Duke Football's Newest (Employee) Captain

Malinda Whitson will be an honorary employee captain Sept. 1

On her desk, Malinda Whitson keeps a photo of her son, Drew, with Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe. Photo by Bryan Roth.
On her desk, Malinda Whitson keeps a photo of her son, Drew, with Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe. Photo by Bryan Roth.

For five years, Malinda Whitson has cheered on the Duke football team from the stands of Wallace Wade Stadium with other Blue Devil fans.

On Sept. 1, she'll have a whole new vantage point.

Whitson has been picked to act as the first honorary employee captain for Duke's home opener against Florida International University. She was selected after a review of about 60 nominations of faculty and staff who go above and beyond in their daily activities, showing qualities of leadership, teamwork and more. As part of her role, she'll get to run out onto the field with the football team prior to kickoff and watch game action by the Duke bench.

"The idea of running onto the field with the team is exhilarating and frightening at the same time," said Whitson, regional development director with University Development. "My son is so excited for me."

Whitson noted that her 12-year old son, Drew, is jealous and wants to join her because he hopes to attend Duke in the future and play football under head coach David Cutcliffe. A photo of Drew posing with Cutcliffe even has a spot on Whitson's desk at work. "He has an autographed helmet and jerseys he loves," she said.

As part of her role as honorary captain, Whitson will have the opportunity to join the Blue Devils for several team activities the week of the home opener football game, including:

  • Participating with head coach David Cutcliffe during a weekly press luncheon
  • Running onto the field at Wallace Wade Stadium with the football team before kickoff
  • Watching the game against Florida International from the sidelines
  • Recording a video with Cutcliffe to broadcast during the home opener

Rich Kells, assistant director of the Duke Annual Fund's Young Alumni Program, nominated Whitson because of her passion for her coworkers and all things Duke.

"In its most basic sense, our work in Development involves articulating the vision and funding priorities of the university to our most loyal alumni and then getting these potential donors excited about what Duke stands for and how they can have an impact on the school," Kells said. "Malinda goes out of her way to be collaborative, fosters teamwork in what can be a very competitive workplace environment, and remains focused on the best interests of Duke above all else."

Fellow Duke community members can cheer on Whitson when she makes her debut as honorary employee captain Sept. 1. Free tickets are available as part of the annual Employee Kickoff celebration. Faculty and staff can register for up to four free tickets online.