Category Archives: Feature Articles

A Big Lift for Lilly

Lead Gifts Support Planned Renovation and Expansion

By Aaron Welborn, Director of Communications

First-year students in the Class of 2022 ham it up before the class photo in front of Lilly Library on East Campus, August 2018. Photo by Jared Lazarus/University Communications.

In December, President Vincent E. Price shared with the Duke community some tidings of comfort and joy. The Duke University Libraries had received $10 million, Price announced in a press release, in support of the planned renovation and expansion of Lilly Library, one of Duke’s oldest and most architecturally significant buildings.

The donation is comprised of three gifts: a $5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., $2.5 million from Irene and William McCutchen and the Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation, and $2.5 million from Virginia and Peter Nicholas.

Altogether, the gifts represent approximately one-fourth of the projected renovation cost. And they come from a family with a long association with Duke, and with Lilly Library in particular.

Rendering of the renovated and expanded Lilly Library, including a planned new entrance on the west side of the building. Image by Dewing Schmid Kearns Architects and Planners.

Lilly Library is named for Ruth Lilly, the famed philanthropist and last great-grandchild of pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly. In 1993, Lilly made a gift to “renovate and computerize” the library where her two nieces, sisters Irene “Renie” Lilly McCutchen and Virginia “Ginny” Lilly Nicholas, spent time as they attended the Woman’s College at Duke, graduating in 1962 and 1964, respectively. The gift renamed the building and provided the first significant upgrade to the stately Georgian edifice since it was built in 1927.

Renie and William McCutchen, a 1962 graduate of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, have a history of giving to Duke, primarily toward the Duke Divinity School.

Ginny and Peter Nicholas, a 1964 graduate of the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, are also longtime donors to Duke, most notably for their naming gift for the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Among the members of the McCutchen and Nicholas families and their children, ten have attended Duke (one Nicholas grandchild is enrolled currently), and both families have a distinguished tradition of generosity and service to the university.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family—J. K. Lilly Sr. and sons J. K. Jr. and Eli—through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. In keeping with the wishes of the three founders, Lilly Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education, and community development. Throughout its history, the endowment has made grants totaling nearly $9.9 billion to almost ten thousand charitable organizations. At the end of 2017, the endowment’s assets totaled $11.7 billion.

More than 1,700 first-year students make East Campus their home every year and rely on Lilly Library for their academic success. Photo by Jared Lazarus/University Communications.

“These remarkably generous gifts from the Nicholas and McCutchen families and the grant from Lilly Endowment will enable us to dramatically improve the academic experience for Duke students and faculty, while preserving the charm and character of Lilly’s most beloved spaces,” said Deborah Jakubs, the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. “While Lilly Library and its staff are popular with first-year students and other library users, the lack of services and adequate space prevents it from fully meeting their needs. Many of the library services and spaces today’s students need to succeed are available in Perkins and Bostock Libraries on West Campus, but not yet on East.”

The planned renovation and expansion will update facility needs—including enhanced lighting, technology infrastructure, and furnishings—to meet today’s standards of safety, accessibility, usability, and service. Anticipated changes will also extend to the elegant Thomas, Few, and Carpenter reading rooms while maintaining the charm and character of these favorite spaces.

The library under construction in 1926. It served as Duke’s first library while West Campus was being built.

The proposed renovated building will also feature several new spaces for collaborative research and academic services, such as tutoring space for the Thompson Writing Program, event space for the Duke FOCUS Program, a student-testing facility, and an exhibit gallery. An anticipated added entrance and commons space holds promise to become the crossroads for East Campus that the von der Heyden Pavilion is for West, a place where students and faculty can meet over coffee.

“Our family’s commitment to restore and expand Duke’s library that bears the Lilly name comes from our hearts,” said Renie McCutchen and Ginny Nicholas. “We are happy to continue to support the same exceptional education and student experience as Duke has provided for three generations of the Lilly family.”

The building now known as Lilly Library opened in 1927 as Duke University’s first library on East Campus while West Campus was being constructed. At that time, it had a collection of around 100,000 books and was designed to serve a population of some 1,400 students. For more than four decades it served as the Woman’s College Library. When the Woman’s College merged with Trinity College of Arts & Sciences in 1972, the library was renamed the East Campus Library until 1993, when it was rededicated in honor of Ruth Lilly.

The Trinity College seal over the entry door of Lilly Library.

Over the course of that history, the very nature of libraries has also been redefined several times by technology, educational trends, and the demands of library users.

Today, more than 1,700 first-year Duke students make East Campus their home every year, and Lilly serves as their gateway to the full range of library collections and services. Faculty and graduate students whose departments are on East Campus also depend on Lilly for library services and materials, as does anyone who uses the art, art history, and philosophy collections housed there.

The total projected cost of the renovation and expansion is anticipated to be $38 million, which will largely be funded through philanthropy.

The Lilly family has been long been known for its support of libraries. In addition to Duke’s Lilly Library, there are Lilly libraries at Indiana University-Bloomington (with separate libraries named after Ruth Lilly at IU’s schools of law and medicine), Wabash College, Earlham College, and the Ruth Lilly Library at the Indianapolis Art Center.

“Since the war began ‘times ain’t what they used to be'”

Life at Trinity College During the Great War

By Mandy Cooper, Ph.D.

First Lieutenant Robert “Kid” Anderson, Trinity Class of 1914, in his service uniform (third from left) and as captain of the baseball team during his senior year. Anderson was the first Trinity alum casualty of the war and the first North Carolinian to receive the Distinguished Service Cross (posthumously). Photographs courtesy of Mr. Jesse Clayton.

One hundred and one years ago, the doors to the East Duke Parlors were “thrown open” and “tables and machines [were] hauled in” along with “oilcloth, bleaching, hammer and tacks.” Led by Trinity College’s newly established branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the women at Trinity College and in the surrounding community turned the East Duke Parlors into a Red Cross room.

According to Trinity’s YWCA president Lucile Litaker, the room was now “splendidly equipped” and “great bundles of material began to appear.” Throughout the next year, women at Trinity were joined by women from Durham to roll and send bandages overseas. The Red Cross room was officially open every Tuesday and Friday afternoon 2:00-4:30, with the Trinity Chronicle reporting in February 1918 that between forty and fifty women had worked in the room the previous Friday. The women at Trinity were determined to do their part for the war effort.

