In this year’s Founders’ Day Convocation in the Chapel, Oscar Dantzler, custodian of the Duke Chapel, received the University Medal, Duke’s highest honor for distinguished service.
The annual ceremony featured an address by Bruce Karsh, Trinity ‘77, who is the founder and chief investment officer of Oaktree Capital Management and also received the University Medal. Other awards presented included the Distinguished Alumni Award, which went to Trustee Emerita Kimberly Jenkins, and the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, given to Elizabeth Bucholz, a lecturer in the department of biomedical engineering.
“I can feel my heart beating now,” Dantzler said after the ceremony. “When they told me I was getting this award, it was like a dream. And I’m feeling that dream right now.”
Dantzler has served as the custodian of Duke Chapel for nearly two decades. After serving in the United States Air Force, he came to Duke from New York in 1997. During the ceremony, Dantzler received a standing ovation when President Richard Brodhead presented him with the medal.
Brodhead elaborated on Dantzler’s position as being more than a custodian. He described Dantzler as a “guardian” and “caretaker” both of the Chapel and those who happen to wander into it. Brodhead further added that Dantzler’s defining characteristic is his trustworthiness—namely the empathy and care he has provided to students.
The other University Medal was awarded to Karsh, who graduated from Duke with a degree in economics and also established the University’s pre-law society.
Karsh joined the Board of Directors of Duke University’s investment management company DUMAC in 2002, chairing the group from 2005 to 2014. Upon Brodhead’s request, Karsh said, he also served as the co-chair of the Duke Forward campaign. Over the years, Karsh has donated about $100 million to Duke, mostly to support financial aid programs.
“When—not if—when you are successful after you graduate from Duke, please remember to give back, whether it is Duke or some other place,” Karsh said in his speech.
Both Karsh and Jenkins have served on the Board of Trustees. Jenkins, who joined the Board of Trustees in 2001, acted as chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee. Brodhead explained that Jenkins often shined as a champion for women’s issues on the Board.
In 2011, Jenkins left the Board to pursue the position of senior advisor to the president and provost for innovation and entrepreneurship at Duke. Since then, she has developed the I&E curriculum and the Duke in Silicon Valley study away program.
Along with working on the Board and as provost, Jenkins has also made her mark on Duke as vice chair of the Kenan Institute of Ethics Advisory Board and a member of the Duke University Health System Board.
Like Jenkins, Bucholz has also served as a University faculty member. In 2008, Bucholz received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Duke and currently teaches both undergraduate and graduate classes, while also serving as the associate director of undergraduate studies in the Pratt School of Engineering.
Brodhead described Bucholz’s ability to connect with her students in innovative ways, often integrating various objects and technologies in her explanations to illustrate concepts.
“I have never had another teacher who cares as much about each and every one of her students as much as Dr. Bucholz, and her commitment to her job as an educator has inspired me to pursue a career as a college professor,” one student wrote in the nomination of Bucholz.