Honoring Alums: A History of Medical Alumni Weekend

Last month the School of Medicine welcomed alumni back to campus for the annual Medical Alumni Weekend. This week, we look at the origins of this tradition in honor of the first medical reunion which was held on November 29th, 1940.

Medical Reunion program, 1947The Duke Medical Alumni Association was established in 1940 and organized the first reunion later that year. The second meeting, held April 24-26, 1947, was attended by 281 alumni and featured presentations on various medical topics and a business meeting. The program for this meeting is pictured on the right. Reunions were held every three years (with a hiatus for World War II) until 1959 when an alumni weekend in its current form was proposed.

Medical Alumni Weekend program, 1968The first Medical Alumni Weekend was held on June 3-4, 1960. In a departure from earlier medical reunions, it featured more social events and was more Duke-focused. For instance, the talks and presentations included topics about the Medical Center, in addition to some on medicine more generally. Pictured on the left is the program from the 1968 Alumni Weekend. Unique to this weekend was the Ivy Planting Ceremony by Dr. John P. McGovern in honor of Dean Wilburt Davison. This event commemorated Davison’s attempt to plant a sprig of ivy from the estate of Sir William Osler at the 1932 School of Medicine commencement. The ivy symbolizes the link between Osler’s humanistic views on medical education and Davison’s vision for the School of Medicine.

Today, Medical Alumni Weekend is coordinated by the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs. The Archives has a range of materials from past Medical Alumni Weekends housed in the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs collection. Among these are programs, reunion directories, invitations, photographs, class letters, and audiovisual items.

More information is available on Office of Development and Alumni Affairs Records finding aid. For access to these materials, please contact the archives.

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