Forty-five years ago, Betsy and I, our three daughters, and our cat Rosabella arrived in Chapel Hill several days ahead of the moving van. We were moving from our home in Pembroke Pines, a South Florida community between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
We had a new house but no furniture until the moving van arrived, so friends lent us sleeping bags until the moving van arrived. These generous folks were a Duke professor of economics and his wife, a potter, friends of friends we’d known in Florida.
One of my best friends in musical theater was a math professor at Duke. We performed together in several Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. He’s now retired, as I am, but we still see each other frequently as fellow actors in an amateur theater troupe. At my church, come to think of it, many of my most cherished friends are Duke-connected in some way.
For several years, I sang with the Choral Society of Durham. Its director serves on the music faculty at Duke, and many of its members are Duke students or former students. The chorus gave concerts in Duke Chapel. What an inspiring place in which to sing.
My love for singing also has taken me about 30 miles east to Raleigh, where I enjoyed singing in an award-winning barbershop chorus, most of whose members were either faculty members, students or former students at N.C. State University. Some Tar Heel fans like to make fun of what they perceive as a rural tilt of N.C. State students.
But then, some UNC fans believe that they sense an arrogance among Duke people. This certainly is not true among the people I know, but I was confronted by this on one occasion. Hired as a consultant by the staff of The Chronicle, Duke’s campus daily newspaper, I coached the staff on editing and writing skills. I recall my encounters with these bright, engaging students as pleasant and stimulating. But one conversation with the student editor remains lodged in my memory. She was trying to describe what she saw as a difference between students at Duke and those at UNC. Duke students, she told me, are more evolved. She was serious.
When it comes to sports, I am a devoted fan of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. That’s natural, I suppose. For 22 years, I served on the faculty of UNC’s School of Journalism. That doesn’t change my love and respect for my Duke-related friends and acquaintances. But when Duke and Carolina meet on the basketball court or football field, I want UNC to win.
Friendships consist of respect and love, in my view, and many of them nourish us for a lifetime. This is more important than a game. Sometimes I need to remind myself: It’s only a game.