The independent news organization of Duke University

Thank you for the lessons

farewell column

Much like my last few weeks here at Duke, the theme of this piece is gratitude. As I prepare to graduate, I have been thinking of the defining elements of my Duke experience. Chief among those is The Chronicle, which became my greatest teacher, proudest product and the epicenter of my campus involvement.

Last year in my column following my time as managing editor, I wrote that The Chronicle was my biggest social outlet, and pleaded that readers not pass judgment on the fact. I now need a correction; The Chronicle regrets the error. I am immensely proud to have been so dedicated and committed to something that I truly believe has helped shape Duke, and would not trade my time here, with these people, for anything in the world.

Yes, the only time I’ve dressed to the theme of a college party was for Halloween when I pretended to be the squirrel that broke into our office or the “dead” print paper. Sure, my Wednesday nights were spent googling the proper AP style for “mac ‘n cheese” instead of going out. These memories and the people with whom they were made are some of the highlights of my past several years.

Writing has been a hallmark of my time in college. I spent my first year terribly homesick, writing to my family frequently to feel more connected. Later that year I began writing for The Chronicle, learning both tricks of the trade and information about the institution. During one of the most tumultuous years in the University’s existence, I watched as my fellow students persevered, achieved and and found joy and opportunity at a time when so much seemed like a loss. I learned all their stories, and with it learned greater empathy.

Now, I’ve spent the last several weeks writing thank-you’s. I’ve filled endless letters and emails with tiny stories of ways that people have changed my life. In cataloging them, I have come to realize just how much I owe to those around me, and how incredibly grateful I am for the experiences I have gathered here.

Duke came with the expectation of education, of course, but I never knew that along the way I would learn life lessons that will stay with me longer and carry me further than anything copied off a slide or whiteboard. 

I learned about cooking from Robert “Judge” Carr, a senior associate dean at the Pratt School of Engineering, who taught me to make the best proper southern biscuits a pacific northwest gal could hope to whip up. Shira Viel, the assistant professor of the practice of mathematics who taught my first ever class at Duke, opened my eyes to the wonders of vanilla paste in baking.

I learned about music, too. My former Chemistry 110 professor, Todd Woerner, played old American fiddle tunes with me every Friday last year and let me sit in on a rehearsal with his band. Every basketball game re-taught me of the absolute euphoria that comes with Cascada’s “Everytime we Touch,” a song I never thought I would hear again after seventh grade.

I have learned perhaps the most from The Chronicle. My personal accountability was naturally expanded, since you have to own up to mistakes when your name is plastered on the byline.  Interactions with administration and the handling of delicate stories in a difficult time greatly improved my professionalism and ability to handle complex situations. Most of all, working at The Chronicle fostered my curiosity. It taught me to always ask “why?” and it showed me that behind every person is a story waiting to be told. Through my friends here, I have learned how to laugh my way through a long night, how to collaborate on difficult decisions, how to play (win) dodgeball and, hopefully, a thing or two about writing an article.

This entire column could be filled with things I will miss about The Chronicle and it still wouldn’t be exhaustive. Topping the list, of course, would be the people, my dearest friends. I’ve always felt that the office was a safe space, somewhere I could come to find those who would share in my joys or sorrows in equal measure. I feel genuinely loved, which is such a beautiful thing that is easy to take for granted.

The 301 Flowers office is a special place, with its wall of quotes that all reflect a funny story from a friend, the fading Chomicle editions with headlines that forever make me smile, and the wooden door that bears the signatures of staff who stayed up obscenely late to finish stories, marking the occasion so that at least someone down the line might feel pity or appreciation.

It is true that The Chronicle can be considered a relatively thankless job. Many people expect the news to simply just happen. The (digital) presses never stop. It is delivered to your doorstep (desktop) on schedule and keeps you in the know. Sometimes the morning tweets have been scheduled for hours, other times the editor on shift is able to schedule them for the daybreak that will occur in only 20 minutes. The latter instances are the ones I hold closest to my heart.

It is almost funny, when thinking back on all of these fantastic moments and irreplaceable memories, to recall that I requested a transfer after my first year. I am so happy that I decided to stay. 

In a matter of days, my fellow Chronicle seniors and I will embark on different voyages that take us around the world. We will be young professionals and college graduates. Today, as I enjoy and embrace my last moments as a Duke student, I hope everyone can take a minute to thank those around us for the impacts they have made on our lives.

Thank you, Chron, for all that you have taught me and given me. I love you all.

Maria Morrison is a Trinity senior and served as managing editor of The Chronicle’s 116th volume. She is especially grateful for the support and friendship of her fellow uppermast from last year, the endless compassion and kindness of Chrissy Beck, and the mentorship from Chronicle members of the past.

Maria Morrison

Maria Morrison is a Trinity senior and a digital strategy director for The Chronicle's 117th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 116.


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