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2021 Stories to Remember

A collection of major stories that defined the year in teaching and research and campus life

Celebrating Community

Blue Devils Return

After a long 18 months of distancing and hybrid learning, Duke University students returned to campus for a celebration to kick off the new academic year.


Duke Gardens Reopens to the Public

Duke Gardens entered its second phase of reopening on June 1, opening up to the public with limited capacity. After being closed to the public for 445 consecutive days, families stood at the gates waiting for the gardens to open and were greeted by Duke Gardens employees. 



New Faces 

2021 New Faculty

More than 100 new scholars joined the Duke faculty in 2021; though their expertise and interests cover a wide range of disciplines, the common denominator among them is excellence. The expertise they've brought to Duke enhances areas of existing strength and helps propel the university forward in other fields identified as strategic priorities. The new faculty of 2021 also reflect the university’s commitment to hiring for inclusive excellence and advancing and expanding Duke’s teaching and scholarship related to social and racial equity. 

Sophia Enriquez, assistant professor of music,  is a scholar and educator working at the intersections of Latinx and Appalachian cultures.

Edgardo Colón-Emeric Installed at the Divinity School

Edgardo Colón-EmericEdgardo Colón-Emeric was installed as the 16th dean of the Divinity School. Colón-Emeric, the Irene and William McCutchen Associate Professor of Theology and Reconciliation and director of the Center for Reconciliation, began his two-year term as the dean of Duke Divinity School on July 1 of 2021. He is the first Latino dean of the school.


School of Nursing Welcomes Vincent Guilamo-Ramos

 Vincent Guilamo-Ramos On July 1, 2021, Vincent Guilamo-Ramos officially began his role as dean of the Duke University School of Nursing and the vice chancellor for nursing affairs for Duke University. Guilamo-Ramos leads as the School’s 12th dean and second alumnus to serve in the position. He earned his MSN from the Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care Program with a HIV specialty certificate.


Moving forward on equity and inclusion

New Committees' Work Demonstrates Commitment to Anti-Racism

The faculty, staff and students charged with recommending policies to address concerns about racial equity issues across the university started work in December. Their initial focus is to provide additional data from the recent Campus Climate Survey to university units, helping them understand the results and implement action plans.


Great Change

Coach K Announces His Retirement

Duke men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has won more Division I men's college basketball games than any coach in history, announced that the 2021-22 season would be his final year of coaching.Mike Krzyzewski

Advances Against COVID

DGHI Vaccine Database Pushes Policymakers on Global Vaccinations

The Launch and Scale Speedometer, a project of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, tracks the advance purchase and manufacture of COVID vaccines globally, as well as pledges and donations of vaccines around the world. The evidence provided by the speedometer’s comprehensive and real-time data, presented in an easy-to-read dashboard and translated to clear policy recommendations, helped bring about a global COVID summit convened by the White House to address vaccine inequity.


ABC Science Collaborative Cited by CDC

Research from Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill suggests that schools can consider returning to in-class instruction if they mitigate COVID-19 transmission on campuses, despite the level of COVID-19 cases occurring in the community, especially when students, teachers and staff consistently wear masks, wash their hands, and practice physical distancing as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).



Arts & Athletics

Duke Professor Contributes to New Opera

Lauren Ginsberg, associate professor of classical studies, contributed to the story of Poppaea for an opera that explores the dark side of Emperor Nero's second wife.


Nina E. King Named Next Vice President and Director of Athletics

Nina KingNina King was Duke’s senior deputy director of athletics for administration and legal affairs and chief of staff. Taking office on Sept. 1, King is the first Black woman to hold the position at Duke.



Fifteen Duke Athletes Head to the Tokyo Olympics

After a year’s delay, thousands of the world’s greatest athletes marched into Tokyo Olympic Stadium on July 23 to kick off the Summer Olympic Games.  Among them were more than a dozen Duke alumni and coaches, who participated in eight sports representing seven nations.


Research & Scholarship

At the Heart of Research and Medicine

At Duke, creating 3D printed models to plan complex heart surgeries is a team effort between Duke Hospital and Duke University's 3D printing lab.


