The second installment in the Dear Old Duke photo series focuses on four of Duke's long-standing and much-loved deans—Sue Wasiolek, Gerald Wilson, Tom Keller and Christoph Guttentag—as they reflect on their time at Duke and the University's growth. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Christoph Guttentag, dean of admissions, came to Duke from the University of Pennsylvania as then-director of admissions in 1992, and became dean in 2006. He grew up in California and earned his Master’s degree at Penn, and felt he hit the “jackpot” when he was offered the position at Duke.
Guttentag: “I had arrived in June , and in fact my first act as, at the time, Director of Admissions was for an alumni program—and I wasn’t even formally an employee yet. But anyway, I started in July of 1992.
"At that point, I was living in an apartment in Woodcroft. I wasn’t yet married, I had not yet met my wife. I did not have a child. I was here, dating someone, but I was neither married or engaged. I was just trying to understand what this position was all about and what Duke was all about.
I was really excited to be here. When I got offered the job, I was at Penn chairing the Admissions Committee. It was a Friday evening. I got a message while I was chairing that I needed to return a phone call, and that evening around 6 p.m. I did. I remember telling people at Penn in the admissions office, when I told them that I got the job. I remember telling them that I had hit the jackpot. I was very, very excited about coming here, very excited about the next step.
I did not know how long I would be here. If you had told them then that I would be here now—it’s my 26th year—and that I would have met my wife, had a child, and our daughter is in college now, that all of that would have happened—I’m not sure I would have expected that.
It’s been very interesting to me to see how Duke has changed and how it’s stayed the same. The texture of this place has changed, but the character has stayed the same. The alumni who come back who’ve been gone for 20 years, they are amazed and impressed by how diverse this place is—it’s such a more diverse student body in all kinds of ways. The degree to which students like each other and love Duke hasn’t changed, but now they’re from everywhere.”
The Chronicle: What would you tell the man in the photo if you could go back in time?
“Talk less, listen more. That’s what I would tell him, talk less and listen more. I would tell my younger self to be more aware of how much there was to learn, and to listen harder to more people.”
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Sue Wasiolek, dean of students, joined the student affairs staff at Duke in 1979 and became the dean of students at the ripe age of 23. Now, "Dean Sue" is also the faculty-in-residence for a first-year dorm and continues to oversee facets of the University related to student life.
Wasiolek: “My position has changed over the years. I started as an administrative assistant and the dean left. It’s a long story. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. The two other people who were offered the position declined, so there I was moving from administrative assistant to interim dean for student life. Then I became the dean at the age of 23. That just doesn’t happen, and I will be forever grateful to the vice president of student affairs at the time, who was Bill Griffith, who believed in me and gave me a chance.
But I wasn’t very distant in age from the students I was working with, and at the time I was overseeing conduct. I guess the one thing that I had going for me was that I’ve always looked older than I am, so I guess students felt that I wasn’t 23. I never told them how old I was and I tried not to make a big deal out of the year that I graduated from Duke because then they could figure it out.
If we move away from that and look at changes just at Duke, I would say the biggest change has been the diversity of the student body and the University at large. It has been really gratifying to be here to watch that diversity shift and for Duke to really continue to emphasize need-based financial aid, blindly through the admissions process, and to look at first generation students, not only in the recruitment process but in supporting them once they get here.
A lot has changed. I mean, a lot has changed.”
Tom Keller, dean emeritus and R.J. Reynolds professor emeritus, served as dean of the Fuqua School of Business from 1974 to 1996.
Keller: “I came to work at Duke in 1959, so I had been here a while. The business school had gotten kicked off around 1970, and this picture was made shortly after we moved into this building… It was a major shift in the life of the business school, from being up in the Social Sciences building and the Old Chemistry building and on East Campus to being in one building with all of us here together. We continued to grow from that point.
Just about this time, I don’t remember if it was exactly in ’85, we got ranked in the Wall Street Journal as the number 10 business school in the country—so that was a high point. I was literally flying to Japan with the [North Carolina] governor, who at that time was Jim Hunt, on sort of a trade mission for the state, and Jim’s perspective at that time was that he wanted the Japanese to know that we had major educational opportunities here. We flew through New York, so we got off the plane at JFK and Jim Hunt picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal and there it was. So he went through the plane telling everyone we had the number 10 business school [here] in North Carolina, so that was a big message in Japan on that whole trip. That was really a major breakthrough for the school.
In 1989, which wasn’t too long after this, Mr. Fuqua—who had been our naming sponsor—gave us $5 million to begin a program for Russian managers. At that time, the [Berlin] wall still existed and there was a huge cold war between the U.S. and Russia. His thesis was that if we could convince Russian managers how to live in a market economy, we could reduce tension between the two countries—that they would begin to understand market economy to a controlled economy.
Mr. Fuqua and I went on a couple of trips to Russia in 1989 to meet with top Russians—we had hoped to meet with Mr. [Mikhail] Gorbachev himself, but we never got to. We got to meet his next in command. We met him in the Kremlin and talked with him about this program, what we intended to do—we had obviously gotten approval from the State department before we started this venture—and convinced him this would be a good thing to do.
So in 1990, we brought the first students here to Fuqua, in roughly August, and gave them a program. They spent three weeks here and then we put them with a company for three weeks, like an internship. Then they went back to Russia. We brought three groups a year over, so roughly 100 students per year. We did that for three to four years, until we ran out of money."
Gerald Wilson, an academic dean in Trinity College, has been at Duke for over half of a century. He’s the University’s pre-law adviser and is a history professor. “Dean Wilson” moved to his current office in the bottom floor of the Allen Building around 2007, where he continues to advise first-year students.
Wilson: “I came to Duke on Sept. 18, 1958 as a graduate student to go to the Divinity School. I became what we now call a [Residential Assistant] and the head RA—we called them house masters then, so I was the head house master. We had two campuses, and I worked in the Dean of Men’s office, and for a semester I was the acting Dean of Men. Then I got an academic deanship, which was what I wanted.
My full-time employment at Duke dates from 1964. I joined the dean’s staff in 1967, and I became the pre-law advisor in 1969.”
The Chronicle: How has the University changed in your time here?
Wilson: “In general, in terms of the University, I have watched Duke move from being the outstanding university in the South to being a world-class university.”