Outrageous Ambitions: How a One-Room Schoolhouse Became a Research University

Student Life

Student Life at Duke has changed dramatically since the days of Randolph County, when most students lived with local families and provided their own candles and lumber. From freshman traditions to dining in the cafeteria, Duke students each have their own favorite memories of their time on campus.

Female students socializing in a dorm in 1951.

1951 Dorm Scene

1951 Dorm Scene

This photograph was taken in a dorm at the Woman's College in 1951.

This hand-sewn jumper was made for and worn during sorority rush in 1958.  It was made by alumna Dorothy Newsome Rankin, whose name is hand-embroidered onto the straps and into the back of the jumper.

Kappa Delta Rush Jumper

Kappa Delta Rush Jumper

Greek life has existed at Duke since Trinity College was located in Randolph County.  Here, we have a hand-sewn rush uniform from around 1958 from alumna Dorothy Newsom Rankin.  Students interested in joining a sorority sewed jumpers and wore them during rush.

This rolling pin was given to pledges during sorority rush in 1930 (the first year of the Woman's College).  The writing on the rolling pin references members of the Class of 1933.

Sorority Rolling Pin (full)

Sorority Rolling Pin (full)

This rolling pin is a relic of sorority rush, from the 1930s. Some of the signatures on the rolling pin are from members of the class of 1933.

This rolling pin was given to pledges during sorority rush in 1930 (the first year of the Woman's College). The writing on the rolling pin references members of the Class of 1933.

Sorority Rolling Pin (detail 1)

Sorority Rolling Pin (detail 1)

This rolling pin is a relic of sorority rush, from the 1930s. Some of the signatures on the rolling pin are from members of the class of 1933.

Students eat and socialize at a "cabin party" in the 1940s.  During the early days of West Campus, student groups took over cabins located in the Duke Forest for social gatherings and parties.  Given the strict social standards in place at the time, these parties allowed them to socialize outside of the control of the university.

Cabin Party, 1940s

Cabin Party, 1940s

During the mid-20th century, students—particularly female students—were strictly monitored at Duke.  There were restrictions on when and with whom students could venture off-campus.  One way that students circumvented authority was by having “cabin parties” in abandoned cabins in the Duke Forest.  This cabin party was held in the 1940s.

Students eat and socialize in the dining hall in West Campus Union in the 1970s.

West Campus Union Dining Hall, 1970s

West Campus Union Dining Hall, 1970s

There have been many changes in student life over the years, but two things have remained constant as long as Trinity has been in Durham: dorms and dining halls.  This photograph was taken in the West Campus Union Dining Hall in the 1970s.

Photograph of the first Krzyzewskiville

Krzyzewskiville, 1986

Krzyzewskiville, 1986

Krzyzewskiville—a tradition that continues today—began in 1986 when students from Mirecourt decided that they did not want to stand in line in order to get tickets to the Duke-UNC basketball game.  They pitched tents in front of Cameron Indoor Stadium and camped out until game time.