They were not the only ones. By the 1917–1918 school year, the United States had officially entered World War I, and Trinity was feeling its effects. The impact on enrollment was immediate. Trinity saw a decrease of over one hundred enrolled students during the 1916–1917 and 1918–1919 academic years. President William P. Few was alarmed and attempted to boost enrollment in multiple ways: he encouraged current students to remain at Trinity until they were drafted; he toured North Carolina to promote the need for college-educated men to rebuild a war-ravaged Europe; and, like many other North Carolina universities, he started a Student Army Training Corps (SATC) unit on campus. The young men who enrolled in the SATC officially joined the U.S. Army, but remained students at their institutions and were protected from the draft while receiving the training necessary to be considered for officer positions after graduation. Special classes were established for the SATC to ensure that those enrolled received the necessary training. The War Department required that Trinity create a course for the SATC that covered the “remote and immediate causes of the war and on the underlying conflict of points of view.” This course was intended to enhance the SATC’s morale and help them understand the “supreme importance to civilization” of the war.

Trinity College students in the Student Army Training Corps. Students enrolled in the SATC were protected from the draft and received training to be considered for officer positions. University Archives Photograph Collection.

Few’s worries that Trinity would lose many students “to government service of one kind or another” proved apt. Although Few tried to dissuade freshman Charlton Gaines from leaving Trinity when he heard of his plans, Gaines enlisted and was sent to Camp Meigs for training. He apologized to Few shortly after arriving at Camp Meigs for leaving “without giving you notice of my departure.” Gaines served throughout the war, attaining the rank of Sergeant in the Quartermaster Corps, and never returned to Trinity College.

Even those students who remained at Trinity felt the effects of the war. Friends and former students who had joined the military often returned to campus to visit on the weekends. The Chronicle reported in January 1918 that there would be no Chanticleer for the 1917–1918 year, largely because of the war. In addition to financial woes carried over from the previous year, the editor-elect had failed to return to Trinity in fall 1917—presumably because he joined the army. As the Chronicle writer reported, though, Trinity was not the only college (even just in North Carolina) that had been forced to cancel the yearbook for the year. In the end, the writer told students that they must “patriotically adapt” themselves to this situation because “since the war began ‘times ain’t what they used to be.’” The Chanticleer returned in 1919 as a special edition. It was issued at the end of the war, published as Victory, 1919, and highlighted the victory of the United States and its allies in the war.

Completed in 1923 and dedicated to the “one thousand and twenty-nine sons of Trinity who entered the service of their country in the World War,” the Alumni Memorial Gymnasium on East Campus was funded through the donations of hundreds of Trinity alumni. In 1996, the Brodie Recreation Center was added to the existing Memorial Gymnasium. These dedications are on the second floor.

The war had some unexpected effects on Trinity as well. Football had been banned at Trinity since 1895, and in 1918 students petitioned for its return. They argued that a football program would help build a manly physique during a time when there was “a distressing need for physically well-developed men.” As the war was ending, the administration lifted the ban and football returned to Trinity.

Trinity’s connection to the war was never more clear than in the masses of letters that alumni and former students sent to friends still at Trinity, to President Few or other faculty, to the Trinity Chronicle, or to the Alumni Register. Lt. R. H. Shelton wrote to Duke Treasurer D. W. Newsome from the front in France, telling him that he had seen “some of the worst over here.” Shelton continued, “Sherman certainly knew what he was talking about, but his was an infant.” Alumni like Shelton made the horrors of war clear to everyone still at Trinity. The pages of the Alumni Register for the war years are filled with letters from the front, placed in the same volumes as the President’s updates on the war’s effect on the college.

Duke’s Blue Devil mascot traces its origins to World War I. The Chasseurs Alpins—nicknamed “les Diables bleus”—were an elite French military unit known for their courage and skill in fighting on mountainous terrain. When the U.S. entered the war, units of the French Blue Devils toured the country to raise money for the war effort. Their distinctive blue uniform with flowing cape and jaunty beret captured the public imagination. As the war was ending, Trinity lifted its quarter-century ban on football and the Chronicle began advocating for a catchy name for the team. In 1922, Blue Devils was eventually chosen out of the suggestions (which also included Blue Titans, Blue Eagles, Royal Blazes, and Polar Bears). Postcard from Francis Eugene Seymour Papers, Rubenstein Library.

The Alumni Register and the Chronicle both regularly reported on the service of Trinity alumni and students overseas, including the first alumnus killed in action. First Lieutenant Robert “Kid” Anderson was among the first wave of American soldiers sent overseas. Part of the class of 1914, he was killed in action on May 29, 1918, at the Battle of Cantigny in France—the first major American engagement in the war. The news of Anderson’s death was sent both to his family and to President Few. The Alumni Register announced that Anderson had been killed in action in its July 1918 issue. The Register profiled his time at Trinity and his military service before reprinting an account of the memorial service held in his honor in his hometown of Wilson, North Carolina, a letter to Anderson’s parents from a fellow soldier that described his bravery in action, and portions of Anderson’s letters to relatives and friends.

To honor the centennial of the end of the First World War, selected items from the Duke University Libraries are on display in the Mary Duke Biddle Room as part of the exhibit Views of the Great War: Highlights from the Duke University Libraries. In addition to the impact of World War I on Trinity College and other people back home, the exhibit highlights aspects of the Great War and tells the personal stories of a few of the men and women (whether soldiers, doctors, or nurses) who travelled to France with the American Expeditionary Force during the “war to end all wars.” The exhibit is on display through February 2019.


Mandy Cooper is a Duke History Ph.D. and former Research Services Graduate Intern with the Rubenstein Library. She is one of the curators of the exhibit Views of the Great War.

It Pays to Do Your Research

Catching Up with Our Research and Writing Prize Winners

By Keegan Trofatter

Every year we run a series of essay contests recognizing the original research and writing of Duke students and encouraging the use of library resources. These include the Aptman Prizes, for use of our general collections; the Middlesworth Awards, for use of our special collections and rare materials; the Holsti Prize, recognizing research in political science or public policy; and the Rosati Creative Writing Award. Winners of these awards receive impressive cash prizes of $1,000 or $1,500 as well as recognition at a reception during Duke’s Family Weekend.

