operation.

Yoh: Mr. Duke's indenture years ago-gosh, you have to remember that Duke is a relatively young school compared to our peers-and in the indenture, he talked about education, health and religion. And so it is a component of the University family and as she said, we tried something different five years ago and it's working pretty good, and like any process you can generally tweak it and make it better and everybody is on the same page which is really very positive.

Keohane: One more thing to your question earlier about things I will look back on is certainly it's been a rapidly changing physical environment. And although I generally think of Tallman Trask as most directly responsible for that, clearly I've also been involved, as have the board and a lot of other people and as I think about our commitment to make sure that every building we build enhances the campus rather than detracting from it and helps us make ourselves more of a campus rather than just continuing to spread out. That's been a deliberate choice from the beginning and that partnership with Tallman and with others has been very rewarding because I think our buildings do as we conceptualize the ones that are in progress, the ones that have just completed, and the ones that will soon start, have been designed to draw the campus closer together. And I remember when I came for my final interview, and I had been to Duke before, but it was four or five years before, and when I came in 1992, and Allison Haltom drove me around to show me parts of the campus. I remember driving down Science Drive and I couldn't figure out where I was, just a minute please, I was just on this gothic campus and now all of a sudden I'm on this road. Where's the rest of this campus? Where are we here? What we'd like to do and what we're trying to do is remove that confusion so that people feel that the science part, and the medical part, and the professional school part are all connected to the main campus instead of being discrete neighborhoods. I think we've gone pretty far in that direction. I know one of the things that will be on the table for my successor will be bringing the East Campus and West Campus closer together through a new Central Campus, and I'm sure that will be an exciting venture. But as far as West Campus itself is concerned, we've worked very hard to make it feel more like a unity and make sure that every building we build people will say, yes that's a nice addition, not why on earth did they build that?

Question: Will you miss being an administrator?

Keohane: I will miss most of all some of the things that I've talked about in answer to your question about what I've enjoyed. I will miss the opportunity to have so many connections with so many different types of people. People who know me best say that probably at first, I'll also have some withdrawal from the hectic pace of the job, which is probably true, but I think I'll get through that fairly quickly. I do look forward to a longer periods of time for reflection and thinking. I do not think I will miss the hectic day when you just get your head around one issue or begin to complement somebody for one accomplishment and the door opens and you're on to your next appointment. It's a way an administrator has to live, and I've had a fantastic staff both in my own office and elsewhere, so I'll always feel I'm well prepared. But still sometimes I wish I could say wait, I know I have another appointment now but I really want to prolong this, I really want to think about this a little bit longer, but its very hard to do that. So I won't miss that freneticness about the job. I'll probably miss making decisions; I like making decisions, but I'll make decisions in other ways. That may be one of the things I'll miss most about it, I really like saying here's a puzzle, here's what we have to do to solve it, bringing to bear the best judgment that I can and feeling that making the decision is gonna, if it works out right, make a lot of people's lives better. I have enjoyed that, I think I'm pretty good at it, and there really won't be much scope for that in the teaching and research that I'll be doing but there'll be scope for a lot of other parts of my personality that have been in hibernation for a few years.

Yoh: She won't have any problem with whatever she decides to do, because having the high energy and the ability to communicate, she can move to anything that she cares about and at this phase of life, she's going to just be able to enjoy everything that she hasn't had the opportunity personally because the great devotion and love she's had, and obligation and responsibility to the university.

Keohane: I'm lucky about my discipline. I'm in political philosophy. If I were a natural scientist who had a field that had changed rapidly, I've been in administrator for 22 years counting Wellesley and Duke. I couldn't go back to a field that changes rapidly like one in the natural sciences. But in my field, political philosophy, Rousseau and Mill and Plato are still there, they haven't changed since I've been doing this job and in my field the things that people say about them doesn't really matter that much, I can catch up very quickly on the ones that that were very thoughtful. And the best thing political philosophers do is to meditate on the great wisdom of the past and help teach it to others, but also try to continue in your own modest way some of that wisdom and think about those issues. I chose this profession because I loved thinking about issues like justice and equality and freedom, and I've spent 22 years helping watch people get their interests on the table and helping them resolve conflicts and figuring out how exercising authority makes a difference in people's lives and I feel that I'll be a better political philosopher. Fortunately I'm in a field where some people do their best work at the last stage of their life, and I hope that that will be true for at least something I produce as a philosopher in the next however many years. I'm not going to put anything on record, just how ever long I can. And I'm lucky that I'm in the field that I'm in.

Question: Students over the past five years have been complaining about the dying social scene. How would you evaluate the current undergraduate experience?

