Category Archives: Feature Articles

Locus Collection Tracks the Stars and Universe of Sci-Fi

The Locus collection includes some 16,000 rare and noteworthy monuments of science fiction and fantasy, many in their original dust jackets.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired the archives of the Locus Science Fiction Foundation, publisher of Locus, the preeminent trade magazine for the science fiction and fantasy publishing field.

The massive collection—which arrived in almost a thousand boxes—includes first editions of numerous landmarks of science fiction and fantasy, along with correspondence from some of the genre’s best-known practitioners, including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Octavia E. Butler, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Dean Koontz, Robert A. Heinlein, and hundreds more.

Locus started out in 1968 as a one-sheet science fiction and fantasy fanzine. Since then, it has evolved into the most trusted news magazine in science fiction and fantasy publishing, with in-depth reviews, author interviews, forthcoming book announcements, convention coverage, and comprehensive listings of all science fiction books published in English. It also administers the prestigious annual Locus Awards, first presented in 1971, which recognize excellence in science fiction and fantasy.

Over the course of five decades in print, the magazine’s editors and staff have collected and saved correspondence, clippings, and books by and about science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. What emerges from this trove of material is a tapestry of a diverse and thriving community of writers, publishers, and editors, all working to create new and modern genres of speculative literature.

This rare advanced reader’s copy of the first edition of Game of Thrones has a distinctly different look and feel from the popular HBO series.

Of the magazine’s original three co-founders—Charles N. Brown, Ed Meskys, and Dave Vanderwerf—only Brown remained after the magazine’s first year. He would continue to edit the publication until his death in 2009, earning the magazine some thirty Hugo Awards in the process and becoming a colorful and influential figure in the publishing world. A tireless advocate for speculative fiction, Brown was also a voluminous correspondent and friend to many of the writers featured in the magazine. Many of them wrote to him over the years to share personal and professional news, or to quibble about inaccuracies and suggest corrections. The letters are often friendly, personal, humorous, and occasionally sassy.

Reacting to a recent issue of Locus that featured one of her short stories, the science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler wrote, “I am Octavia E. Butler in all my stories, novels, and letters. How is it that I’ve lost my E in three places in Locus #292? Three places! You owe me three E’s. That’s a scream, isn’t it?”

One also finds frequent remembrances and retrospectives of departed members of the Locus community, such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s poignant reflections on the passing of Philip K. Dick. After Brown’s own death, the magazine continued publication under the auspices of the Locus Science Fiction Foundation, a registered nonprofit. The magazine launched a digital edition in January 2011 and has published both in print and online ever since.

In addition to the correspondence, story drafts, and other manuscript material (which has now been processed), the collection includes some 16,000 rare and noteworthy monuments of science fiction and fantasy from Brown’s extensive personal library, such as first editions of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and hundreds more.

“Historical literary treasures abound in the Locus collection, from full runs of the pulps to vintage first editions to contemporary works,” said Liza Groen Trombi, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Locus Magazine. “And its preservation is deeply important. It is the product of decades of collecting and curating, starting in the 1940s, the Golden Age of science fiction, when Locus’s founding publisher Charles N. Brown was an avid reader with a deep love of genre, through his time working within the science fiction field, and up to the present day under the current Locus staff. Housing those core works in an institution where they’ll be both accessible to scholars and researchers at the same time as they are carefully preserved is a goal that I and the Locus Science Fiction Foundation board of directors had long had. I am very happy to see them in the dedicated care of the curators and librarians at Duke.”

In its new home in the Rubenstein Library, the Locus collection complements existing collection strengths in the areas of science fiction and popular literature, including the Glenn R. Negley Collection of Utopian Literature, and the Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Pulp Culture.

“The opportunity to acquire the Locus Foundation library is a tremendous one for Duke,” said Sara Seten Berghausen, Associate Curator of Collections in the Rubenstein Library. “Because it’s a carefully curated collection of the most important and influential works of science fiction of the last several decades—most in their original dust jackets, with fantastic artwork—it complements perfectly our existing collection of utopian literature from the early modern period through the mid-twentieth century.”

Locus started out as a one-sheet science fiction and fantasy fanzine and grew into the most trusted news magazine in science fiction and fantasy publishing.

Berghausen notes that Brown and Locus created not only this collection, but a community of writers, and those relationships are documented throughout the archival collection as well. “The research and teaching possibilities are almost unlimited,” she said. “From political theory to history, art, anthropology and gender studies, there are materials in the collection that could enrich the study of so many topics.”

The collection is already being used in courses at Duke. This semester, English professor Michael D’Alessandro brought his class on utopias and dystopias in American literature to the Rubenstein Library to examine some of the Locus materials first-hand.