We thought it would be fun to catch up with a few of this year’s winners and ask what they planned to do with their winnings.


Hanna Watson

Double-Winner, Aptman Prize and Middlesworth Award

As a Robertson Scholar, Hanna had the opportunity to spend one semester of her undergraduate years at UNC as a full-fledged Duke student. Though her time at Duke may have been limited, the impact it had on shaping her work was anything but. An African American Studies major, Hanna is interested in religious history in black communities both in America and globally. Her paper, “Seeking Canaan: Marcus Garvey and the African American and South African Search for Freedom,” was so good it had the rare distinction of winning both an Aptman Prize and a Middlesworth Award.

Now it appears Hanna’s future writing career may take a different turn. When asked what she planned to do with her winnings, she responded, “Recently, I’ve decided I want to actively pursue performance poetry. However, that requires having a car. The money I won is going directly towards my car-fund, in the hopes I’ll be able to go on a travel tour of writing and performing my work.”

Hanna also has eyes on divinity school (Duke’s perhaps?) and hopes to continue her historical inquiries through exploration of primary research and materials.


Gabi Stewart

Middlesworth Award Winner

Choosing to study Classical Languages, Greek Literature, and History at Duke may not be the popular path, but it proved to be interesting and rewarding for Gabi. Though she was the only Classical Languages major to graduate in the Class of 2018, she still thinks Duke was one of the best places to write and research her passion.

As a student, Gabi interned with the American Society of Papyrologists. As it happens, the ASP is headquartered at Duke, which is also home to countless papyrus materials in the Rubenstein Library. Gabi attributes the line of inquiry that inspired her paper—“Rostovtzeff and the Yale Diaspora: How Personalities and Communities Influenced the Development of North American Papyrology”—to her relationship with ASP and the ease to which she could access rare materials.

As Gabi delves into the next chapter of her studies at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, she remarks that she hasn’t yet had the opportunity to travel as much as she’d like.

“I’m planning to use the prize money from the Middlesworth to take one of my first trips abroad—to Paris!” she said.


Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi

Middlesworth Award Winner

As a student of Global Cultural Studies and founder of the Duke Men’s Project, Andrew was accustomed to exploring and interrogating narratives in his environment while at Duke. Choosing to spend his summer as one of the first participants in our Duke History Revisited program—a six-week immersive research experience uncovering previously under-researched or unexplored areas of Duke history—Andrew was able to delve deep into the relationship between Duke and Durham through the lens of housing and gentrification.

Andrew’s research, culminating in “Neighbors: A Narrative and Visual History of Duke’s Influence on Durham’s Low-Income Housing,” was different than work he’d ever done. It gave him a sense of empowerment over his studies.

“It’s so gratifying to know that this research is read,” Andrew stated, “that it has a place in the scholarship of a subject I care deeply about and a city that means a great deal to me. I’m honored to receive the prize.”

Though his time at Duke has come to an end, Andrew continues his pursuit of uncovering knowledge. He is currently researching domestic labor in Hong Kong, and hopes to use the prize money to further his travels around the region.


Alex Sanchez Bressler

Rosati Award Winner

Following your passions can often take you down roads you never expected. That’s the case for Alex, a recent graduate with a Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies major, Environmental Science minor, and Latina/o Studies certificate. His unique combination of degrees was a result of his desire to understand people and how they interact within the world.

Alex’s creative writing piece, a series of vignettes titled “Reports from South Texas,” followed his interests and experiences. Inspired by his mother’s house in San Antonio, the piece reflects on the contradiction between sentimental memory and physical rot. In writing it, Alex found a way to hold onto a place that may be slipping away. He is grateful he didn’t have to undergo the process alone.

“Mentors are huge,” he said. “It’s hard to know when to slap someone in the face with critique and when to applaud. A mentor knows the right balance.”

Since graduation, Alex has remained at Duke as an Arts Administration Fellow. He imagines using the prize money to enjoy some local treats, such as buying the “nice” loaves of bread from the Durham Farmer’s Market and taking himself out on a couple of dates.


Valerie Muensterman

Rosati Award Winner

Some might know Valerie as the President of Duke Players, the student theater group supporting new work from the Duke community, or as an actress in campus productions. However, behind the curtain, Valerie is often responsible for the writing herself. A junior, Valerie unites her studies in English, Creative Writing, and Theater Studies to create her very own plays and even see them to production.

Her three-part collection of plays, “Ditch,” embodies Valerie’s interests in human miscommunication, loss, and the surreal and was a result of Valerie’s efforts over the span of a couple of different dramatic writing courses. Her writing hasn’t stopped there.

Valerie is currently working on a screenplay. Before she graduates, she hopes to write a full-length play and produce it for an audience. As every writer knows, it can be difficult to find the time and resources to devote yourself to your craft. Valerie hopes the prize money will give her the opportunity to spend her summer writing and exploring her passion.

Keegan Trofatter (T’19) is an English major and student worker in the Library Development and Communications department.


Complete List of This Year’s Winners

Lowell Aptman Prize
Recognizing excellence in undergraduate research using sources from the Libraries’ general collections

  • Hanna Watson: “Seeking Canaan: Marcus Garvey and the African American and South African Search for Freedom”
  • Chloe Ricks: “‘Last Stop Destination’: Poverty, Anti-Blackness, and University Education in the Mississippi Delta and the Baixada Fluminense”

Chester P. Middlesworth Award
Recognizing excellence of analysis, research, and writing in the use of primary sources and rare materials held by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

  • Gabrielle Stewart: “Rostovtzeff and the Yale Diaspora: How Personalities and Communities Influenced the Development of North American Papyrology”
  • Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi: “Neighbors: A Narrative and Visual History of Duke’s Influence on Durham’s Low-Income Housing”
  • Hanna Watson: “Seeking Canaan: Marcus Garvey and the African American and South African Search for Freedom”

Ole R. Holsti Prize
Recognizing excellence in undergraduate research using primary sources for political science and public policy

  • Anna Katz: “The Road to the White (Nationalist) House: Coded Racial Appeals in Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign”

Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award
Recognizing outstanding undergraduate creative writing

  • Valerie Muensterman: “Ditch,” a collection of plays
  • Vivian Lu: “Triptych,” a collection of short stories
  • Alex Bressler: “Reports from South Texas, 1995-1999,” a series of vignettes
  • Samantha Meyers: “BLUE,” a play

How to Build a Better Book Cart

By Aaron Welborn, Director of Communications

The most enduring technologies are often the simplest, as well as the easiest to take for granted. Consider the humble book cart. It’s basically a shelf on wheels. Yet for moving lots of books around, its efficient design would seem to offer little room for improvement. That is, unless you’ve ever tried maneuvering one across a floor of Duke stone.