Keohane: One of the things that I find most fascinating about this job, is that when I came in, they were complaining about the dying social scene. My predecessor had killed it off by doing away with Wednesday kegs--it was the end of the world. Although I take very seriously undergraduate concerns about their life on campus, I don't worry too much about the fact that people that were "killing off the social life," because every generation of Duke students has thought that and yet I think that there many ways in which social life is becoming more interesting. There are more alternatives. There are still ways do some of the things that people at Duke have long wished to do. But there are also a lot of things going on, including things in the city of Durham, things in different parts of Duke. One thing that has changed, which is not the administration did, is the increasing concern about alcohol abuse on the part of, for example, national greek organizations, who have clamped down on some of their own chapters. Our own efforts to combat alcohol abuse-which are real, I am concerned about alcohol abuse, I really do worry about it, and drug abuse and other ways in which students have unhealthy social lives-but we haven't taken fundamentally different strides over the course of the last 10 years, it's been more sort of an adaptation here, an adaptation there and much of what people feel really different has come down from the national greek organizations so I know that people worry about "killing social life." Our goal is to have more opportunity, and have people in the long run be able to enjoy themselves in more ways, and not feel that is dead but neither is it monolithic.

Yoh: I don't think there is a campus in the country that isn't saying that, and trying to get students to accept more responsibility. When I got out in 1958, I thought the freshmen and sophomores coming in were all a bunch of eggheads and the fun was over and then my oldest son got out in '83, and he said the same thing, and my youngest son got out in '93 and he said the same thing. So it's just human nature; if you go and ask students-we have senior surveys every year-it reveals that there is a vibrant social scene at Duke University.

Question: You follow two presidents who were known for spending a lot of time focusing on undergraduates, spending time in dorms, talking to them.... What do you see the potential, where do you see that going in the future?

Keohane: When I was in my first four years before the Campaign went public I did a lot more to student dorms... going to other games. I went to at least one game of every sport every season men's and women's, and I did a lot more hanging around the Bryan Center and having lunch with students and visiting undergraduate halls. Once the Campaign started and I was on the road so much, I had to make more choices about how to spend my time and there were so many other things on my desk as an administrator that I didn't have as much time as I would have liked. I would also have liked to teach. I know that Keith Brodie taught a class while he was president, and I would have hoped to do that, but I also knew that realistically, it is hard for me to shift gears from being an administrator to being a faculty member, because to me it is a different mind set, and I didn't want my students to be given only part of my head. I admire Keith for being able to do it. I know he is an excellent teacher. For me it was really hard to try to think about how to prepare a course and so forth. I did at Wellesley for a while and I know its hard. I certainly look forward to spending more time with undergraduates as a professor.

Yoh: And that will be an asset and an attribute that we will be looking for in the ninth president at Duke.

Question: Other than the Campaign and the Women's Initiative, what are your big goals for the final 16 months of your tenure?

Keohane: The Campaign and the Women's Initiative are both on the list. I also, as I told the board, I want to spend a good deal of time with Dr. Moneta in thinking about undergraduate life. I hope that my successor will care deeply about undergraduate education. But I want to make sure that we continue to work together on some of the ways of making the Duke undergraduate experience even better in concert with the folks in Trinity College and the Pratt School, so that's one of the priorities that I mentioned to the Board. Another one is the one I mentioned before about trying to sort through the health system's structure so that things are more clear-cut and some things are clarified for my successor. I also want to be sure to implement the recommendations of the task force on the recruitment and retention of minority administrators. We've begun with that, but we haven't made as much progress as I would like. And finally I want to be sure that some things I helped initiate are put on as firm a footing as possible so that they will survive me. I mentioned several of them: The Robertson Scholars, the Kenan Ethics Institute, the University Scholars, the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, which is something I'm also very proud of for the last 10 years. I want to make sure that those things which are not rooted in the institution as Trinity college or the Divinity School will have resilience after I leave. There are many things that I have done that I think my successor should take a look at and decide whether he or she wants to continue them, but I think those are wonderful things for Duke and I want to try make them as strong as possible.

Yoh: And the board has pledged their complete support to make that happen.

Question: A number of Duke's peer institutions-including Harvard, Columbia and Brown-have undergone searches over the past few years. Some might say that all the top candidates have been taken. What sort of challenge does that face the University?

Keohane: ... I think that's a real misconception. There are a lot of people out there who are potentially very strong candidates for a university presidency, and they're not all now in sitting university presidencies elsewhere. Some of them are in other areas like a provost's job, some of them might be presidents of a liberal arts college the way I was. There are a lot of people out there who could do this job well, but there are not many who can do it really superbly and I know that that pool is always small but it's not smaller because a few other people have made the choice. There will be people out there who will be very strong candidates. And I hope very much that they will be interested in this University and the Board will do everything they can to make sure they find those people.

Yoh: Because of what Nan has helped to accomplish in her term here, it's got to be one of the ideal jobs in all of the academic world. Because of the environment, the faculty, the North Carolina locale, there are so many things going for Duke that I can't think of any reason why somebody would not want this job. With the community that we have, all the facets, it's a beautiful relationship and a situation for anyone to step into.

Keohane: And I hope very much that I will have a strong successor. I want Duke to continue to move from strength to strength, and I don't want to spend a lot of time worrying about whether my successor is doing X, Y or Z. I certainly don't expect to get involved in any way, except when someone asks my advice. But I really want to make sure that we have a wonderful president to carry on what we, I, my predecessors across the decades have tried to do, so good luck with it.

Yoh: And we're happy.

Keohane: Thank you all very much.


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