“It’s a curious strength Duke has that I didn’t expect,” said D’Alessandro. “I taught this course previously at Harvard, and even the archives there didn’t have anything like this collection, which adds a whole new breadth and depth to the class.”

Close Reading: Whitman Makes His Mark

What History Can Tell Us Through a Single Document

By Keegan Trofatter

Walt Whitman was born two hundred years ago this spring (May 31, 1819) in West Hills, New York. In honor of his bicentennial, this is a page from the printer’s proof of the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass, the most famous work of America’s most famous poet. The proof is riddled throughout with corrections, additions, instructions to the printer, and re-ordered page numbers, all in Whitman’s own hand. It is one of thousands of original manuscripts, printed works, and other “Whitmaniana” (including a lock of the poet’s hair) given to Duke by Dr. and Mrs. Josiah Charles Trent in 1942 and housed in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Today it stands as one of the largest and most important Whitman collections in the world.

Manuscript page from 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass

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In 1855, at the age of thirty-six, Whitman self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Over the course of twenty-seven years and nine different editions, the collection expanded from the twelve original, untitled poems to over four hundred complete ones. Not only did Whitman add more poems with each subsequent edition, but he meticulously and continuously revised them all. When interviewed about the publication of the 1881 edition, Whitman said, “This edition will complete the plan which I had outlined from the beginning. It will be the whole expression of the design which I had in my mind.” (As it turned out, he went to work one final time to publish what is now known as the “deathbed edition” of 1891-92.) Here Whitman instructs the printer that he wants the title of the section to appear as “the running head over the odd pages.” It’s just one of many examples of the poet’s perfectionism and desire to control every aspect of the way his life’s work was presented. Apparently Whitman loved this part of the editorial process. He writes in a note to himself, “Having been in Boston the last two months seeing to the ‘materialization’ of my completed ‘Leaves of Grass’—first deciding on the kind of type, size of page, head-lines, consecutive arrangement of pieces; then the composition, proof reading, electrotyping, which all went on smoothly, and with sufficient rapidity. Indeed I quite enjoyed the work, (have felt the last few days as though I should like to shoulder a similar job once or twice every year).”

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Whitman’s best known poem, “Song of Myself,” was not titled as such until the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass. In previous editions it was titled, “Poem of Walt Whitman, an American,” or simply the author’s name, “Walt Whitman.” Here, in this line of penned cursive, we can see the stroke of inspiration when Whitman settled on the final title for the piece for which he is best remembered. It is interesting to note an edit further down the page where Whitman lengthens the first line “I celebrate myself,” by adding “and sing myself,” bringing the poem in parallel with the title. Whitman once wrote, “My Poems, when complete, should be A Unity.” These mirrored inclusions of “song” and “singing” are just one step the poet took to unify his work along cohesive themes.

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For efficiency’s sake, Whitman used a previous printed edition of Leaves of Grass as the basis for his edits to the 1881 version. He literally cut and pasted lines from different pages together. In some cases, he even excised individual words and wrote in substitutions, leaving rectangular holes in the manuscript. This cutting may have also stemmed from his desire to regroup the poems into subtitled sections and clusters, a formal device he had been experimenting with. In fact, in the course of regrouping the poems, many of them did not make the final cut. The 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass saw thirty-nine previously published poems left out and seventeen new ones inserted.

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Of all the edits Whitman made throughout the printer’s proof, hundreds are mere changes of punctuation. We can see him cutting em dashes and commas from the lines, or in some cases relocating them, changing the rhythm of the verse and placing the emphasis on new phrases. Though we are left to wonder about his sudden aversion to the comma, perhaps the words of a contemporary critic can provide insight. A review in the Washington Daily National Intelligencer from 1856 reads, “Walt Whitman is a printer by trade, whose punctuation is as loose as his morality, and who no more minds his ems than his p’s and q’s.” While this may seem a harsh (and oddly specific) critique, it is exemplary of the public’s fascination with Whitman as a celebrity writer. The bard offered the world a bold, mysterious portrait of an artist and invited readers to question his work, from the controversial thematic elements to the smallest of stylistic choices.


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

Dancing to the Beat of Her Own Books

Alumna Honors Dance Mentor and Duke Memories with Library Gift

By Keegan Trofatter

Barbara Fox Photo by Don Addison
Barbara Figge Fox (photo by Don Addison)

“I was really out on the edges during my time at Duke,” said Barbara Figge Fox (WC’61). “Dance helped me survive. It was my saving grace.”

The former English major and Woman’s College graduate recalls her experience as a student dancer at a time when campus life looked quite different than it does now.