For some time now, staff in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library have struggled with a basic design problem. The same stone that gives Duke’s campus its timeless Gothic charm turns out to make a bumpy road for books. Its hard, uneven surface transforms a routine cruise down the hall with a cart full of books into a teeth-rattling steeplechase. This is especially problematic when the books on the move are rare, fragile, and of inestimable value. And then there’s the noise. A decibel meter recently clocked a rackety Rubenstein book cart at roughly the same volume as a lawnmower. Far be it from us to shush anybody.

Rubenstein Research Services Archivist Trudi Abel (center) with members of the All-Terrain Manuscript Team (left to right): Joey Zhou, Kevin Kerner, Vineet Alaparthi, Aneesh Gupta, and Keyu Han.

So what’s a poor librarian to do? Rubenstein Research Services Archivist Trudi Abel recently turned to an unlikely source for help—Dr. Ann Saterback, director of the new “First-Year Design” course at the Pratt School of Engineering.

Each incoming class of Pratt undergrads is required to take “First Year Design.” The course divides students into teams and matches them with “clients” around campus and the local community who have real-world design problems in need of solutions. In her proposal, Abel laid out the library’s dilemma and challenged the future Duke engineers to devise a better book cart.

Happily, one group of students was up to the task. Keyu Han, Aneesh Gupta, Joey Zhou, Vineet Alaparthi, and Kevin Kerner dubbed themselves the All-Terrain Manuscript Team. After visiting the Rubenstein Library and test-driving the book carts for themselves, they began isolating the key engineering problems of vibration, load displacement, and noise. Over the course of several weeks, they researched existing design solutions—including carbon fiber loop wheels, dampers, and shock absorbers—and began the long iterative process of design, trial, error, and redesign.

The same stone that gives Duke’s campus its timeless Gothic charm turns out to make a bumpy road for books.

Their new-and-improved cart had to meet strict criteria. It needed to be easy to use, capable of bearing 500-600 pounds, no more than 32 inches wide, audible only to the person operating it, durable enough to last ten years, and affordable at under a thousand dollars. Oh, and one more thing: it should provide such a smooth ride that a book in transit wouldn’t budge more than a single inch. Easy, right?

At the end of the semester, the All-Terrain Manuscript Team unveiled their prototype. Its lightweight steel frame was mounted on a chassis with a simple suspension system and pneumatic tires, which could traverse bumpy stone and elevator-floor transitions with cushiony ease. Protective railings around the shelf area would keep priceless tomes from falling off, while a thin layer of acid-free, conservation-quality foam provided additional grip and padding. Every design requirement was neatly checked off the list. Best of all, they kept the cost to around $500, half of what they’d been permitted.

The cart made its relatively noiseless debut to resounding appreciation by Rubenstein Library staff. Although it’s too early to say whether the students’ design can be produced at scale, it was a worthwhile learning opportunity all around. Library staff were impressed with the engineering students’ elegant solution to a vexing problem, while several of the students admitted they had no idea Duke held such literary treasures. Indeed, they were surprised at the level of public access allowed. “You mean we have books worth $2 million,” one of them said, “and anyone can just ask to see them?”

Indeed they can. What’s a book but another simple technology that has endured a few bumps along the road?

Monster, Myth, or Medical Condition?

By Keegan Trofatter

The Italian Renaissance naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) was known for his systematic observations of animals, plants, and minerals. During his tenure as a professor of logic and philosophy at the University of Bologna, he was arrested for heresy, appointed by Pope Gregory XIII as inspector of drugs and pharmacies, and authored several published encyclopedias.

The rest of his written work remained unpublished until after his death. One of these volumes, the Monstrorum Historia (History of Monsters), published in 1642, was recently acquired as part of the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Library. Depicting legendary creatures, unusual congenital abnormalities, and lots of hybrid combinations, it would be easy to confuse it as a work of mythological, rather than medical, history.

The Monstrorum is part of a larger, thirteen-volume encyclopedia compiled by Aldrovandi’s students and protégés, meant to catalog the world in its entirety. Today, the work stands as an important piece of medical history as it includes some of the earliest documentation of rare medical conditions. While some parts of the book are more akin to fairytale than to fact, Aldrovandi assiduously cataloged and preserved the rare, marvelous, and imaginative prodigies of his time.

Can you spot the scientific from the supernatural? Check out some of Aldrovandi’s most marvelous of monsters.


Keegan Trofatter (T’19) is an English major and student worker in the Library Development and Communications department.

One Duke Nation, Indivisible

An immigrant’s path to Duke and how it changed his life

By Aaron Welborn, Director of Communications

Emmanuel Senga at work in the Library Service Center, 2018.

Even if you spent all your time at Duke in the library, you would probably never meet Emmanuel Senga. And even if you did, it would probably make no difference to you whether he was a Hutu or a Tutsi.

But twenty-four years ago, when the killings started, that was the one thing about Emmanuel—and every other Rwandan like him—that made the difference between life and death.

Emmanuel works in Duke’s Library Service Center, the high-density repository five miles from campus that houses 5.5 million books, documents, and archival materials belonging to Duke and other Triangle area institutions. When a student or faculty member requests a book held off-site at the LSC, chances are it will pass through Emmanuel’s hands.

He has worked there since 2012, the year before he officially became an American citizen. Emmanuel and his family came to the U.S. as refugees and survivors of one of the worst genocides in modern history. Considering how many times he has narrowly escaped death, it seems remarkable he is here at all, safe and sound, scanning books, retrieving books, and putting them back where they belong.

His story is a powerful reminder that ours is a nation of immigrants, however the political winds may blow, and that many of the people who keep a globally minded university like Duke running come from all over the globe themselves.


Although he likes working at Duke, this wasn’t the life Emmanuel pictured for himself. “One of the most frustrating parts about moving to a country where you don’t speak the language is having to start over at the bottom,” he said. Hard-earned degrees and credentials from one country don’t necessarily count for anything in another.

