Skip to main content

Celebrate Duke's Presidential Award Winners

Saturday, February 15, 2020
Durham gas explosion

In the chaotic aftermath of the deadly gas explosion that rocked downtown Durham on April 10, 2019, Ellen Medearis, vice president for Duke Health Development and Alumni Affairs, saw the depth of the bond between members of her team.

Moments earlier, they’d been working in the unit’s offices, which sat next to a section of Duke Street where the explosion occurred. But immediately after the blast, team members led one another out of the damaged building to safety, and after ensuring everyone was out, they tended to injured co-workers.

“I remember so clearly seeing team members embrace and watch over their colleagues, making sure that they got care by flagging down police cars, and then helping the injured into ambulances,” Medearis said in her nomination letter. “I am humbled and proud to lead this team, whose members merit recognition for bravery, camaraderie, endurance, innovation, and resilience on the day of, and in the months following, the explosion.” 

For their efforts on that day, and the many trying ones that followed, the 105 members of the Duke Health Development and Alumni Affairs team, including Duke Children's Development, are among the other team and individual winners of the 2019 Presidential Award, The Presidential Awards recognize individuals and teams who made distinctive contributions to Duke University and Health System and have demonstrated its institutional values of respect, trust, inclusion, diversity and excellence during the 2018-19 academic year. The awards are the highest honor given by Duke to staff and faculty members.

"This year’s Presidential Awards winners have made exceptional contributions to our community and exemplified our abiding values—respect, trust, inclusion, discovery and excellence," said Duke University President Vincent E. Price. "Together, they demonstrate that no matter the department or area of service, Duke’s dedicated, talented employees are the foundation of our university’s success. I am delighted to recognize their outstanding service."

The winners will be honored at an awards ceremony at 4 p.m., February 25, in Page Auditorium which is open to all. A reception will follow in Penn Pavilion. While the event won't be ticketed, guests are encouraged to register here. Parking is available at the Bryan Center Parking Garage and the Chemistry Lot.

Meet the rest of the Presidential Award winners