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Stacking up Price's first three months with those of his predecessors

From the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, to the decision to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2019, President Vincent Price has had an eventful first three months.

But have Price’s experiences his first three months truly been as unique as they may seem? To answer this question, The Chronicle searched through its archives to compare the first three months of prior Duke presidents.

Earlier presidencies

We found that the initial few months of each presidency have varied greatly, especially as time has progressed from early in Duke’s history to present day. The capabilities of The Chronicle have also advanced in these years, making the study of later presidents much more in depth.

William Preston Few, the first Duke president, began his term as president of Trinity College in 1910 and oversaw the college’s transition into Duke University in 1924. From 1910, he dedicated his life to the University and served as president until his death in 1940. The Chronicle's records showed that the events during Few’s first three months in 1910 were mainly speeches.

Few’s first act as president was the creation of a faculty committee to “develop a ‘more sweet and wholesome’ life among the students of the college.”

His second speech targeted “a much discussed present day problem,” the relationship between religion and education. The talk's emphasis on Christianity—specifically the United Methodist Church based on which Duke was founded—shows one clear difference between the priorities of the University more than 100 years after Few’s inauguration.

Robert Lee Flowers succeeded Few in 1941 following his death in office on Oct. 16, 1940.

Flowers’ first three months were mostly shaped by world events, with the exception of the separation of the Engineering Student Government from the Trinity College Student Government.

Two different Duke professors both made predictions of world politics in The Chronicle. Dean Calvin B. Hoover stated that a British victory in World War II was “improbable without U.S. entry into war” and Dr. Paul H. Clyde expressed the Japanese foreign minister’s dread of a U.S. war with Japan, on April 8, 194—eight months before Pearl Harbor.

One of Flowers’ first responses to the war was for the College of Engineering to open an aeronautical engineering department as part of a national defense program.

Following Flowers

Arthur Hollis Edens succeeded Flowers in 1949. His first three months were relatively light; however, he did give tentative approval for the creation of a campus radio station.

Following Edens’ resignation, J. Deryl Hart was chosen as an interim President in 1960.

Edens’ presidency began with the issue of whether to de-segregate the University. Dr. Benjamin Mays, a prominent “Negro educator” spoke in Page Auditorium on Nov. 29, 1960, to voice how he “believes segregation interferes in education and that southern Universities have failed to achieve the status of those in the North because ‘our minds are circumscribed by the walls of segregation.’”

The Board of Trustees eventually voted to desegregate the graduate and professional schools on March 8, 1961.

Douglas Maitland Knight succeeded Edens in 1963, tackling Greek life at Duke by saying that fraternities and sororities “are integral to the place, and if they are not, they can be.” He went on to “suggest three ways in which Greeks could ‘justify’ their existence now that the historic function of ‘civilizing’ students has disappeared.”

The biggest event of Knight’s first three months was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. Knight cancelled Saturday classes—which were a facet of a Duke education at the time—as well as all weekend social activity. Knight replaced these with religious services featuring a memorial service attended by 1,500 people.

Terry Sanford succeeded Knight in 1970 after finishing his term as the 65th Governor of North Carolina. His first three months were the most eventful thus far with the high frequency of anti-Vietnam war activities as well as other campus demonstrations.

Sanford didn’t waste time calling for the end of the Vietnam War less than 10 days into his term.

In addition, he presented the opening address for the new William R. Perkins Library on April 15, 1970. In the same edition of The Chronicle, the news that the University failed to graduate 42% in a four-year period was published.

On May 4, 1970, in response to the deadly shootings of four students at Kent State University by National Guard gunfire, Sanford said that “he would consider bringing troops onto campus ‘only if the lives of students are in danger.’”

One way Sanford supported students’ demonstrations was by saying that a “Duke student who [wanted] to work in congressional election campaigns next fall will be given a week off from classes to do so.”

H. Keith H. Brodie succeeded Sanford in 1985. The Chronicle's article announcing Brodie’s succession described the transition period as “almost unnoticed,” adding that, “Keith Brodie’s first official act as University president was to take his family on a vacation to Maine.” The article continued, “but more than anything, Brodie’s taking leave the first month on his new job signals the smooth transition between him and his predecessor.”

One of Brodie’s first official decisions was to decline the appeal of varsity football player John El-Masry to re-open the assault case that resulted in his suspension from the University for two semesters.

During his first three months, Brodie also created a new committee to study the feasibility of a new residential college on East Campus and revived a committee to determine how Duke could best help dismantle apartheid in South Africa.

Nannerl O. Keohane succeeded Brodie in 1993, becoming the first female president of the University.

"Traditionally incoming presidents are accustomed to a honeymoon period, but for Keohane there are already a number of issues that demand her immediate action,” read the article announcing Keohane’s assumption of the presidency, on July 1, 1993.

One of Keohane’s first actions was to charge a new administrator to examine a proposed general harassment policy. Additionally during her first three months, the University brought in six new black professors, Hurricane Emily forced the evacuation of the Duke University Marine Lab, two law professors formed a non-profit corporation to fight gerrymandering, a curriculum review committee proposed a new undergraduate curriculum for Trinity College, two committees were formed to address criticisms lodged against student advising, a new center for improving teaching was introduced, a memo warned faculty about subtle sexism and a task force was created to examine Greek life.

Keohane also made the still-standing decision to house all freshmen on East Campus despite protests.

Brodhead's early months and looking ahead

Richard Brodhead succeeded Keohane in 2004. On almost the same day Brodhead started as president, the Los Angeles Lakers “’had serious discussions’ regarding their vacant head coaching position” with men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski. However, the same edition of The Chronicle announcing Brodhead’s start also featured the headline, “Coach K: No Way, L.A.” on its front page.

Brodhead also oversaw the improvement of technology on campus in the form of video camera installations at dorm entrances for safety and the distribution of more than 1,600 iPods to freshmen. However, despite the new video cameras, two instances of armed robbery, one on Edens and one off East Campus, led to an increase in campus police officers.

Finally, Vincent Price succeeded Brodhead in 2017. He took office July 1 and his inauguration is set for Oct. 5.