“Duke back then was a hat-and-glove society,” she said. “The ‘Duke Duchess’ was your typical Southern belle, wearing lots of make-up and nice clothes. There was a dress code, too. We weren’t allowed to wear pants unless we were covered up with a trench coat. Now imagine us dancers: black tights, leotards, and trench coats on top. We didn’t look like everyone else, but we learned not to care. It was a valuable lesson in non-conformity.”

Fox speaks fondly about the small cohort of dancers in the Terpsichorean Club—of which she was the president—calling the band her “little refuge.” It is clear dance held a special place in her life. Perhaps that is why she made a promise to herself she would one day support the dance program at Duke.

Barbara Figge and mother Rosalie Figge at Duke
Fox with her mother, Rosalie Figge, at Duke when Fox was an undergraduate.

Recently Fox made a $10,000 gift to the Libraries, hoping to support the research of other Duke students who share her passion by adding titles to the dance collection in Lilly Library. After all, dance was not simply how she spent most of her free time; it also became the focal point of her academics.

“I was taking a number of classes on the Renaissance: French, English, and Music,” Fox said. “I’d become interested in how movement during this time affected each of these subjects. Scholars study this now, but it was an entirely new concept at the time. I was lucky to have professors, such as the brilliant William Blackburn (English), who supported my exploration of this concept.”

However, exploration had its obstacles. At the time, there was a lack of dance criticism and research available to those interested. In response, Fox accumulated books to form a dance reference library out of her own pocket. Fox remembers it was a joy when the Libraries honored her “puny” collection by awarding her one of the student book collecting prizes, an award program that still continues to this day.

“We didn’t have a lot of support, but we had a lot of freedom,” she chuckles, remembering the nights of choreography done in her dorm’s hallways past curfew.

Though there was no official Dance Program at the time, and Fox and her peers received no credit for their classes and performances, she makes a point to say the dance instruction was excellent. She praises the teachings of M. Dorrance, Barbara Dickinson, Clay Taliaferro, and—most importantly—her mentor and advisor to the Dance Club, Julia Wray.

“Primarily I’m making this gift in honor of Julia. She was a quiet, contemplative teacher. She brought invaluable experience with the pioneers of modern dance—Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Jose Limon—to inspire me and several generations of Duke women.”

Julia Wray image from 1959 Chanticleer
The Terpsichorean Club’s entry in the 1959 Chanticleer yearbook shows Fox’s mentor and advisor Julia Wray (standing, in black), in whose honor Fox made her recent gift to the Libraries.

Fox notes that Wray influenced her personally, encouraging her parents to send her to the American Dance Festival in the summer of 1960. She also cites Wray as being instrumental in bringing ADF to Durham, where it remains to this day.

After graduation, Fox used all she had learned of dance, writing, and music to shape her professional career as a dance critic. She spent two decades on the staff of U.S. 1 Newspaper, Princeton’s business and entertainment journal, where she transitioned from dance writing to business reporting. She also served on the board of the Dance Critic Association.

The memory which stands out the most, however, is when she received an NEA fellowship in 1980 to return to Durham for the three-week Dance Critics Conference hosted by ADF—twenty years after her summer as an ADF dance student.

Barbara Figge Fox at the American Dance Festival in 1960
Fox at the American Dance Festival in 1960.

“It was a searing, wonderful, and horrible experience,” she recalled, “which solidified my position and ambition as a dance writer.”

Fox hopes her gift to the Libraries—the largest charitable contribution she has ever made—will honor her mentors and memories by shaping and supporting the academic curiosities of other students like her: not just dancers, but all Duke students who dance. As the mother and grandmother of Duke graduates, she also hopes to inspire new generations to delight in the art form she has long held dear.

Lee Sorenson, Librarian for Visual Studies and Dance, had this to say about Fox’s gift: “This donation represents the most delightful of challenges—the chance to do something big with a subject area where publication numbers each year are modest. It is particularly appreciated now with the recent arrival of several new dance faculty who have their own special interests, and I have been in discussions with the department on how best to use Ms. Fox’s spectacular gift.”


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

Free to Be 1G

How the Libraries Support First-Generation Students at Duke

By Aaron Welborn, Director of Communications

First-year students take a selfie during Orientation Week on the East Campus lawn. Photo by Jared Lazarus.

Taking an Uber to class, networking with classmates who already run their own start-ups, and Instagramming your spring break beach trip to Oman. This is the life of a Duke University student.

This is also the life of a Duke student: staying on campus during spring break because you can’t afford to fly home, skipping dinner out with friends because the restaurant doesn’t take food points, and reassuring your frantic mom that you’re not in trouble when she gets an email saying you made the dean’s list. (True story.)