Emmanuel and Jeanne on their wedding day, July 27, 1988. (All family photos courtesy of Emmanuel Senga.)

He was trained as a teacher of languages at the National University of Rwanda. For ten years, he taught French, Linguistics, and Kinyarwanda at the Minor Seminary of Ndera-Kigali, helping to prepare young men who felt called to the priesthood. Seminaries were the top private schools in the country, and their teachers were selected accordingly. For many Roman Catholic Hutus like Emmanuel, an appointment to the faculty of a seminary was a good and secure job.

His wife, Jeanne, was a nurse. A Tutsi, she was born in Rwanda but raised in neighboring Tanzania. Like thousands of other Tutsis, she was the child of refugees who had fled Rwanda in an earlier revolution that saw the abolition of a monarchy dominated by the Tutsi minority elite and the establishment of a republic ruled by the country’s Hutu majority.

They were married in 1987. The mixed marriage caused some family friction, but ethnic differences can’t stop people from loving each other. In 1989, Emmanuel and Jeanne welcomed a son, Didier. Three years later came a daughter, Anaise. A young family in the prime of life, residing in a vibrant capital city—life could be worse.

And then suddenly, it was.

Emmanuel still remembers the day, April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying the Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and the President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down over Kigali. The resulting crash killed everyone onboard. Emmanuel was watching soccer on TV at the seminary when he heard the explosion. It was soon followed by the sound of gunshots. “We have to hide,” a colleague said to him.

Over the next several months, the entire country was swept up in a wave of anarchy and mass killings, in which the army and Hutu militia groups known as the interahamwe played a central role. Radio broadcasts fanned the flames by encouraging Hutu civilians to kill their Tutsi neighbors. The Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) responded in kind. As Hutus sought to exterminate Tutsis, the RPF killed Hutus in a bid to reclaim control of the country. Meanwhile, the international community stood by and watched.

For ethnically mixed Hutu-Tutsi families, like Emmanuel and Jeanne, their only hope was to go into hiding.


The Rwandan genocide is said to have lasted approximately one hundred days, from April 6 to mid-July 1994. During that time, an estimated 800,000 civilians were killed, mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus. The exact death toll may never be known. Many of the victims died in extremely brutal ways, often at the hands of people they knew.

Emmanuel with son Didier (left) and daughter Anaise (right), 1996.

It is impossible to convey, in this brief space, what Emmanuel, Jeanne, and their children went through during that nightmarish time period. But here, in extremely abbreviated form, are a few things that happened to them, starting in the month of April.

After the president’s plane was shot down, they took refuge in the seminary where Emmanuel worked. From the surrounding area people started pouring in, seeking a place of safety. But nowhere was truly safe.

Within a few days the militias appeared and started separating Hutus from Tutsis. (In Rwanda, your ethnicity is not something you could easily hide. Everyone’s government-issued ID proclaimed it. And anyway, it was a small world. People knew each other and could be made to talk.)

One brave soul spoke up on Emmanuel’s behalf and persuaded the militias to let his family leave. But their home had been destroyed, so they hid in the house of a wealthy friend near the seminary.

In addition to their own two children, aged five and two, Emmanuel and Jeanne took in the ten-year-old daughter of a colleague when the rest of her family were killed.

Within days, the militias found out where they were hiding and demanded payment in exchange for not killing Jeanne. Emmanuel complied, but then the militias came back, wanting more money. Then they came back again.

Emmanuel and Jeanne decided she should flee and try to find a safer place to hide, bypassing the roadblocks where Tutsis were being killed on the spot. He stayed behind with the children, the youngest of whom, Anaise, was still breastfeeding.

Weeks went by with no word from his wife. On April 26, an acquaintance gave Emmanuel some bad news. Jeanne hadn’t made it. She was dead.

That was the month of April.

In May, Emmanuel decided to leave Kigali. A nephew in the military helped him and the three children get a ride to the town of Gitarama. A trip that normally takes one hour stretched into six, as they crept through roadblock after terrifying roadblock.

In Gitarama, no one wanted to take them in. Emmanuel and the children were obliged to live in primitive conditions, with no electricity, no running water, no money, and entirely dependent on the charity of others.

That was the month of May, and also the month of June.

A view of present-day Kigali.

In July, the Tutsi-led RPF arrived at Gitarama. They began killing Hutus and their relatives, as well as anyone who sheltered them.

Eventually they found Emmanuel, who was certain his time was up. But then a strange thing happened. When he told the soldiers who came for him that his wife was dead, one of them took pity on him. Turns out he was also from Tanzania, like Jeanne.

The Tanzanian took Emmanuel aside and told him they were going to concoct a story about Jeanne being his long-lost sister. When the other men heard the story, they believed it and stood down. Then they all drank beers together, Emmanuel and his would-be killers.

Before they left, the Tanzanian gave Emmanuel a note in Swahili, stating that he was Emmanuel’s brother-in-law and promising him safe passage. To this day, Emmanuel isn’t sure why the man did this. He thinks it has something to do with Tanzanians’ deep sense of national pride and family-like fellow feeling for their countrymen.

On July 4, the RPF seized Kigali and established military control over much of the rest of the country. Millions of Hutus fled to Congo and other neighboring countries.

By mid-July, a transitional government was sworn in. Three months after it had started, the genocide had come to an end.

Desperate for money and work, and knowing there would be a need for educated men and women in the new administration in Kigali, Emmanuel made his way there and began making inquiries.

Over the course of a few days, two separate sources told him that Jeanne was actually alive. She had made it to the north of the country, where she had waited out the violence in an RPF orphanage, caring for Tutsi orphans of the genocide.

Around the same time, word reached Jeanne that Emmanuel and the children were still alive in Gitarama. Immediately she set out to find them.

That was the month of July.

On August 4, 1994, Emmanuel, Jeanne, and their family were finally reunited, though their country remained profoundly torn apart.


The years following the genocide were not easy, but a degree of normalcy returned. Jeanne went back to work as a nurse for an ambulance service. Thanks to some contacts from his time at the seminary, Emmanuel got a job as the director of a Catholic relief agency.

Emmanuel (standing at right) at a workshop and distribution with Caritas Catholic Relief Agency in Gisenyi, 1996, two years after the genocide.

