Duke’s prospectus: MDs first, then poets

“A distinguished company of U. S. educators traveled last week to a long clearing in a fragrant pine forest in North Carolina. There stood the most prodigious new educational project in the land this century — Duke University, now nearly complete though little grass yet grows on its sandy campus, no ivy on its neo-Gothic walls of soft-colored fieldstone.

“The central ceremony was the dedication of Duke’s medical school and hospital, which seem bound to reach maturity and fame before the institution’s other branches. Money can get results faster in medicine than in the less scientific fields of culture. The $40,000,000 which the late tobacco and power Tycoon James Buchanan Duke gave to little Trinity College of Durham in return for taking his name will doubtless turn out many an able doctor before it polishes an important poet, will probably improve physically thousands of lives before it contributes much original thought on the way of life….

“Duke students are not yet distinguishable from their contemporaries at other inland institutions. They paint DUKE on their slickers, have ‘dates’ with the coeds, occasionally buy a fruit jar of corn liquor.”

–From Time magazine, April 27, 1931

3 thoughts on “Duke’s prospectus: MDs first, then poets”

  1. When my father entered graduate school at Duke in the mid-30s to earn his Ph.d in English, he heard a story doubtless repeated by many. Supposedly in those lean days in mid-Depression the new university had sent a good-paying job offer to a professor at a distant university. The professor telegraphed back, “Offer accepted. Where the hell is Duke?”

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