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The Duke 50

1. Dan Abrams: The 1988 alumnus and former NBC talk host just launched and Abrams Research to expand his reach in media circles.

2. David Addington: Lewis Scooter Libby’s 2005 replacement as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. According to sources cited in a 2006 New Yorker story, the ’81 graduate of Duke’s School of Law is responsible for much of the Bush Administration’s approach to the War on Terror, which gave broad powers to the president as commander-in-chief.

3. Nancy Andrews: October marks the second year since Dr. Nancy Andrews was named vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, the first female to hold the post. The appointment also made Andrews the only woman leading a top-10 U.S. medical school.

4. Dan Ariely: It’s hard to talk about behavioral economics without mentioning this professor’s 2008 book, Predictably Irrational. Just ask Malcolm Gladwell.

5. Shane Battier: His number is hanging in the rafters of Cameron, and currently he might be the most undervalued player in the NBA.

6. Jay Bilas: He’s the articulate and intelligent ESPN college basketball analyst in an era when smart commentary is falling by the wayside. Memo to The Worldwide Leader: more Bilas, please. 

7. Dan Blue: A North Carolina native and Democratic state senator, this former Blue Devil graduated from the School of Law in 1973 and now serves as the chair of the Board of Trustees.

8. Richard Brodhead: It stands to reason that the president of a university is a very powerful figure indeed. His five years at the helm have seen highs (DukeEngage) and lows (lacrosse), but Duke’s ninth leader, who wrote the book on Nathaniel Hawthorne, hasn’t shown signs of slowing.

9. David Cutcliffe: If Duke Football’s going to be relevant again in the next decade, this head coach is going to be the one to revive the program.

10. Kara DioGuardi: You can thank this Duke grad and “American Idol” judge for such classics as Enrique Iglesias’s “Escape,” Kelly Clarkson’s “I Do Not Hook Up,” and, most recently, Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad.”

11. Elizabeth Dole: As an undergrad, Dole was president of the Woman’s Student Government, a member of secret society White Duchy and sister in Delta Delta Delta. Since graduating in 1958, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award, delivered a Commencement Address and was elected to the Senate.

12. Paul Farmer: The Man Who Would Cure the World—at least according to the subtitle of “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” by Tracy Kidder. He graduated from Duke in 1982, and five years later he co-founded Partners in Health, aiming to provide treatment to impoverished patients. In 2009, he was named to Duke’s Board of Trustees and also chairman of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. In 1993, he was a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award.

13. Stanley Fish: The chair of Duke’s star-studded English department in the 1980s and now a New York Times blogger, when Fish talks higher education, people listen.

14. Allan Friedman: When he’s not busy operating on famous patients as head of the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Center, this neurosurgeon can be spotted under the basket at women’s basketball games.

15. Melinda Gates: Some know her for her work under her married name, but Dukies recognize the alumna for her maiden name, French. As in, French Family Science Center.

16. David Gergen: Tune into any political news show, and soon enough, you’ll hear the Duke Trustee’s sharp political commentary.

17. Rob Goodlatte: A favorite of Mark Zuckerberg, he’s the designer of Facebook Lite, the Facebook-of-choice for developing countries with slower Web connections.

18. Fredric Jameson: As a literary critic, Jameson is unparalleled at Duke. Not many outside of Duke can match his brilliance, either.

19. Erich Jarvis: People magazine included Jarvis in its list of the Sexiest People Alive in 2006, and the neurobiologist is a romantic, too: he works with songbirds.

20. Ken Jeong: That Asian guy in “The Hangover” and “Funny People” and, previously, as Michael Scott’s improv foil on “The Office”? Yeah, he’s a Duke alumnus and got his M.D. in Chapel Hill.

21. Ted Kaufman: There are a lot of Dukies in politics. Plenty at the national level. But how many can say they were tapped to fill the Senate seat for the Vice President of the United States? That distinction is reserved for Kaufman, Engineering ’60 and senior lecturing fellow at the School of Law.

22. Mike Krzyzewski: Three national championships, one court named in his honor and one Olympic gold medal and counting. The numbers say it all.

23. Peter Lange: Lange is the Provost. This means that he oversees all things academic at the University, which is fitting, because he is a fairly academic guy: truly, an intellectual force. He has been provost at Duke for a decade.

24. Thaddeus Lewis: For at least this season, before he hands the reins over to Sean Renfree, Lewis has Duke’s bowl hopes resting on his shoulders.

25. Reggie Love: He’s President Barack Obama’s body man, and just as important, the captain of the 2001 national championship team is a member of POTUS’ regular pick-up game.

26. John Mack: Mack, Trinity ’68, grew up in North Carolina. He also changed his last name (from Makhoul; the shortened version better lended itself to nicknames—he’s also goes by “Mack the Knife”). Mack is currently CEO and chair of the Board of Morgan Stanley. He plans to step down as CEO  Jan. 1, but he will remain Board chair. He has also been a member of his alma mater’s Board of Trustees since 1997.

