Memories of Benjamin from President Brodhead

I grieve for you and all the generations Ben loved and mentored so powerfully. I first knew him many years ago—long before either of us ever imagined coming to Duke. In his young days at Yale, he was a phenomenon, as he remained—a master in such a vast range of subjects, with such a passionate love of leaning, music, and the communities they formed. Two memories stand out from a thousand. After I’d been named president of Duke, some Yale friends threw a farewell party in New York City. Late in the evening, there was a surprise: my host had flown up the Pitchforks, Duke’s equivalent of the Whiffenpoofs, with one older member who had carried the a capella torch from New Haven to Durham. From that happy reunion, I saw him a hundred times here, including—with Ben surprises never ended—at baseball games. But most majestic was the little concert in the East Duke Building where Ben, resurgent after a near fatal assault of his disease, rose triumphant to play the hard Beethoven piece written in thankfulness for survival in face of death. Men die but the spirit lives. What luck to have known him.

-Dick Brodhead