In 1969 the Trustees took a bold step in electing as President someone from outside the academic community. However, Terry Sanford (1917-1998), known as the educational governor of North Carolina and one experienced in dealing with the then all too common politics of confrontation, proved to be a wise choice. Retiring in 1985, his tenure as president was exceeded only by the terms of Craven and Few, and by Kilgo by only a few months. Whether in additions to physical plant, in increased participatory governance with the addition of students to campus committees, or in fund raising with the Epoch Campaign and the Capital Campaign for the Arts and Sciences, Sanford's years at Duke were impressive. His approachability, the openness of his administration, his emphasis on honor, and his assimilation and use of the history of the institution were most appreciated. But perhaps the most surprising fact is that 37,700 Duke degrees were awarded over his signature. In 1985, that represented 55% of the active alumni of the University! We frequently note how young Duke is but it is very much part of an older, distinguished institution. It is not uncommon to discover President Hart quoting Kilgo, Sanford quoting Few and Crowell, and Few acknowledging the influence of Craven.
Dr. Brodie, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychiatry, served as Duke’s Chancellor from 1982 to 1985 and was named to succeed Terry Sanford. During his tenure, applications to Duke's graduate and undergraduate programs increased greatly as the school became a nationally-known research university.
Academic initiatives included the establishment of an Institute of Statistics and Decision Sciences and a new School of the Environment. Interdisciplinary planning was a hallmark of the period and a new science building, the Levine Science Research Center, brought together faculty from varied disciplines. Other capital projects added a dormitory, a building for policy sciences and public affairs, medical research buildings, and the campus wide network, DukeNet. Duke made efforts to increase the number of African-Americans in academia with a Black Faculty Initiative and a Program for Preparing Minorities for Academic Careers. Increased faculty participation in the governance of the University was made possible by the establishment of the President's Advisory Council on Resources. During Dr. Brodie's tenure, Duke became known as a school that welcomes people of different races, cultures, and ethnic groups.