Duke Alumnus Sen. 'Mo' Cowan to Keynote 50th Anniversary Event April 13

The rescheduled 50th celebration of Duke's first black students is set for Reunion Weekend

Sen. William 'Mo' Cowan graduated from Duke in 1991 with a degree in sociology.

U.S. Sen. William "Mo" Cowan of Massachusetts will deliver the keynote address at an event commemorating 50 years of black undergraduate students at Duke University. Cowan, a 1991 Duke graduate, is originally from North Carolina. 

The event will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 13, in Page Auditorium, during Duke's Reunion Weekend. It is free and open to the public, although tickets are required. Tickets are free when picked up in person at the Bryan Center Box Office. Others can reserve a free ticket online to be picked up after 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Page Auditorium box office. Light refreshments will be served in the Great Hall on West Campus following the address. 

Free parking is available in the H Parking Lot (corner of Anderson and Yearby: http://maps.duke.edu/map/?id=21&mrkId=2983). Free shuttle service will be provided from the lot to Page Auditorium from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Overflow seating will be available in Griffith Theater in the Bryan Center.

Those unable to attend can watch a live stream of the event on the university's Ustream channel, ustream.tv/duke-university. Viewers can post comments on Twitter using the hashtag #Duke50th. An archive of the recording will also be posted online.

A public reception launching the nine-month commemoration of Duke's first black students was cancelled in January due to bad weather and dangerous road conditions. Nearly 700 people had registered for that event.

Cowan's talk will highlight the contributions of Duke's African-American community -- students, alumni, faculty and staff. The three surviving members of the first class of black undergraduate students are expected to attend, as will several of the first students to integrate the university's graduate and professional schools.

"As a proud alumnus, it's an honor to be a part of acknowledging Duke University's outstanding effort to cultivate a diverse community for their students both inside and outside of the classroom. But of even deeper importance and measure of personal gratitude is the opportunity to celebrate the courage and strength of the young men and women who joined that first integrated class in 1963," Cowan said. "I am excited to return to Durham to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first black students at Duke. They paved the way for the young black men and women who followed them, and their burden has been my gain."

Cowan, a Yadkinville, North Carolina native and 1991 Duke alumnus with a bachelor's degree in sociology, was recently sworn in as a U.S. senator representing Massachusetts, filling John Kerry's vacant seat. His interim term ends June 25. He is the first African-American to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate since 1978.  

Cowan is the former chief of staff to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. After Duke, Cowan received his J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law and practiced civil litigation as an associate and later as a partner in the Boston office of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

"We are very excited to welcome Senator Cowan back to Duke for this very meaningful event. His lifelong commitment to public service is an inspiration to current and future generations of Duke students," said Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president of public affairs and government relations and co-chair of Duke's 50th anniversary committee. 

For information about the nine-month commemoration of Duke's first black students, go to http://spotlight.duke.edu/50years. For more details about other Reunion Weekend events, visit http://dukealumni.com/reunions-homecoming/reunions/schedule-of-events.