27. Aubrey McClendon: McClendon, eponymous donor to the Tower, graduated from Duke in 1981. He now lives in Oklahoma, where he’s the cofounder, CEO and chair of Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest producers of natural gas in the U.S.

28. Sean McManus: As president of CBS News and CBS Sports, the network’s personalities report to him.

29. Mark Anthony Neal: A popular culture critic, the Duke professor is an authority in African-American studies. He’s writing album notes for unreleased Jackson 5 songs.

30. Awa Nur: Nur, Trinity ’10, is the first female president of Duke Student Government in a decade. She’ll enroll in the Harvard Business School 2+2 Program following graduation this spring.

31. Stephen Pagliuca: The 1977 graduate has an aptitude for turning things around. First, Bain & Company, then the Boston Celtics. Next: a Massachusetts Senate race.

32. Macon Phillips: The White House’s director of new media, this alum is responsible for all of the Oval Office’s blogging efforts.

33. Mike Posner: The next—well, first—music star from Duke, the senior signed with J Records in the summer and is currently working on his debut album.

34. Reynolds Price: One of the greatest American writers of the last 50 years, Price also finds time to teach two legendary English courses in the spring.

35. Charlie Rose: The hardest-working man in television only came to Duke as a pre-med when he was deemed inadequate to play basketball in Chapel Hill. Thanks very much, Tar Heels.

36. Jon Scheyer: A freshman starter, sophomore sixth man and junior point guard, the senior is now the face of Duke Basketball—not to mention its heart and soul.

37. Eric Shinseki: Shinseki wears many hats. He earned his Masters in English Literature from Duke, and taught English at the U.S. Military Academy. He was also the Army’s chief of staff from 1999 until he retired in 2003. He now serves as the United States secretary of Veterans Affairs. 

38. Adam Silver: Heard of David Stern? Of course you have. He’s the commissioner of the NBA. Remember Silver’s name. The Duke graduate’s probably the next commissioner of the NBA.

39. Dylan Smith: This 2007 graduate is the creator of, a venture he started with a friend as a sophomore—for which they were just named to BusinessWeek’s list of 25 of America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs.

40. Kevin Sowers: Sowers knows a thing or two about working one’s way up into positions of power. He started working at Duke as a nurse in 1986. Now he serves as Duke University Hospital’s CEO.

41. Elizabeth Spiers: The founding editor of and founder of, the 1999 alumna’s next trick is a debut novel. And who said print was passe?

42. Robert Steel: Leading comes easily to Steel, Trinity ’73. A former vice chair of Goldman Sachs, where he spent 30 years after graduation, he stepped down as chair of Duke’s Board of Trustees when his term expired in June. Briefly, the former Under Secretary to the Treasury, was Board chair concurrent with his appointment as CEO of Wachovia Corp. until it merged with Wells Fargo.

43. Tallman Trask: Visitors to the office of Tallman Trask (T3 as he is colloquially known) are greeted by a life-size cutout of the Terminator. Nothing epitomizes power better.

44. Luis von Ahn: What’s more impressive: winning a so-called Genius Grant at age 27, or selling innovative reCAPTCHA software to Google for an undisclosed sum three years later?

45. Rick Wagoner: The former chair and CEO of General Motors resigned from the floundering company in March. Still, he retired with $20 million and change, and remains vice-chair of Duke’s Board of Trustees. Once upon a time—that is, in 2007—he delivered Duke’s commencement address, telling graduating seniors that “by virtue of graduating from one of the elite universities in the U.S., indeed in the world… has great capabilities. I urge you to use those capabilities fully.”

46. Kevin White: Duke couldn’t have asked for better timing to lure the business-savvy second-year athletic director from Notre Dame. He also teaches a sports business class at Fuqua.

47. Judy Woodruff: The news anchor and journalist, an alumna and former professor here, just received the Distinguished Alumni Award on Founder’s Day.

48. Gao Xiqing: President and chief investment officer of China Investment Corporation, Gao graduated from the School of Law in 1986. He’s been an adjunct professor at Duke Law, and he’s served on the Board of Trustees since 2008. Fittingly, he is a member of the Business and Finance Committee in addition to being on the Medical Center Academic Affairs Committee.

49. Jeffrey Zients: The chief performance officer of the United States, Zients doubles as a Senate-confirmed deputy director of management in OMB. He was part of a bidding war to own the Washington Nationals, but lost at the last minute. Obama could use that luck.

50. Anthony Zinni: At Duke, he taught the 2008 course entitled “Leading in a New World.” It’s a topic Zinni knew a lot about: having served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000 and having been appointed in 2002 as the U.S. Special Envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.


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