Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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Remembering the wise and generous Dr. Brodie

Dear Durham Academy Community,

Today we were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. H. Keith H. Brodie, whose wise, compassionate, generous service to Duke University and Durham Academy helped form and elevate both institutions.  

A memorial service will be held at Duke Chapel at 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5.

Brodie, a professor emeritus of psychiatry, served as Duke’s seventh president, succeeding Terry Sanford. “Keith Brodie’s term as president of Duke from 1985 to 1993 saw the beginning of Duke’s rise to national recognition and reputation,” President Richard Brodhead said in a message to the Duke community today. “The initiatives Keith championed became signature qualities of Duke and remain part of our university’s values today, including an emphasis on interdisciplinary scholarship, investments in medical research, and a commitment to a diverse and inclusive faculty and student body." 

The paragraph above comes from an article published by Duke Today – one that also includes poignant words from DA grandparent and parent of alumni Mike Krzyzewski, who points to Dr. Brodie as “the best man I’ve ever known at Duke.”

Newer members of our community may not know that Dr. Brodie also chaired Durham Academy’s Board of Trustees from 1985 to 1987 and served as a Trustee from 1979 to 1987.

His four children (Melissa '88, Cameron '90, Tyler '92 and Bryson '96) graduated from Durham Academy.

Dr. Brodie and his wife Brenda have consistently played pivotal roles in philanthropic support of our school. One example: our faculty sabbatical is endowed and named in honor of Brenda B. Brodie.

Dr. Brodie also gave the 1990 DA commencement address. While he referred then to a different set of historical landmarks (the stones of Tiananmen Square, the huts of Soweto, the Berlin Wall, the towers of the Kremlin) Dr. Brodie’s advice remains remarkably timely. Below is an excerpt. I strongly recommend reading the full speech – attached here.  

Wherever you find yourselves next year, you will also find opportunities to be heroes of democracy: to refuse to participate in unfair systems, to help tear down walls between yourselves and others, to stand in the way of terrible weapons – of prejudice and cruelty. You can begin by “dispelling enemy images” – by realizing that those who become the targets of heated animosity are usually being attacked less for anything extreme in their own behavior than for the sake of the insecurities of some and the inability of others to see life from another person’s point of view.

Next, you can take the heroic step of making friends with someone different from yourself, and sometime in public, you can refuse to laugh at a harmful joke. You can exhibit heroism by choosing to devote a portion of your social time to a campus organization that volunteers in the surrounding community; and you can willingly and with an open mind, attend the lectures, seminars and discussion groups your college sponsors on unpopular and uncomfortable topics. [Full remarks]

I first met Dr. Brodie in September of 1992. His warm support helped me overcome my jitters as his son Bryson’s brand-new Spanish and English teacher. Click here to see my story about the simultaneously humiliating and uplifting night of our first meeting.

In the 24 years since that evening, I leaned on Dr. Brodie’s wisdom and guidance many times. His frank, perceptive, strategic advice always hit the mark. As many people across Durham and the nation know better than I, Keith Brodie was a relentless recommender of books, a keen student of human nature, a brilliant leader, a compassionate healer, and an extraordinarily generous friend – to individuals and institutions alike. We will miss him dearly. 


Top image from New Canaan Country School

Bottom image from Durham Academy archives 

Posted by mulkus on Friday December, 2, 2016 at 09:38PM


Dr. Brodie addressed the DA faculty in 1980-81, my first year teaching in the middle school.  I became his biggest fan and I remember writing him a thank you note.  After receiving the faculty sabbatical in 2008, I wrote him another note, expressing my gratitude to him and Brenda. My association with Dr. Brodie was life-changing.  He was a generous man and it was always a pleasure to see him and talk to him.  My thoughts are with his family.  We will sorely miss this dear man.  
from Teresa Engebretsen on 12/02/16 at 10:11PM
Keith and Brenda were frequent visitors to the Durham Academy campus for parent conferences, athletic or artistic events.  They always impressed everyone with their kind and gracious manner.  They had a way of making you feel as though you were the most important person they'd ever met.  They were a remarkably giving couple.  In 1987, Keith had been President of Duke for two years when headmaster Rob Hershey announced he would be leaving DA.  Keith agreed to serve as chair of our search committee.  Those of us on the faculty were all thrilled that the search would be led by such a remarkably capable person, but mostly we were impressed that a man in such a time-consuming position would be willing, even eager, to add another job to his overflowing plate.  He served with his characteristic patience and efficiency, arranging his schedule around the schedules of the other members of the committee.  He inspired excellence.  Ever since then, whenever I think I am too busy to take on another task, I think of Keith and all the things he did for Duke, DA, and for the many people who were fortunate enough to cross his path.  
from Dennis Cullen on 12/03/16 at 06:49AM
I ran into him at a Christmas party in 2007, 8 months after my grandmother died. He told he how much he enjoyed her, which was nice. But then he told me that he learned she had a book of poetry published (it was in the obituary), he made a point of buying the book to read it!!! I think he had to get it off ebay. Who does that!?!?  A nice and wonderful and curious man - that's who.
from Sarah Burdick on 12/03/16 at 09:31AM
From: Laura Zimmerman Whayne 
"Dr. Brodie took time to get to know us as kids.  He was one of those grown ups that really listened and heard.  He was kind.  He was a wonderful father.  He didn't miss one of our volleyball games.  He remembered our strengths and always pointed them out to us.  Our class of '88 family is devastated by this news.  Love to all the Brodie's.  It's a hard journey to lose a father in which I wish I didn't know myself, but I do." 
from mulkus on 12/03/16 at 10:16AM
Dr. Brodie's support of Durham Academy was unwavering.  His high regard for faculty development and academic achievement remains as a lasting legacy.  He will be remembered fondly for his wise counsel, cheerful presence and commitment to professionalism.  DA owes Keith Brodie a great debt of gratitude.
from Jim Speir on 12/03/16 at 01:28PM

Keith Brodie was a friend and theater supporter.  One day, Don North called me into his office and said that Dr. Brodie wanted to do something for the drama program at DA, and what did we need.  I thought a bit, and said, "What I need is very expensive, and that would be a scene shop addition to the fine arts building."   Within a couple of days, Don told me that Keith was going to fund that addition.  I was amazed and extremely grateful.   The scene shop made building sets so much easier.  I also remember that while Keith was president of Duke, he would often be waiting for Tyler at the end of play rehearsals to give him a ride home.  In addition, Keith spoke to my psychology class every year about mental illnesses.  He was one of the kindest, most humble, and most knowledgeable people I have known.  My prayers are with his family at this time.


Bob Singdahlsen

from Robert Singdahlsen on 12/05/16 at 09:48AM
     Former Duke University President Terry Sanford once credited the skills he learned as a boy scout with saving his life during the terrible Battle of the Bulge in Western Europe during World War II's closing months. I don't know whether Dr. Keith Brodie, the man who succeeded Sanford as Duke president in 1985, ever spent time as a scout in his youth. But I do know that he embodied all the qualities said to constitute the ideal scout. From personal experience after we met in 1974, I soon found Keith to be, besides a brilliant physician-scientist, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful and much more. He set people at ease almost immediately, his administrative skills were practically legendary, and he made those who got to know him want to be better people themselves just because of the examples he set. Cool, calm and self-effacing, he also had neither ego nor temper that I ever saw. If I ever met a better human being, I'm not aware of it. Like Gatsby, there was something gorgeous about Keith Brodie.  
from Dave Williamson on 12/06/16 at 02:22AM

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