WCC Honors Richard and Marie Duke With 2010 Award of Merit
Each year at commencement, WCC recognizes an individual or couple who have worked tirelessly on behalf of education and the College with its highest honor, the Award of Merit. This year’s honorees are Richard and Marie Duke.
The Dukes have been champions of WCC since their daughter, Lynda, discovered her love of learning at the College many years ago. Since then, they have taken a close look at the impact that a community college can have on people who are not ready to study at a four-year institution.
“There is a large group in our community who have plenty of potential but haven’t had the opportunity to gain confidence in their ability to succeed in education,” said Richard, a renowned expert in strategic decision-making and professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. “They need to grab the wrung of the ladder and begin their climb to the top.”
The Dukes have raised six children, all of whom have bachelor’s degrees and several of whom have master’s degrees and doctorates. They believe that education can make the difference between a society that can compete in an international economy and one that cannot.
“Something has to be done locally to educate and/or re-educate working people, especially now that the global economy means that they are not only competing against each other but against the rest of the world,” said Richard. “This applies to adults returning for additional education as well as to youngsters just getting a start.”
To address this need, the Dukes established an endowment of $250,000 through the WCC Foundation, which awards scholarships to students facing financial hardships. Then they challenged their friends and the community to step up and do the same.
“We read about the Kalamazoo Promise that guarantees public school children tuition to go to college,” Richard said, “and it occurred to us that it is all about helping students gain the training necessary to fulfill the needs of the community.”