North Carolina is known for many things — the Biltmore, Pisgah National Forest, Clingmans Dome, Chimney Rock, the Great Smoky Mountains, Looking Glass Falls, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and much more. Throughout this great state, another noteworthy claim to fame includes universities with a rich background of academic excellence, especially when it comes to the history of Duke University.

The foundation of Duke can be traced back to 1838 when it initially opened in the small Brown’s Schoolhouse building located in Randolph County, which became known as Union Institute Academy. In 1851, the North Carolina Legislature rechartered the school to Normal College, and by 1853, the first degrees were awarded, allowing graduates to teach in public schools throughout the state. Because the college was affiliated with the Methodist Church, the name changed to Trinity College in 1859, whereby the motto “Eruditio et Religio” — “Knowledge and Religion” — was adopted.

Although the college closed from April 1865 to January 1866 due to the Civil War, students soon started enrolling again. A significant move took place in 1892 when Trinity College opened in Durham thanks to the generous funding of two “influential and respected Methodists” who thrived in the tobacco industry — Washington Duke and Julian S. Carr. In addition, Duke provided three $100,000 endowments to the school, with one being contingent on “admitting women on equal footing with men.” 

Other members of the Duke family continued to take a great interest in the growth of Trinity College with additional philanthropic efforts. In 1924, The Duke Endowment was established — a $40 million trust fund dedicated to aiding hospitals, orphanages, the Methodist Church, three colleges, and a university built by Trinity College. The trust fund allotted $19 million to the development of the new school, and by 1938, Duke University opened as a memorial to the family.

Fast forward to the present day, and impressive numbers reflect how Duke has grown to become an outstanding educational beacon for students around the world:

  • More than 15,000 students are enrolled at the university.
  • Students have the option to choose from a plethora of degree programs with options for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as certificates. Just in the undergrad program alone, students have the option of 437,989 unique academic combinations available with 53 majors, 52 minors, and 23 certificates.
  • The top five majors at the university include computer science, economics, public policy, biology, and psychology.
  • Duke consists of 8,693 acres with 256 buildings, and a 40,004-seat outdoor football stadium.
  • Alumni encompass more than 176,000 people worldwide.
  • The university is well known for Duke Medicine, which consists of the Duke University Health System, the Duke University School of Medicine, and the Duke University School of Nursing. 

And here’s a fun fact about Duke: It’s home to the only university-based facility in the world that is solely dedicated to the study of prosimian primates. The Duke Lemur Center, founded in 1966, houses the largest colony of endangered primates with more than 200 lemurs, bush babies, and lorises.  

Duke also has a stand-out list of notable names who have called the campus home, including, musicians, actors, athletes, etc. — Ken Jeong, Judy Woodruff, Grant Hill, Tim Cook, Melinda Gates, Elizabeth Dole, Seth Curry, and Rand Paul, just to name a few.

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