In 1998, Emmanuel was approached by a military officer who told him that the government needed educated men like himself. So many had been killed or fled the country during the violence. “It was not a suggestion,” said Emmanuel, but a warning to do his patriotic duty.

Later that year Emmanuel found himself appointed to a surprisingly high-level government post: Director of Protocol for the Rwandan Parliament. Suddenly, this former language instructor was in charge of planning, directing, and supervising a wide range of official government ceremonies and events, as well as serving as a diplomatic liaison with representatives of other states and countries. “It was a very important, always-in-the-spotlight kind of job,” Emmanuel said.

Having experienced so recently what it means to be powerless, Emmanuel unexpectedly found himself at the center of official power. But it was a center that could not hold. The events of 1994 weighed heavily on the country, which was becoming a de facto one-party state. (Since he was elected President of Rwanda in 2000, Paul Kagame has clung to power and overseen changes to the constitution that could allow him to remain in office until 2034.) Power struggles and ethnic strife always loomed, undermining real progress. “I started to witness more persecutions, killings, retributions,” Emmanuel said. The spotlight was a perilous place to be.

But it was ultimately his position as a government insider that helped Emmanuel and his family get out.


Their chance arrived in July 2004. Jeanne was invited on a whirlwind tour of the United States as part of an official program for African women who were considered opinion leaders in their fields. The six women selected were expected to bring back what they learned to their home countries. But before she left, Jeanne and Emmanuel secretly agreed: she would not be returning to Rwanda.

Emmanuel (far right) hosting visiting British parliamentarians at the Bugesera Genocide Memorial, in his official capacity as Director of Protocol for the Rwandan Parliament, 2002.

At the end of the five-state tour, Jeanne declared asylum at the U.S. embassy in Washington, D.C., and petitioned to have Emmanuel and the children join her.

Because of his high position in the Rwandan government, Emmanuel was a familiar face to foreign diplomats and their embassies around Kigali. It would not be seen as strange for him to spend an hour or two at the American embassy, under the pretense of some official business. Meanwhile he was secretly making his way through the official channels of the asylum process.

Getting out of the country was another matter altogether. “I couldn’t fly out of the airport in Kigali,” Emmanuel said. “Everyone knew me there, and I would be arrested.” He and the children would have to make it to Uganda and get a flight from there.

In the end, he was arrested—twice. First at the Ugandan border, where he was detained in a military camp, interrogated, and stripped of his passport to prevent him from leaving the country. Eventually released, he crossed the border illegally, made his way to Entebbe, and caught a flight out—only to be arrested again by Ethiopian authorities during a layover in Addis Ababa. “I was trembling, but God is always around me,” said Emmanuel. During a moment of commotion when the airport guards were distracted, Emmanuel and his son and daughter rushed onto their plane just moments before it took off.

They arrived in Washington, D.C., on December 11, 2005.


Fast-forward to today. The Sengas have been living in the U.S. for almost thirteen years. Jeanne is a Certified Nurse Assistant at the VA Hospital in Durham. Didier, now twenty-nine years old, earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and is now a graduate student at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro. Anaise, now twenty-six, attended East Carolina University briefly and now holds down multiple jobs. As for the ten-year-old girl Emmanuel and Jeanne rescued in 1994, she is now thirty-four, married with two children of her own, and residing in Canada.

Graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2010.

For a long time, Emmanuel had hoped to return to teaching. In 2010 he completed a master’s degree in Francophone studies from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. But the Great Recession intervened. It was a hard time to find teaching jobs, even if you were a natural-born citizen and a native English-speaker. He was neither.

Still, unexpected opportunities presented themselves. He got to know Steve Cohn, director of Duke University Press, whose children attended the same high school as Emmanuel’s. Steve arranged a part-time job for him at the press, doing whatever odd jobs needed to be done. It wasn’t a permanent position, but it was a start.

In 2012, Emmanuel applied and was hired as a full-time Library Assistant in the Library Service Center. As he says in his own words, “I am settled. I have a mortgage, I can feed my family, and I am not far from retirement. I am what I am now because of Duke.”

“Emmanuel came highly recommended from Duke Press,” said Marvin Tillman, the Head of the LSC and Emmanuel’s supervisor. “During the interview, he had a smile that lit up the room. I instantly felt like this is the kind of person I want working in our department. Since his hiring, he has been like family to everyone here. We’ve learned a lot about his culture, and he has learned a lot about ours. After learning about the things he and his family endured in Rwanda, I am amazed at how he is so happy and always smiling. Emmanuel is a hard and dependable worker, a loving family man, and most of all a friend to everyone he meets. We are fortunate to have him.”

Although he can never return to Rwanda, Emmanuel remains deeply involved in the affairs of his home country. For the past four years, he has edited and produced an online magazine and a weekly radio show dedicated to Rwandan politics. Every Sunday night, he hosts conversations with experts and commentators on Rwandan affairs. The show has thousands of regular listeners who call in, including many back home in Rwanda and fellow expatriates like Emmanuel scattered around the globe. He is proud of the show, which offers a counterpoint to official Rwandan news coverage and has had an effect on national conversations back home.

Emmanuel today with his supervisor, Marvin Tillman (right), at the Library Service Center.

Asked if he ever has mixed feelings about living in America, a country that refused to intervene during the Rwandan genocide while it was happening, Emmanuel is demure. “My time in the national parliament helped me understand that governments don’t have friends, they have interests,” he said. “That had nothing to do with the American people, but with the interests of the American government at the time.”

He has much the same outlook on the present state of American politics and the anti-immigrant rhetoric that often dominates the news. “When I see families being separated, as a father I understand what that’s like,” he said. “They came here like me, seeking a better life. I am an American, but I also remain a Rwandan. It’s complicated.”

Emmanuel at his U.S. citizenship ceremony in Durham, 2013.

Every year, Duke hosts thousands of foreign nationals who come here to work, teach, or do research. Like other institutions across the country, Duke has recently and publicly reaffirmed its commitment to the open exchange of students, scholars, and ideas from all over the world. That commitment lies at the heart of the twenty-first century research university.

And while the university doesn’t keep track of the number of employees who were born in other countries but now permanently reside in the U.S., ask any Duke employee and most will know at least one co-worker like Emmanuel who is an immigrant. With some 37,000 faculty, staff, and medical practitioners, Duke’s workforce is almost as diverse as its student body, drawn from nations and cultures around the world.

