One of the first buildings on the original Durham campus (East Campus
), the Washington Duke Building ("Old Main"), was destroyed by a fire in 1911
Duke started in 1838 as Brown's Schoolhouse, a private subscription school founded in Randolph County in the present-day town of Trinity. Organized by the Union Institute Society, a group of Methodists and Quakers, Brown's Schoolhouse became the Union Institute Academy in 1841 when North Carolina issued a charter. The academy was renamed Normal College in 1851 and then Trinity College in 1859 because of support from the Methodist Church. In 1892, Trinity College moved to Durham, largely due to generosity from Julian S. Carr and Washington Duke, powerful and respected Methodists who had grown wealthy through the tobacco and electrical industries. Carr donated land in 1892 for the original Durham campus, which is now known as East Campus. At the same time, Washington Duke gave the school $85,000 for an initial endowment and construction costs—later augmenting his generosity with three separate $100,000 contributions in 1896, 1899, and 1900—with the stipulation that the college "open its doors to women, placing them on an equal footing with men."
In 1924 Washington Duke's son, James B. Duke, established The Duke Endowment with a $40 million trust fund. Income from the fund was to be distributed to hospitals, orphanages, the Methodist Church, and four colleges (including Trinity College). William Preston Few, the president of Trinity at the time, insisted that the institution be renamed Duke University to honor the family's generosity and to distinguish it from the myriad other colleges and universities carrying the "Trinity" name. At first, James B. Duke thought the name change would come off as self-serving, but eventually he accepted Few's proposal as a memorial to his father. Money from the endowment allowed the University to grow quickly. Duke's original campus, East Campus, was rebuilt from 1925 to 1927 with Georgian-style buildings. By 1930, the majority of the Collegiate Gothic-style buildings on the campus one mile (1.6 km) west were completed, and construction on West Campus culminated with the completion of Duke Chapel in 1935.
James B. Duke
established the Duke Endowment, which provides funds to numerous institutions, including Duke University
In 1878, Trinity (in Randolph County) awarded A.B. degrees to three sisters—Mary, Persis, and Theresa Giles—who had studied both with private tutors and in classes with men. With the relocation of the college in 1892, the Board of Trustees voted to again allow women to be formally admitted to classes as day students. At the time of Washington Duke's donation in 1896, which carried the requirement that women be placed "on an equal footing with men" at the college, four women were enrolled; three of the four were faculty members' children. In 1903 Washington Duke wrote to the Board of Trustees withdrawing the provision, noting that it had been the only limitation he had ever put on a donation to the college. A woman's residential dormitory was built in 1897 and named the Mary Duke Building, after Washington Duke's daughter. By 1904, fifty-four women were enrolled in the college. In 1930, the Woman's College was established as a coordinate to the men's undergraduate college, which had been established and named Trinity College in 1924.
Expansion and growth
Engineering, which had been taught since 1903, became a separate school in 1939. In athletics, Duke hosted and competed in the only Rose Bowl ever played outside California in Wallace Wade Stadium in 1942. During World War II, Duke was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission. In 1963 the Board of Trustees officially desegregated the undergraduate college. Increased activism on campus during the 1960s prompted Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at the University in November 1964 on the progress of the Civil Rights Movement. Following Douglas Knight's resignation from the office of university president, Terry Sanford, the former governor of North Carolina, was elected president of the university in 1969, propelling The Fuqua School of Business' opening, the William R. Perkins library completion, and the founding of the Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs (now the Sanford School of Public Policy). The separate Woman's College merged back with Trinity as the liberal arts college for both men and women in 1972. Beginning in the 1970s, Duke administrators began a long-term effort to strengthen Duke's reputation both nationally and internationally. Interdisciplinary work was emphasized, as was recruiting minority faculty and students. During this time it also became the birthplace of the first Physician Assistant degree program in the United States. Duke University Hospital was finished in 1980 and the student union building was fully constructed two years later. In 1986 the men's soccer team captured Duke's first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship, and the men's basketball team followed shortly thereafter with championships in 1991 and 1992, then again in 2001, 2010, and 2015.
Duke's growth and academic focus have contributed to continuing the university's reputation as an academic and research powerhouse.
In April 2005, the Duke-NUS Medical School opened in Singapore. It is a collaboration between Duke and the National University of Singapore.
Among academic achievements at Duke, three students were named Rhodes Scholars in both 2002 and 2006, a number surpassed only by Harvard in 2002 and the United States Military Academy in 2006. Overall, Duke has produced 46 Rhodes Scholars through 2015, including 24 between 1990 and 2015.
Also, the first working demonstration of an invisibility cloak was unveiled by Duke researchers in October 2006.
In 2006, three men's lacrosse team members were falsely accused of rape, which garnered significant media attention. On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper stated that the charged players were victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."
The university has "historical, formal, ongoing, and symbolic ties" with the United Methodist Church, but is a nonsectarian and independent institution.
In 2013, Duke Kunshan University opened in Kunshan, China.
Duke Forward, a seven-year fundraising campaign, raised $3.85 billion through June 30, 2017. The record giving by more than 315,000 donors and foundations will enrich the student experience in and out of the classroom, invest in faculty and support research and initiatives.
On August 19, 2017, following the violent clashes at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from the entrance to the Duke University Chapel, after having been vandalized by protesters.
Duke is the second-largest private employer in North Carolina with more than 37,000 employed and is consistently ranked among the top places to work by multiple publications, including Forbes and The Chronicle of Higher Education.