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Presidents, provosts, puppies: Here's who you need to know at Duke

Whether it’s your first year or your last, there’s always somebody at Duke that you might not know. The Chronicle is here to help. Here are some of the University’s biggest stars to be on the lookout for as you adjust to life at Duke.

Portions of this story were adapted from “From President Price to Peaches: Duke’s biggest stars you need to know.

Vincent Price 

President Vincent Price is entering his sixth academic year at Duke’s helm. Price’s tenure has seen the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee at the entrance of the Duke Chapel and an increase of the University minimum wage to $17 per hour for employees and $15 for general student job postings. In the last few years, his decisions have included closing campus at the start of the pandemic, bringing students back in fall 2020 and promising new anti-racism initiatives

In the past, Price has been spotted strolling across campus with his dogs Scout, a golden doodle, and Cricket, a labradoodle.

Jon Scheyer 

Taking over after Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 42 year tenure at the helm of the men’s basketball team is no easy task, but Jon Scheyer appears to be up to it. In the off-season, he has made some impressive hiring decisions and continues to turn heads with his recruitment resume. Scheyer was a Blue Devil guard from 2007-10 and returned to Duke in 2013 as a special assistant. 

K-Ville is the area outside Cameron Indoor Stadium where undergraduate students camp out for games, including tenting for weeks for a spot in the highly anticipated game against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Nina King 

Nina King is the vice president and director of athletics. She has overseen significant changes in the past year, from new hires in men’s basketball and football, to updated NCAA rules for student-athlete compensation, to bringing fans back to Duke games. King is the first woman and first Black person to serve as athletic director at Duke. 

Mike Elko

Mike Elko is the head coach of the Duke football team, filling the coaching vacancy after a mutual separation between the program and David Cutcliffe, who had led the Blue Devils since 2008. Elko comes to Durham from College Station where he served as the defensive coordinator for Texas A&M. 

At Elko’s first press conference in December, he said, “Now is the time for Duke football.” 

Gary Bennett 

Gary Bennett is vice provost for undergraduate education and a professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience. He’s been involved in important decisions during the pandemic, including those about grading policies and Duke’s pandemic response.

Mary Pat McMahon

Mary Pat McMahon is vice provost and vice president of student affairs. Alongside Bennett, McMahon has been a key player in crucial conversations during the pandemic, including those about housing, COVID-19 restrictions and mental health. McMahon has also advocated for the shift toward Duke’s new residential college program, QuadEx

Shruti Desai 

Shruti Desai is the associate vice president of student affairs for campus life. She oversees Duke’s relationship with student government, Greek life, and identity and cultural spaces. She has played a large role in the coming Bryan Center renovations and the rollout of QuadEx. 

John Blackshear

John Blackshear is the dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs. In the past, he has served as senior associate dean for academic planning, clinical director of the Academic Resource Center, student ombudsman and a psychologist for Counseling and Psychological Services. However, he may be most beloved for his role as the faculty-in-residence in Trinity Dorm on East Campus.

Mohamed Noor

Mohamed Noor is the interim dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, taking over after former dean Valerie Ashby left to become president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Noor is a professor of biology and has previously served as the chair of the department and dean of natural sciences since 2018. 

Jerome P. Lynch

Jerome P. Lynch is the Vinik Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering, a title he has held since 2021. He has committed to improving the experience for student engineers by prioritizing diversity initiatives and integrating engineering into various other disciplines. 

Lana Gesinsky

Senior Lana Gesinsky serves as this year’s president of Duke Student Government and hopes to bring DSG closer to the rest of the undergraduate population. During her time on DSG, she collaborated on the Blue Devil Buddies mentorship program, increased on-campus outdoor seating during COVID and helped students block with their friends in on-campus housing throughout the pandemic.

Finn Brauer

Senior Finn Brauer serves as this year’s president of Duke University Union and aims to bring back the “palpable sense of Duke” after the pandemic halted in-person events. 

DUU, Duke’s largest student-run arts, media and programming body, hosts events on campus for students, including LDOC and Heatwave. 

Keith Upchurch and Gold 

Keith Upchurch, Trinity ’72, and Nugget, his golden retriever, were iconic figures on campus for two decades until Nugget passed in May following a battle with lymphoma. Upchurch started to bring Nugget all over campus in 2012 to provide stressed students with a break from their hectic schedules. 

But Duke would not be Duke without friendly smiles and apple slices from Upchurch. This fall, Upchurch will be accompanied by a golden retriever puppy named Gold. The pair can already be found on the benches outside the Brodhead Center. 

Editor's Note: This article was updated on Thursday afternoon to remove mention of Peaches, a beloved calico cat who died on Wednesday afternoon. 


Kathryn Thomas | News Editor

Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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