From a human resources perspective, that diversity is inarguably a strength. It’s also a source of endless learning opportunities in itself. A Duke education is the collective work of many instructive individuals, though you may only ever get to meet a few of them.

Greetings from the Library!

Early mornings in the Gothic Reading Room, late-night coffee runs to von Der Heyden, maybe even a few minutes of shut-eye somewhere on the fourth floor of Bostock between class—there’s no denying that Duke students treat the Libraries like a second home.

This year for National Library Week (April 8-14), we wanted to celebrate our students’ daily devotion to our spaces by inviting them to send a postcard to friends and family from their “home away from home,” since they pretty much live here.

Throughout the week, we set up our own personal post office outside Perkins and Lilly libraries, stocked with all the necessities for correspondence: vintage-style postcards; an assortment of fountain pens and other old-fashioned writing implements; and, most important of all, free domestic and international stamps! We even had our own mailbox and sent the letters out the very next day.

Our Dukies couldn’t resist. Crowding around our station between classes, they wrote and mailed a total of 536 postcards, sending their library love across the world to thirty-seven different states and twenty-seven foreign countries.

Inspired by the old-school designs of the cards, and with a nod to our students’ more modern forms of communication, we also produced four geo-specific Snapchat filters for Perkins, Lilly, Bostock, and Rubenstein libraries. Over the course of the week, these were used almost 2,000 times—getting over 22,000 total views.

National Library Week is sponsored by the National Library Association and has been observed by libraries around the world since 1958. This year, we turned it into a week of fun and sentiment for the Libraries’ “residents,” as well as the families and friends on the receiving end of their handwritten greetings. Do the Libraries still feel like a second home to you? Show your appreciation by sending us a little fan mail!

Students on East and West Campus celebrate National Library Week by sending postcards to friends and family from their “home away from home” at Duke—the library.

A Valedictory Address of Our Own

A longtime library mainstay steps down

By Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs


Farewells are never easy, even if they’re of the fond variety.

This May, a good friend and colleague of mine, Robert L. Byrd, Associate University Librarian for Collections and User Services, retired from Duke after forty years of dedicated service.

Bob announced his intention to retire last November. For many of us who have long relied on his wisdom, diplomacy, and ability to get things done, it has taken a while to get used to the idea that he won’t be here anymore.

An account of Bob’s contributions to the Duke University Libraries, and to the university, would go on for pages. Most notably, he has been the force of quiet persistence behind our special collections.

It was Bob’s vision, beginning decades ago, that ultimately led to the creation of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. He always believed that Duke deserved a named special collections library, in recognition of our broad and deep research collections, engaging programs, and strong, effective services to scholars. That vision finally became a reality in 2015, when Duke formally dedicated the Rubenstein Library, bringing the university into the company of its peers.

It turns out that Bob’s fingerprints are on just about everything in the Rubenstein Library. He assiduously acquired and curated some of our most noteworthy and distinctive collections, always seeking to build strengths that reflected the interests of Duke faculty. For example, working with Roy Weintraub from the Department of Economics, he built the Economists’ Papers Archive. In collaboration with Mack O’Barr from Cultural Anthropology, he established the Hartman Center for Sales Advertising & Marketing History. With John Hope Franklin, he launched the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture. With Sallie Bingham and Jean O’Barr, he established the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture. He worked with Alex Harris to start the Archive of Documentary Arts. He founded the Human Rights Archive. And he worked for many years to build our southern historical archives, as well as the literary archives of southern writers like Reynolds Price, William Styron, and Anne Tyler.

The list could go on and on.

Bob has also contributed much beyond the Libraries, serving on numerous university committees, focusing, for example, on Duke’s reaccreditation process as well as the launch of Duke Kunshan University. He also worked closely with the architects of the Perkins Project, the fifteen-year-long effort that saw the renovation of Perkins and Rubenstein Libraries and the construction of Bostock Library and the von der Heyden Pavilion.

There is another side of Bob that anyone who gets to know him will discover. He is a deeply spiritual person who believes that a vibrant faith goes hand-in-hand with a rich and deep life of the mind. He was instrumental in founding two local educational institutions that, like Duke, combine Christian tradition and academic excellence: the Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill, and the Center for Christianity and Scholarship. In recognition of the years he has spent devoting his time, energies, and considerable gifts to bringing these twin passions—faith and education—together, Duke recently recognized Bob with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. The annual award recognizes one graduating senior and one Duke employee who exhibit the qualities of selflessness, generosity of service, nobility of character, integrity, and depth of spirituality. It is hard to think of a more worthy honoree.

Bob Byrd and the Libraries’ Executive Group at the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award ceremony.

Over the last few months, we have been searching for a way to salute Bob’s lasting impact on the Libraries and Duke in a unique and appropriate way. I’m happy to say that we found it.

It seems only appropriate that the position of Director of the Rubenstein Library should be named for Bob. Thanks to the generosity of many of our Library Advisory Board members and numerous other friends, this spring we created an endowment fund in his honor. Through the Robert L. Byrd Endowment, Bob and his legacy will be associated in perpetuity with the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. It is an acknowledgment of his vision and long dedication to this institution. You could also say it’s a way for us to keep him around—in spirit, if not in person—and continue to benefit from his company.


Be Part of the Recognition

If you would like to contribute to the Robert L. Byrd Endowment in honor of Bob’s lasting impact on the Libraries, please consider joining us. Gifts of any size are welcome, and pledges can be paid over five years. For more information, contact Tom Hadzor, Associate University Librarian for Development, at t.hadzor@duke.edu or 919-660-5940.

Fifty Years Later, A Silence That Still Echoes

Students camp out in the rain during the “Silent Vigil,” April 10, 1968. Images from Duke University Archives.

“I do not know if you realize the ultimate significance of what you’re doing. I haven’t seen anything like it. I’ve been involved in quite a few civil rights activities in my life, but I haven’t seen anything, anywhere, comparable to this. You would, of course, expect the victims of oppression to sacrifice, to take the hot sun, to take the rain, to sleep at night in the open and cold air, to expose their health, to do everything possible to remove the yoke of oppression and injustice. But you do not expect people born of privilege to undergo this harsh treatment. This is one of the things I think will help to redeem this country.”