To the casual observer on the quad, the divide isn’t obvious between students who come to Duke from backgrounds of wealth and privilege and those who are the first in their families to go to college. But when you get them talking, first-generation undergrads—many of whom refer to themselves as “1G”—speak candidly about how different the Duke experience can be, depending on which side of the divide you come from.

Growing up in the western North Carolina town of Lenoir, Tiffany de Guzman had always heard about Duke. But she never imagined she would get in. Only one person from her high school had ever attended Duke. Almost everyone else entered the workforce after graduation, or else enrolled in community college.

But when a generous financial aid offer came through, the decision was easy. Tiffany was Durham-bound.

Now a senior double-majoring in Political Science and Italian, she is one of approximately 650 first-generation college students at Duke. Like many of them, she felt a little overwhelmed when she first arrived on campus. It’s a common feeling among college freshmen everywhere. But unlike many of their peers, students like Tiffany can’t always rely on family to help them navigate the myriad guidelines and financial challenges encountered in college.

“That’s one thing that’s different for a lot of 1G students,” Tiffany said. “Growing up, teachers were really important to me as a source of advice and guidance. So I came to Duke seeking that kind of support figure.”

Tiffany de Guzman
Tiffany de Guzman

Luckily she found one in Lee Sorensen. Based in Lilly Library, Lee is Duke’s librarian for Visual Studies and Dance, and he happened to be paired up with Tiffany as her pre-major advisor. When her initial plan to major in engineering turned out to be the wrong fit, Lee encouraged her to take classes she was interested in but might not have considered, which ultimately led to her double major.

“Lee was great,” Tiffany said. “It made it less overwhelming to know someone in the Libraries and have him as my advisor. We still stay in touch. I actually have a closer relationship with Lee than I do with my major advisor.”

Tiffany’s case isn’t unusual. One of the biggest differences between first-generation students and their peers isn’t necessarily material wealth, but information capital. Duke isn’t an open book, and it’s not always clear where to go for help. Early experiences with supportive upperclassmen, faculty, or staff can be key lifelines for gaining information and learning how to succeed in a demanding academic environment.

During the past year, the Duke University Libraries have been exploring ways to provide more support for 1G students at Duke. Some of the strategies library staff have identified or implemented are simple adjustments that require nothing more than a healthy dose of perspective. Others involve budgetary resources or calls for philanthropic support.

Perhaps the most surprising thing we’ve discovered in the process is this: many 1G challenges are common student challenges. In other words, services aimed at helping first-generation students actually promise to help all Duke students succeed. So why not do it?


With its need-blind admissions policy, Duke has made it a priority to attract students from all socio-economic backgrounds. And by almost any measure, the university’s recruitment efforts have succeeded.

According to Duke’s Office of Access and Equity, which serves first-generation and low-income students on campus, 1G students now comprise approximately 10 percent of the total undergraduate population. That translates to roughly 170 students in each class. Of those, about 20 percent of 1G students (60 incoming freshmen) are offered admission to the prestigious Rubenstein Scholars, a merit-based program created in 2016 that offers a full scholarship and additional funding for services, such as parental visits. The university also partners with KIPP, Questbridge, the American Talent Initiative, and other organizations that connect high-achieving, low-income students with selective universities. In recent years, the university has invested heavily in building an ecosystem of supportive offices and people across campus to help familiarize 1G students with college life.

First-year students make friends during the class photo shoot in front of Lilly Library on East Campus. Photo by Jared Lazarus.

The Libraries are a vital part of that support system. Recently, a team of library staff conducted six focus groups with 1G students to better understand the unique challenges they face. The interviews were revealing. Did the students ever feel like people around them knew things about college that they didn’t? The question was met with knowing smiles, nods, and cathartic laughter.

“Was there an info session I missed?” one student said she often felt like asking. “Have you been told your whole life you have to do this?”

Another sore spot was the cost of textbooks. When a night out with friends feels like a splurge, a single engineering text that costs $300 can be a major source of stress, on top of the financial anxiety many 1G students already feel.

One student joked, “I’ve never researched so hard as when I’m looking for a digital version of a textbook.”

For Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Librarian for Literature and Theater Studies, comments like these hit home. She was a first-generation college student herself. She can identify with the feeling of being an “outsider” on campus, and how hard it can be to overcome the academic, social, economic, and cultural barriers that many 1G students face.

“That’s the way I often felt as an undergrad,” said Arianne. “There’s a big information gap.” Arianne grew up in Missouri and attended the University of Missouri on scholarship. She made the most of it, and she appreciates the opportunities she had. But she almost missed out on one of the most memorable experiences of her life—studying abroad in France—until an advisor casually informed her that her scholarship would cover the cost.

