Thousands of Duke community members packed into Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday for Duke’s Centennial Celebration Kick-off, marking the first of a series of events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Duke endowment's establishment.
The event was hosted by actor and comedian Ken Jeong, Trinity ‘90, Lisa Borders, former president of the Women’s National Basketball Association and Trinity ‘79, and former men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. It also featured performances from student dance groups and appearances by select Duke community members.
With giant video screens displaying “1924” and “2024” in the background, the show began with short performances from On Tap, Nakisai, Dhamaka, Street Med, Duke Chinese Dance and Devils en Pointe. A succession of videos and speakers followed, highlighting various stories that celebrated many of Duke’s achievements.
Jeong took the stage first, crediting Duke with his decision to become an actor after taking an introductory acting course his sophomore year.
“Being at Duke gives you opportunities you never thought you’d have,” he said. “It honestly made me who I am. Duke is home.”
Jeong joked that another “Ken-tennial” celebration would be held next week, earning laughter from the crowd. After a short introductory video showing shots of Duke throughout its history, Borders reminded the crowd that “we are all part of Duke’s future.”
“Duke is a place where each of us has the opportunity to make our own mark to be ourselves and to make an impact,” she said. “... Making an impact doesn’t always mean making a splash, like a lot of impacts, it starts out small.”
Borders proceeded to show a short video highlighting the stories of senior Isaiah Hamilton, president of Duke Student Government, and Keanu Valibia, a master’s student studying public policy and environmental management. Hamilton and Valibia then shared the stage with Borders.
Hamilton spoke about his and his classmates’ experiences navigating the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was the ability that we had to learn to embrace that unknown and persevere through those tough times that I think is going to be surmounting any other lesson,” he said.
A second video featured Anna Gassman-Pines, director of graduate studies in the Sanford School of Public Policy and professor of psychology and neuroscience, along with Felipe De Brigard, Fuchsberg-Levine Family associate professor of philosophy. After they both joined Borders on the stage, Gassman-Pines and Brigard spoke about how Duke’s fostering of interdisciplinary scholarship helped further their research.
“I'm a philosophy professor that works in the psychology and the clunky neuroscience of memory and forgiveness with a research project that has potential feedback for public policy,” Brigard said. “I need a place like Duke because I need a place that values and fosters both the philosophy and the science.”
The next video subject and stage guest was Shree Bose, School of Medicine ‘23. Now pursuing her medical residency at the University of Chicago, Bose stated that Duke remains a large part of her identity.
“Duke is where you grow up,” she said. “It's where you find your best friends. It's where you find your mentors. It's where you figure out what matters to you, what really makes you who you are.”
Another video then recounted the journey of director of residential dining Barbara Stokes, who first came to Duke as an undergraduate student and held a work-study job as an egg cook. Stokes spoke to the crowd about developing her employees personally and professionally by listening to and understanding their “concerns and needs.”
The final video featured the Sinnamon Family, whose two-year-old son Easton was the first person to receive a combination heart transplant and allogeneic processed thymus tissue implantation. The video chronicled how Joseph Turek, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery and Mary Louise Markert, professor emeritus of pediatrics, collaborated to pioneer the historic operation at Duke University Hospital.
Following a brief choir and dance performance, the Sinnamon family was brought out to a standing ovation. Jeong then brought out President Vincent Price, who said he was “incredibly moved” by the speakers before him.
“Our centennial is a gift to us,” he said. “It's a chance to pause and reflect on our past. It's an opportunity to appreciate the present and to plan for the future.”
Krzyzewski, the final speaker, spoke about the values that embody Duke, telling a story about a play made by former Duke men’s basketball player Grayson Allen in the 2015 men’s basketball championship game. Krzyzewski described how, despite being the eighth player on the roster, Allen dared to dive for a loose ball and draw a foul in front of millions of people. Allen then screamed, “Let’s go!”, shifting the momentum in Duke's favor and helping secure the team’s most recent national championship.
“No one knew that we were going to be as good as we were,” Krzyzewski said. “The thing is, they have no clue about how much better we’re going to be.”
As the event came to a close, the featured performers and speakers returned to the court, accompanied by the cheerleading team and the Dancing Devils. Blue and white balloons fell from overhead as the audience members danced and sang along to “Everytime We Touch.”
Duke will be hosting a variety of centennial events throughout the year, the next being a commemoration of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The event, hosted by the Office of Institutional Equity, will take place on Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. in the Duke Chapel.
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Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Mia Penner is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.