Visiting fellow, former N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue tours Duke campus
Former North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue joined Duke students Tuesday morning as they speed-walked to their first classes of the fall semester. She visited the chapel, marveling at the ceramic tile pillars. She walked into the student union and took a peek inside Red Mango.
“I’m the oldest freshman on campus,” Perdue said.
This fall, she’s taking her political expertise into the classroom as a distinguished visiting fellow at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. She will work with faculty and students and also serve as an adviser to Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy.
Her official campus tour was led by Duke public policy students Kaitlyn Ellett and Derek Rhodes, Duke Student Government’s vice president for Durham and Regional Affairs.
While walking toward Wallace Wade Football Stadium, Perdue asked the students why they decided on Duke.
For Rhodes, it was seeing the Sanford school in person. But, at first, “I was a little bit apprehensive about coming to Duke,” he said. “It was a little too close to home.”
Ellett said her father brought her home a Duke T-shirt after he attended a business conference in Cary. When she visited campus and set her first sights on Duke Chapel, she knew it was home.
“It’s mesmerizing, isn’t it?” Perdue said of the chapel. They paused at Krzyzewskiville and stared up at Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s office, one of the tallest points on campus.
Perdue was North Carolina’s first female governor and served from 2009 to 2012. Before entering politics, she was a public school teacher. She always had an interest in education and life-long learning, she said, as well as aging and health care.
She said working at a private institution was an important move for her, where she can share advice with students that they can make both a living and a difference in public policy. She was at Harvard this spring at the Institute of Politics, after her term as governor ended in January and Pat McCrory took the helm.
Perdue said that she felt jaded after the political struggles that she had endured during her one gubernatorial term. But spending the following months on a private campus in public service has given her the positivity she needs.
“You have this sense of optimism about the future,” she said. “…I love teaching and I love the opportunity to be part of change and a part of long-term vision. …I encourage and will encourage the students here at Duke to be entrepreneurial and be a risk-taker.”
Perdue opened the massive wooden doors of Duke Chapel and entered. Duke custodian Oscar Dantzler greeted the former governor, saying he almost didn’t recognize her, and then invited her to view the crypt in the belly of the chapel, an experience usually kept behind locked doors.
Perdue walked down the steps and happened upon the grave sites of former Duke University President and N.C. Gov. Terry Sanford and his wife, Margaret Rose Knight Sanford, their names imprinted on the floor on gold plates. A vase of wilting wildflowers sat at the head of the graves.
Perdue said when she got into politics in the mid-‘80s, Sanford was the face of service in North Carolina.
“He was my hero,” she said.
She commented that she was planning to go to church that Sunday, and Dantzler said he’d save her two seats.
The next stop on the campus tour was the Bryan Center student union, where they checked out the food court and the university bookstore.
Ellett shared that Maya Angelou visited campus Sunday, an inspirational tradition reserved every year for incoming students. One of Angelou’s quotes this year was, “Be a rainbow in other people’s clouds,” Ellett said.
“I’m going to write that down,” Perdue said, smiling. “I like that.”
The plaza outside of the union was full of students eating lunch and buying posters for their barren dorm room walls.
“This is just marvelous,” Perdue said. “It makes me want to come back and do it all over.”