Now Arianne leads a cross-departmental team of library staff working to expand services for 1G students. The team collaborated with the Libraries’ Assessment and User Experience department to conduct an in-depth study on ways the Libraries could improve the learning experience of these students.

Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (left), Librarian for Literature and Theater Studies, with Student Success Intern Megan Boland.
Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (left), Librarian for Literature and Theater Studies, with Student Success Intern Megan Boland.

Their findings revealed several areas of low-hanging fruit. Take textbooks, for example. Two years ago, the Libraries piloted a program to purchase textbooks for the hundred largest classes at Duke and let students check them out for a few hours at a time. The service proved hugely popular. In the 2017-2018 academic year, the Libraries purchased 290 textbooks, which were checked out some 2,597 times. This year, at the recommendation of Arianne and her team, the service was expanded and promoted heavily. Checkouts are already exceeding last year’s pace, and the year isn’t even over. The service benefits all students in those high-enrollment classes, but especially first-generation and low-income students.

Another finding was that many 1G students arrive at Duke without any experience of using an academic library, let alone a system as large and complex as Duke’s. Even fundamental research skills like locating a book in the stacks can take time to puzzle out if you’ve never been introduced to the Library of Congress classification system.

Students studying in Perkins and Bostock Libraries.

Such difficulties are certainly not limited to 1G students. Many international students at Duke—who make up almost 20 percent of the combined graduate and undergraduate student population—also face difficulties learning their way around the library.

In response, the 1G library team encouraged staff and students who work at library service desks not to assume that individuals know how to read a call number and to consider accompanying library users to the stacks as a matter of course, rather than waiting to be asked. Such a small change of perspective and employee training can make a big difference to the entire student body, not just 1G students.

Other ideas and recommendations the team came up with—several of which have already been implemented—include participating in Duke’s pre-orientation sessions for 1G students, recruiting 1G students to serve on the Libraries’ student advisory boards, advertising library jobs on Duke’s 1G student listserv, and collaborating with campus partners like the Academic Advising Center, Career Center, Writing Studio, and others to promote library resources to 1G students.

Students walk past Rubenstein Library during class change on the Abele Quad.

One of the top recommendations coming out of the Libraries’ 1G study was to create a dedicated position that would focus on providing outreach not only to Duke’s growing number of 1G students but also to other underrepresented groups, such as international students. This spring, thanks to a generous gift from library supporter Deborah Spears (G’87), the Libraries hired our first Student Success Intern. Megan Boland is a graduate student in UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science. Under Arianne’s supervision, Megan has been working to build connections, develop programs, and promote the Libraries as both an academic and a non-academic partner in support of student success.

“I truly believe that first-generation students bring important perspectives to higher education, and that libraries can play a unique role in facilitating their acclimation to college,” said Megan. “Collaboration between staff, faculty, students, and other key stakeholders is essential in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment.”

During Duke’s spring break, Megan helped to plan a “Spring Tea Break” for students who were staying on campus to gather in a relaxing and helpful environment. She also conducted a focus group with the leadership of Duke LIFE, a student group for 1G and low-income Duke students, on how to design campus spaces especially for first-generation students.

The intern position is funded for two years. An additional recent donation by library supporter Maria Tassopoulos (T’89) will supplement 1G outreach efforts and may be used to increase awareness of textbook affordability issues. Generous gifts like these increase the Libraries’ ability to improve the academic experiences of 1G students, which has a positive effect on improving student success in general.


It should go without saying that there are benefits to attending a private university with an $8.5 billion endowment. Gleaming new residence halls, access to phenomenal faculty, smaller classes, a veritable buffet of dining options, and of course awe-inspiring libraries are just the tip of the iceberg.

And yet for all its abundance, the rarefied environment of a place like Duke can undermine first-generation and underrepresented students’ sense that they belong here. Like it or not, Duke remains a place of pervasive wealth, where money and status are a part of daily life. In this respect, the university is no different from its peers. Wealthy students are a fixture at elite colleges across the country, and the challenges at Duke are similar to issues faced by students at many top private universities.

But research shows that a sense of belonging really matters, influencing students’ academic as well as social experience of college. Many low-income and first-generation students today embrace their identities. As a result, the conversation—at Duke, as throughout the world of higher education—has shifted from one that expects those students to assimilate to one that listens to them and uses their insights to create a better educational environment for everyone.

When students from less-advantaged backgrounds aren’t worrying about fitting in or affording textbooks for their classes, they can spend more time taking advantage of everything a Duke education has to offer. And so can the next generation after them.

 

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.