An Insider Tour of Duke

Associate Chief Information Officer John Board imparts 46 years of campus knowledge while he helps Office of Information Technology colleagues bond

A group of people gather around a person directing a tour on the Duke University campus

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After passing through the archway, Board told everyone to look up again.

“Gape in awe,” he said for at least the fourth time on the campus tour in April for team members in the Office of Information Technology (OIT).

The flip side of that same walkway was lined with modern bricks – in the same brown, gray, blue and ochre hues, but seamlessly blending in with the more contemporary architecture of newer buildings that unfolded from that point out from central campus.

“All this time I walked through that portico, I never noticed that,” marveled John Straffin, a Senior Endpoint Security Engineer who has been at Duke for more than 25 years. “That’s wild!”

A man gestures to his right on Duke's East Campus as he gives a tour
Associate Professor John Board gestures as he gives a campus tour to OIT team members at Duke University. Photo by Travis Stanley

Board, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been sharing insider tips like that about Duke’s campus for the past two years in an annual staff tour for OIT colleagues.

What started as a way to welcome new staffers by bringing together employees who primarily work remotely has continued for the sheer popularity of learning more about Duke from one of its most knowledgeable and entertaining employees. 

And it’s also a chance for colleagues who rarely see each other face-to-face to catch up in person.

“During COVID we realize we've hired a whole bunch of new people who have no incentive to ever go to campus, who don’t know what the campus looks like and don’t remember that it's full of students and faculty who really are their customers at the end of the day,” said Board, who joined Duke’s faculty in 1987.

Board, who has also served as Associate Chief Information Officer for OIT since 2007, was the obvious choice to lead the outings.

Aside from a couple years spent at Oxford studying for his doctorate, he’s been at Duke since he earned his undergrad degree as an “ever-popular electrical engineering-French literature double major” in 1981. He boasts that he’s been at Duke so long, he has the second-oldest email address ever created.

That’s 46 years’ worth of knowledge he imparts on every tour. And it’s one reason Veronica Simmons joined the tour for the second time when it was offered again in April.

A tour group stops outside a building on East Campus at Duke University
Colleagues in OIT gather around John Board (center, in blue button-down shirt and khaki pants) as he gives a tour of East Campus at Duke University. Photo by Travis Stanley

“I love it,” said the Senior Database Administrator. “Anytime I can get away from my computer is always good.”

Board’s tour started on East Campus with plenty of history about Duke – including its nascent days as a school in Randolph County in 1838 – moved to West Campus and a perusal of the Duke Basketball Museum in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and included a couple OIT-specific interest stops such as a walk past the Student Wellness Center that houses the newest routers on campus. All the while, Board peppered his commentary with wry humor.

Until about a year ago, Teddy Spivey worked zombie hours as a Data Center Analyst for OIT. That meant 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shifts where meeting up with colleagues when the sun was out was nearly impossible.

When he switched to daytime hours, he realized co-worker outings like the OIT tour were important.

“I rarely see anyone. I know the names, but not the faces,” he said. “Events like this are when I can put names to faces.

“I realized there’s a whole different world here.”

It’s one that Spivey might not have seen if not for this entertaining jaunt through campus.

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