Duke Begins Construction of Alumni and Visitors Center

Artist's rendition of the planned new Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center.
Artist's rendition of the planned new Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center.

For the first time Duke is building a dedicated space for alumni and visitors to campus. The new center, a four-building cluster that will collectively be called the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center, will include event space, meeting rooms and offices. Construction will begin this summer, with expected completion in the summer of 2019.

Situated at the main entrance to campus at Chapel Drive and Duke University Road, the center will be a gateway for the thousands of alumni and visitors who come to Duke’s main campus each year. Plans are for three new buildings, the largest of which is a 20,000-square-foot events pavilion that will provide a hub for annual events such as Reunions and Homecoming, as well as the restoration of the historic home at 615 Chapel Drive.

Designed by Connecticut-based Centerbrook Architects & Planners, the new buildings will be modern in style and feature arches and Gothic accents that echo Duke’s architectural roots.  

“The center will be a front door to campus for our alumni and visitors,” says Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. “It will give us a venue where we can welcome groups and individuals, but where visitors will be able to connect with and experience Duke more deeply.”

“We think this center will pretty quickly become one of the most visited places on campus,” says Sterly Wilder ’83, associate vice president of alumni affairs. “Together these buildings are going to create unparalleled opportunities for us to welcome alumni and engage them in the ongoing life of Duke.”

The center will be named in recognition of a lead gift from Bruce A. Karsh ’77 and his wife, Martha L. Karsh. Martha Karsh conceived the gift after consulting with David Rubenstein ’70, the outgoing chair of the Board of Trustees, on how best to honor her husband’s long service and commitment to Duke. Bruce Karsh has served as a trustee and chair of the Duke Management Company (DUMAC) and has supported need-based financial aid. In 2016, he received the University Medal, Duke’s highest honor for meritorious service to the university.

“Few things have been more meaningful or rewarding to Bruce than engaging at Duke,” says Martha Karsh. “This center will welcome generations of Duke alums and, we hope, invite and inspire them to support this world-class institution we love.”

The house at 615 Chapel Drive, one of the faculty homes built in the 1930s as part of the original construction of West Campus, will be renamed Forlines House in honor of former Duke trustee and Duke Alumni Association president John A. Forlines Jr. ’39. The former Forlines House at 614 Chapel Drive, which was home to the alumni offices from 1976 to 2016, is now occupied by the Duke Office of News and Communications. The Forlines family is supporting restoration of the home at 615 Chapel, which will include offices and casual meeting spaces for alumni and guests.

The center’s proximity to the Nasher Museum of Art, Duke Gardens and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions will make it a convenient launching point for campus visitors. Plans are for an art walk, featuring sculpture and other artistic works, to run between the center and the Nasher. An information desk will supply campus maps, visitor information and listings of campus events. The center may also be used as a gathering place for campus tours.

 “I am thrilled that Duke has committed to this project,” says Jack Boyd ’85, president of the DAA board of directors. “It will give alumni a true home base on campus, a place where they meet with people on campus and reorient themselves to Duke.”

“This center is going to drive a lot of connections,” says Wilder. “It’s going to make it easier for faculty to bring alumni into their classes, for students to discover alumni contacts and for alumni to reconnect with the things they love about Duke. We can’t wait to get started.”