Tag Archives: dukehistory

Founders’ Day Traditions

(click to enlarge)

The practice of honoring the benefactors of Trinity College and Duke University was formalized by the Board of Trustees on June 4, 1901, when October 3 was designated as Benefactors’ Day in honor of Washington Duke. The original intent “to honor Washington Duke forever” has been kept in spirit, but the name and date of the annual observance has changed over the years. It has been called Benefactors’ Day (1901-1924), Duke University Day (1926-1947), and, since 1948, Founders’ Day. The most elaborate celebrations occurred during the year-long Centennial Celebration of 1938-1939, and on the 100th anniversary of James B. Duke’s birth in 1956.

After the creation of Duke University in 1924, the date shifted to December 11 in honor of the signing of the Indenture of The Duke Endowment. For several decades, tree-planting ceremonies were a traditional part of the festivities. In 1997, the ceremonies were moved back to a date in the early fall, usually the weekend closest to October 3rd. Events include a memorial for members of the community deceased during the year passed, recognition of outstanding students, faculty, and staff, and the presentations of awards for teaching, the Distinguished Alumni Award, and the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service at Duke.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

Alabama v. Duke

This Saturday’s football game with Alabama recalls the historic ties between our two programs. In 1930, shortly before the opening of the new Gothic West Campus, President William Few sought the advice of the celebrated Alabama coach Wallace Wade on potential names for a football coach and director of athletics. Wade, who had led Alabama to two Rose Bowls and a record of 51-13-3, surprised Few by replying that he would be interested in the vacancy. Wade brought his Alabama success to Duke, leading the Blue Devils to two Rose Bowls as well. He would post a record of 110-36-7 in his sixteen years as coach at Duke.

Sugar Bowl Coin Toss
The Coin Toss. From the Edmund M. Cameron Records.

While Wade served in the U.S. Army as major during World War II, his assistant Eddie Cameron took over as head coach and continued the Blue Devils’ gridiron success. He led the 1944 team to a Sugar Bowl showdown with Alabama on January 1, 1945. In what sportswriter Grantland Rice called “one of the greatest thrillers of all time” Duke edged the Tide 29 to 26. Cameron kept a scrapbook filled with images from the game, which now forms a part of the Edmund M. Cameron Records.

Duke’s connections to Alabama continue with current Coach David Cutcliffe, an Alabama native and graduate of the University of Alabama who also served as an intern to legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant. Duke fans will be hoping that Coach Cutcliffe will rekindle some of that “Sugar Bowl magic” and will lead us to another thrilling victory over Alabama this Saturday!

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.