The Graduate School Distinguished Alumni Award is given annually to a graduate of a Duke University Ph.D. program who has distinguished themselves in service to their fields of endeavor, to Duke, and to society in general. 


Individuals currently employed by Duke University are not eligible for the award.

Nominees must

  • have received a Ph.D. from Duke University at least 10 years ago;
  • *have made a distinctive contribution to their field, community, society at large;

* – This criterion is intentionally broad to allow for a wide variety of contributions. Nevertheless, there should be some discernible connection between the nominee’s contribution and his or her graduate program at Duke.


The nomination period for the 2024 award is closed. Please check back in Fall 2024.

Deans, chairs, directors of graduate studies, and alumni can nominate individuals they consider to be the department’s or school’s most distinguished graduate alumni. Other individuals from the university community may also submit nominations.

To submit a nomination, send an e-mail Carlus Walters (, assistant to the dean of The Graduate School, the following:

  • The completed nomination form (PDF).
  • A single document that summarizes the nominee’s more significant accomplishments in all three of these areas: their fields of endeavor, their service to Duke, and their service to society in general. These accomplishments should be the direct result of the nominee’s individual interests and efforts. Provide evidence of personal involvement and commitment, as well as specific dates and tenure for activity or service.
  • A current curriculum vitae or résumé.
  • Letters of recommendation, citations, and any other documents that display the nominee’s contributions, such as newspaper or magazine clippings.

All nomination materials must be received by Carlus Walters in The Graduate School by Friday, December 16, 2022.

The selection committee will consist of individuals selected from the Executive Committee of Graduate Faculty, other graduate faculty, a graduate student, a representative from Alumni Affairs, and the dean of The Graduate School or a designate. 

Conversations with Some of the Past Recipients

Oceanographer and Explorer Sylvia A. Earle

Historian and Higher Ed Administrator George C. Wright

Biomechanics Pioneer Mimi A.R. Koehl

Psychology Researcher Kenneth J. Gergen

Shakespeare Scholar Ralph A. Cohen

Feminist Historian Jane De Hart