Duke Kunshan’s First Rhodes Scholar

Ege Kaan DumanDuke Kunshan University senior Ege Kaan Duman, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in global health (biology track), was the first DKU student to receive a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Duman has worked extensively with professors Lijing L. Yan and Benjamin Anderson in the DKU Global Health Research Center (GHRC), and as a research assistant in the Duke Global Health Institute. He is also an active researcher in the Health Humanities Lab, a founding member of the Youth Leaders in Global Health Club, and leads the interviewer team for MediHealth, a DKU student-led podcast.


Inside Classroom Learning

Even as students returned this semester to in-person learning, many of the lessons from 18 months of remote learning continued to shape the classroom experience. Faculty and students together used the pandemic to reimagine the traditional classroom.

A student in a Writing 101 class,

Student Resilience 

Duke Students Found a Home at Duke Kunshan and Duke Kunshan Students Found a Home at Duke

Before the pandemic, Duke was already expecting about 120 juniors from Duke Kunshan to study abroad at Duke in the fall of 2020. Although COVID-19 made traveling to Durham impossible for most of those juniors, Duke offered all Duke Kunshan students who were already in the U.S. and couldn’t get to China the chance to come to Duke instead. Duke Kunshan extended the same offer to Duke students in China who couldn’t get to the U.S.

Duke student Angie Xie said the lobby of the Innovation Building at Duke Kunshan University is one of her favorite places on the Duke Kunshan campus. (Photo/Qiling Wang)


Checking in on Students During the Pandemic

Across the university, Duke paired its large-scale institutional efforts to contain the pandemic – testing, contact tracing, communicating public health guidelines – with small, personal touches to keep students feeling connected. The Isolation Care Team (ICT) is at the sharpest end of the pandemic on campus, shepherding infected and quarantined students through the isolation process at eight locations.

Mary Pat McMahon and Gary Bennett, seen talking with a student in the Brodhead Center Wednesday, said keeping connected with students during the semester was a priority. Photo by Bill Snead

Celebrating Our Future 

2021 Graduation Ceremony With John Legend

The class of 2021 had its commencement on May 2 with an address from musician John Legend.


2020 Ceremony With Ken Jeong

The members of Duke’s class of 2020 had their moment in the spotlight on Sept. 25 with a commencement address from actor-comedian and Duke alumnus Ken Jeong.


Remembering a Pioneer

West Campus Building is Named for Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke

The Sociology-Psychology Building on West Campus was renamed for Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, who came to Duke in 1963 as one of the “First Five” Black undergraduates and went on to become a leading lawyer, law professor, university administrator and a trustee for both Duke University and The Duke Endowment.


Honoring Those We Lost

Luminaries for COVID Victims

With 40 tolls of the Duke Chapel carillon bells, Duke University joined a national memorial for the nearly 400,000 Americans who died from COVID-19 before Jan. 19.


Duke Carillonneur Sam Hammond

J. Samuel Hammond, who for more than five decades ended the academic day filling West Campus with music from the Duke Chapel carillon, died on Feb. 25.


Charles Johnson, First Black Physician at Duke Hospital

Charles JohnsonCharles Johnson, MD, Professor Emeritus of Medicine, passed away on December 14, 2021, at the age of 94. Dr. Johnson joined Duke in 1970 as the first Black faculty member in the School of Medicine and first Black physician on the faculty of Duke University. He served on the faculty of the School of Medicine for 26 years until his retirement in 1996. A memorial service will be held in Duke Chapel for Johnson on Saturday, Jan. 8.


Nathaniel “Nat” B. White Jr., One of Duke's First Five Black Undergraduates

Nathaniel “Nat” B. White Jr.Nathaniel “Nat” B. White Jr., one of the first five Black undergraduate students at Duke, died March 19 in Atlanta.  He was 75. 

White matriculated at Duke in 1963 along with Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, Gene Kendall, Mary Mitchell Harris and Cassandra Smith Rush. With White’s death, Kendall is the last surviving member of the original five.



Our Roots

Duke Forest Celebrates Its 90th Anniversary

Founded in July 1931 as the demonstration lands for the Duke School of Forestry, the Duke Forest has become Duke’s biggest and oldest laboratory and outdoor classroom with its 7,100 acres of teaching and research lands stretching across Durham, Orange and Alamance Counties.


From Duke Schools and Institutes

Read these other story roundups from university units: