Duke awarded its University Medal, the school’s highest honor, to the late Dr. Brenda Armstrong and philanthropist-financier David Rubenstein Thursday night during the opening event of Founders’ Weekend Sept. 26-29.
Prior to her death last October at age 69, Armstrong served for more than 20 years as the Duke School of Medicine’s associate dean for admissions and senior associate dean for student diversity, recruitment, and retention.
During Armstrong’s tenure, she worked with school leaders and at the national level to attract the very best classes of medical students to Duke and is credited with recruiting the most diverse classes in the school’s history. She mentored hundreds of students and trainees and considered that her most important job.
In 2017, she was inducted into the Student National Medical Association Hall of Fame.
In addition to her administrative roles, Armstrong was a professor in the department of pediatrics. She was the second black woman in the United States to become a board-certified pediatric cardiologist, and her passion was bringing high quality medical care to underserved populations in Durham and beyond.
Armstrong earned her bachelor’s degree from Duke, where she was one of the first African-American students to attend the institution as an undergraduate. As a student in 1969, she helped organize the Allen Building Takeover.
Armstrong also coached the Durham Striders, a local youth track club that helped children develop healthier habits.
“Over the course of her five decades at Duke, Brenda Armstrong forever transformed the university and medical center, making this a stronger and more inclusive community,” said Duke President Vincent E. Price. “From her pioneering efforts to promote campus equality as an undergraduate to her dedication to recruiting and retaining diverse medical students to her service to her patients and the city of Durham, Brenda exemplified our commitment to service and excellence. I am proud to honor her legacy with the University Medal.”