Former University Minister Robert Young Dies

Close friend of Duke encouraged progressive social change

On Monday, August 31, Robert Terry Young, a retired Methodist minister who once served in Duke Divinity School and as Minister to the University, died at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte after battling heart disease for many years. He was 74.

Young, raised in Woodfin, NC, was the first in his family of 13 children to go to college. At UNC-Chapel Hill, he was elected student body president, and urged the administration to integrate the campus. He later studied at Duke Divinity School, graduating in 1960. After Duke, he studied the New Testament at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

In 1970, Young returned to Duke -- where he became the divinity school's assistant dean in 1970. In 1973, Young was named Minister to the University at Duke Chapel. Upon his departure in 1983, he was named Dean of Duke Chapel.

During his tenure at Duke, Young organized the Friends of Duke Chapel, the Chapel's primary donor organization, in 1974. He also started the Robert T. Young Endowment which today funds the appearances of guest preachers at the Chapel.

"Bob Young is remembered at Duke Chapel for his preaching, his humanity, his passion for social justice, and his vision in establishing the Friends of Duke Chapel," said Sam Wells, Dean of Duke Chapel.

"The endowment in his name enables us to continue to uphold his aspiration that the Chapel may offer preaching of the highest possible standard. That seems the best way to honor his legacy."

Following his first heart surgery in 1983, he served at Broad Street United Methodist Church. He worked for his close friend, US Senator Terry Sanford, and the UNC Charlotte Athletic Department. Afterward, he returned to ministry at River Hills Community Church, where he served until shortly before his passing.

Over the course of his life, Young received numerous degrees and awards, including the C. Eric Lincoln Award and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina's highest civilian honor. He also published two books of sermons, A Sprig of Hope and Holy Moments.

Young was a lifetime sports fan and die-hard Duke basketball fan. However, he took pride in performing the marriage of UNC Coach Roy Williams and his wife, Wanda. In one of his favorite pictures, which appeared on the front of the local papers, showed him on the Duke football sideline next to his close friend Coach Mike McGee. McGee appeared to be praying. Young appeared to be "adamantly coaching."

Young is survived by his widow Virginia, four children, two step-children, 10 grandchildren and a brother, Chapel Hill author Perry Deane Young.

Visitation will be held at River Hills Community Church from 6-8 p.m. Friday. Funeral services will be held at the church at 2 p.m. Saturday and interment will follow at River Hills Community Church Cemetery.