Remembering Duke

Super MikeI must confess that I love most everything about Duke University. I started in Divinity School there back in 1980. Now, growing up a Methodist, I have always wanted to go to school there. But my dad was a Methodist preacher… and not on television. So, even if I had the grades, we could not afford for me to go to undergrad school at Duke.

Somehow through God’s continuing call upon my life I spent my first month of summer classes in the Divinity School in 1980. I stayed in Kilgo Dorm (a lovely place) with my old time room mate, Glenn Griffith… the biggest NY Yankee fan in the world. Every night it was Yankee baseball. Our room was small, UN-air conditioned, with the gothic roll out windows… and a BIG old fan which I am surprised did not burn up from extreme over use.

I learned one valuable lesson that first summer at Duke. Our sidewalks are made of slate. I loved wearing flip flops to class. One rainy morning I found out that slate sidewalks and flip flops don’t mix very well. They are like walking on ice. It took me twice as long to get to breakfast, and the physical result was I found sore muscles I never knew I had.

One of the highlights of my time at Duke was to wander into the Chapel each afternoon, find a comfortable pew and listen to that beautiful pipe organ. It was so peaceful, inspiring, and comforting. I still love that place.

I started to Seminary full-time in 1981 after Coach K made his debut. I must say there wasn’t much to cheer about the four years I was there. We had some tall guys but not much playing experience. I do remember getting to meet Johnny Dawkins and getting his autograph for my son. Even though I grew up watching Duke play – Art Heyman and Jeff Mullins days – we had not yet caught the Duke Basketball Bug. It was just a little later that we became the Cameron Crazies… on the way to the first National Championship.

Over the years my respect for Coach K has grown immensely. I don’t appreciate his language – the lips I read on TV – but I deeply admire the man. His leadership philosophy is about building people of character who care about others, who push through the tough times and impossible obstacles, who live lives of integrity, not just about basketball. Nor is it about winning the 1000th game.  A person with lesser qualities would not have made it at Duke.

I always had good coaches growing up and I am very thankful for that. My son had a different experience with his high school “coach.” He went to Rockingham County High School. He was really too small to play football, but he tried it for a day anyway. He almost got killed being hit by these monsters. He decided that since he was better at basketball, and had played it in middle school, he would just wait and go out for basketball. On the first day of try outs this so-called coach said to the kids filling the gym bleachers: “If any of you little twerps who didn’t play football think you are going to play basketball, you can just forget it.” This guy was not a coach. He could not have been a very good teacher. My son, along with many other sons, walked out of that gym feeling very rejected. This was not a Coach K experience. My son went out for and lettered in golf.

Now we have added David Cutcliffe (2007) as our football head coach. I believe he is cut from the same fabric as coach K. Since he has been there he has brought a failing program up to the point were we have had two winning seasons and two bowl appearances back to back… a first for the Duke football program.

Duke Chapel

Duke Chapel

Do you remember the normal 6th grade field trip to Duke, Chapel Hill and the State Capitol? I can still remember that trip, especially one part. We were downstairs in the old bookstore… (on the corner of the quad). I looked around and noticed that all these students were sitting in the corridors with their heads buried in books. I thought to myself, “Why don’t you just relax. You are not in class?” Many years later I found out why these students were taking every opportunity they could to study. It was made very clear to us as we entered our first class of seminary at Duke Divinity School. Our professor said these very shocking and truthful words: “Get to reading. You are already a month behind.” We had the best professors who gave their very best to prepare us for ministry. I am so thankful to people like Father Murphy (OT), Richard Lischer (Preaching), Tom Langford (Theology), Dennis Campbell (Dean), and Paula Gilbert (Dean of Admissions). These are just some of the outstanding people who touched my life and helped to build the character of Duke Divinity School.

I loved my time at Duke. I loved the challenge to be my best, do my best, and give my best. To be your best is synonymous with Duke.


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