Flashback: Some 'venturesome' advice from the 80's

Courtesy of Duke University Archives
Courtesy of Duke University Archives

Editor's note: This story is the 14th entry in a series called Flashback, which The Chronicle will be running online weekly through the end of the summer. For now, this will be the last entry.

Class of 2022, have you met your FACs, DAEs and RAs already? Actually, the first-year advisory counselors, directors of academic engagement and resident assistants, respectively, are just a few of the well-meaning advisers that first-years meet during orientation.

Amidst moving in and making new friends, first-years receive a boatload of advice from faculty, administrators and upperclassmen. This week, Flashback looks back at the orientation in 1985 and the advice that was given to the class of 1989.

“For 1,440 freshmen, life at Duke began Wednesday morning. They spent the day moving into dormitories, battling for their Duke Cards and being advised by administrators, professors and sundry upperclassmen,” reporter Whit Cobb wrote in the article.

Cobb compiled the most salient quotes from two administrators—Richard White, dean of Arts and Science and Trinity College at the time, and Elizabeth Nathans, then assistant dean of Trinity College.

Richard White told the first-years to make the most of their liberal arts education, noting that “a real liberal education is greater than the sum courses that make up the curriculum.”

However, he also warned the incoming students that their peers at Duke would be more academically competitive than those in their high schools.

“You are among the top academic achievers in the country, but 50 percent of you will be in the bottom half of your class at the end of this semester,” White said.

Elizabeth Nathans advised students to own their learning at Duke, but also to be careful with their newfound freedom as college students.

“The faculty are not here for your entertainment,” Nathans said. “The faculty are not even here to teach you, in one sense. You must teach yourselves.”

She also highlighted the resources available to freshmen to help them with the college transition, adding that “It’s OK to admit to needing help.”

Both White and Nathans urged students to explore all the opportunities that Duke offered.

"Be venturesome these next four years,” White concluded.


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