– Samuel DuBois Cook, professor of political science and Duke’s first African American faculty member, addressing a crowd in front of Duke Chapel during the “Silent Vigil,” April 10, 1968


Samuel DuBois Cook had just returned from the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to find his campus—like much of the country—in mourning and embroiled in protest.

The day after King’s assassination, students sought to memorialize the civil rights leader by bringing about changes to Duke’s policies. More than 350 of them marched on the home of President Douglas M. Knight—who was then recovering from a bout of hepatitis—and presented him with a list of demands, chief among them being higher wages for the university’s predominantly African American non-academic employees.

WDBS recording at the “Silent Vigil.”

The students occupied Knight’s residence until the following morning, when they learned he had been isolated by his doctors. At that point the protestors moved to the West Campus quad, where they remained encamped in silent support of Duke’s employees, now on strike, for the next four days. Nearly 1,500 Duke students would participate in the massive demonstration, waiting in the rain in front of Duke Chapel until their demands were eventually met.

The “Silent Vigil” was one of the most defining—and best documented—moments in Duke’s history. The student-run radio station, WDBS, was on-scene through the entire event. They were an essential source of information for students, faculty, staff, and local community members as they broadcast round-the-clock interviews, speeches, press conferences, and behind-the-scenes strategy meetings that defined the campus-wide movement. The students who made up WDBS’s news staff knew they were documenting important historical events. It is thanks to their coverage that we know what Dr. Cook said that day. The station later donated copies of the broadcasts to the Duke Libraries.

Now, fifty years later, the Silent Vigil recordings have finally been digitized and are freely available on our website. Supplemented with line-by-line transcriptions, the broadcasts bring to life the events of that tumultuous spring in a way that no other kind of historical record can. There is singing and music throughout the recordings, as well as a sense of urgency in the speeches and community gatherings. The conflict and conviction are literally audible.

Samuel DuBois Cook, 1966

Dr. Cook’s address to the protestors, which took place on the final day of the Vigil, was one of its high points. Cook had come to Duke only two years earlier, becoming the first (and, at the time, only) African American to hold a regular faculty appointment at a predominantly white southern college or university. Though relatively new to campus, he was held in considerable esteem by the Duke community.

He had been a friend of King’s. They attended Morehouse College together, where Cook became student body president and founded the campus chapter of the NAACP. Later, as chair of Atlanta University’s political science department, he had moderated forums between civil rights leaders such as King and student activists.

At Duke, Cook’s influence among faculty and staff would eventually help move the university forward in its efforts at unity and progress, even after he left to become president of Dillard University in 1974. In 1981, he was named a member of the Duke Board of Trustees and later became a trustee emeritus. Numerous enterprises across campus have been established in his honor, including an endowed professorship, a postdoctoral fellowship, the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, and the Samuel DuBois Cook Society, which celebrates the efforts of African American students, faculty, and staff at Duke.

Students, administrators, and trustees sing “We Shall Overcome” at the Silent Vigil, April 10, 1968.

So it is fitting that the digitization of the Silent Vigil recordings, including Cook’s memorable speech, coincides with another important addition to the historical record—Cook’s papers themselves. Before he passed away last year at the age of 88, Cook arranged to have them preserved at Duke. The papers document the storied career of a political scientist, scholar, educator, author, teacher, administrator, civil rights activist, and public servant who devoted more than sixty years of his life to higher education. This April, the first installment of papers made their final voyage from Cook’s home in Atlanta to the shelves of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where they will soon be processed and cataloged.

Whatever the next fifty years of racial progress look like in this country, they are sure to be informed by the sounds of the Silent Vigil and the life’s work of a beloved campus figure who never gave up the cause.

Solving the Mystery of Tree Number One


By Hannah Rozear, Librarian for Instructional Services

What do librarians do all day? While many imagine we spend our days squirreled away reading books, the truth is that we’re often chasing down obscure sources and helping people find the information they need—no matter how hard-to-find or esoteric. These questions may come in as instant messages, phone calls, emails, or in person at the service desk.

Occasionally, they involve tracking down trees.

Have you ever noticed the tiny numbered metal tags attached to seemingly random trees around Duke’s campus? Alexandra Gil (T‘05) and her friends were particularly intrigued by them. When they were students here, they made it their personal mission to locate the lowest numbered tree on campus. Sadly, the closest they ever came was Tree No. 3.

Fast-forward twelve years and a question lands in our general-purpose “Ask a Librarian” inbox, reviving anew the quest for Tree No. 1:

I’m writing to you in search of help… My wife (a proud alumna of the university) and I will be visiting the campus this weekend. It’ll be her first time back at Duke since her graduation, 12 years ago, and she will be reuniting with some of her alumni friends. One of the things they are excited to see again is “Tree #3”… We’ll be celebrating our 6-month anniversary this weekend, and I thought finding “Tree #1” would be a nice surprise.

Any chance you know where on campus the tree is?

— Itamar Ben Haim

Alexandra Gil and her friend Noel Bakhtian (T’05) celebrate finding Tree No. 1, at last.

Knowing nothing about the history of Duke’s trees or this tagging system, I found myself wondering (like Dr. Seuss’s Lorax), “Who speaks for the trees on Duke’s campus?” After some initial digging, I reached out to Bryan Hooks, Director of Landscape Services in Duke’s Facilities Management Department. Bryan was just the sort of expert who might help us solve the mystery of Tree No. 1. He quickly replied with a map revealing the location and also sent along information about the species, Platanus occidentalis, also known as the American sycamore.

So what’s with the tree tagging system? The tags are part of an inventory that helps landscaping staff monitor the overall health of trees on campus. They identify a sample of trees of different species in different stages of their life cycles. If problems are noted, then grounds crews can check other trees with similar characteristics to see if it’s a bigger issue.

Thanks to the map acquired by her thoughtful husband (with the help of a librarian and the Director of Landscaping Services), Alexandra and her friends were able to take a proud selfie in front of Tree No. 1. In case you’re wondering, it’s located off Science Drive, between Gross Hall and the Biological Sciences Building, just a few steps away from the enigmatic “camel statue” of legendary Duke biology professor Dr. Knut Schmidt-Nielsen. Mission accomplished!

Now where’s Tree No. 2?