Bill Green, Duke's former vice president of university relations, died Monday at his family home in Durham. He was 91.
Green, who was hired by former President Terry Sanford in 1970, is credited with helping improve Duke’s national profile during the 1970s and 1980s. He also served as the ombudsman for The Washington Post during the year that the newspaper had to return a Pulitzer Prize for a fraudulent article.
“Bill Green’s impact on Duke was monumental,” wrote Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, in an email. “He and Terry Sanford engineered the elevation of a well-regarded university into one the world’s most visible and prestigious institutions.”
Green founded Duke’s visiting journalist program, which was was one of the first of its kind, and taught a class on news writing in the University's public policy department for more than a decade.
In the early 1980s when the The New York Times Magazine came to Duke to take pictures for a story on “hot schools,” Green helped Duke get on the cover by having his staff buy dozens of Duke sweatshirts for students on the quad to wear, according to a Duke Today release.
“Those of us who followed in his footsteps owe a huge debt of gratitude to Bill for setting the highest standard of wisdom and integrity,” Schoenfeld wrote. “I knew him as a student and had the chance to visit with him several times over the past several years, always learning something about Duke, public relations and the world."
Schoenfeld added that his only regret is not having taken Green's news writing class, which he noted launched many Duke journalists into their careers in media.
In 1981, while on sabbatical from Duke, Green served as the ombudsman for The Washington Post. Charged with investigating complaints about the newspaper, he investigated a story by reporter Janet Cooke about an 8-year-old heroin addict. The story, which had won a Pulitzer Prize, was proven to be fabricated. Cooke eventually admitted that she had invented the article, resigned and returned the Pulitzer.
Green’s 18,000-word account of what went wrong—in terms of Cooke’s reporting and the paper’s editing and oversight—appeared on the front page and four full pages inside.
“It was an intense, exhausting experience, and not all that pleasant because The Washington Post is one of our great newspapers that had made a terrible mistake,” Green once told the Eastern Wake News in North Carolina, according to The Washington Post. “It was a dark day in journalism.”
After retiring from Duke in 1986, Green became a senior assistant on the staff of Sanford, who was then a U.S. senator.
Green, who began his career as a reporter for the Durham Sun and then became an editor of the Morganton News Herald and the Shelby Daily Star, was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame in 2012.
Amrith Ramkumar contributed reporting.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.