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As The Graduate School celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2016, we are taking a look at various aspects of the school’s history. Visit for more information about the 90th anniversary celebration, as well as other Graduate School history spotlights as they are published.


Dean Warren Rumbold and Frederick John Holl stand side-by-side in their cap and gowns.
Dean Warren Rumbold (left) and Frederick John Holl

Duke awarded its first Ph.D.s on June 6, 1928, to zoology students Frederick John Holl and Dean Warren Rumbold, but the commonalities between their lives and careers before and after Duke didn't stop there.

Both men hailed from New York—Holl from Buffalo and Rumbold from Tonawanda. Both had earned their bachelor’s degrees from the University of Buffalo before coming to Duke for their doctorates (Rumbold began his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin before finishing at Duke). After receiving their doctorates, they both began their careers as biology teachers. Then, when the United States entered World War II, both served in the armed forces.

After receiving his Ph.D., Holl returned to the University of Buffalo to teach at his undergraduate alma mater. He served as a major in the Air Force during World War II and later became a recognized authority in parasitology. He retired as a professor of biology at the University of Buffalo and died in 1972.

Rumbold, meanwhile, began his career at the Eastern Teacher’s College in Richmond, Kentucky. He was the first doctorate and full-time professor to spend more than a year in that school’s newly created biology department, and he influenced the department’s curriculum in the years that followed. While there, he also served as the adviser for the school’s newspaper, The Eastern Progress, for four years in the 1930s. Rumbold became a Navy commander during World War II and was on the faculty of Ferris Institute in Big Rapids, Michigan, when he died in 1967.