Office of the President

About Richard H. Brodhead

Richard H. Brodhead is the ninth President of Duke Universityand the William Preston Few Professor of English.  He is a scholar of nineteenth-century American literature and a national leader in higher education.

Since arriving at Duke in 2004, Brodhead has enriched undergraduate education, working to unify Duke’s academic opportunities with the residential experience. Brodhead led the expansion of Duke’s financial aid endowment to ensure that admitted students can afford to attend regardless of their financial circumstances.  Under his leadership Duke established the Duke Global Health Institute, an interdisciplinary center that works to translate research findings to address health care inequities and improve the health of people around the world. Brodhead also launched the signature program DukeEngage, which gives Duke undergraduates the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge in service to society, either in the U.S. or around the world.

Brodhead has made globalization a major strategic priority for the University, overseeing the creation of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School as a joint venture with the National University of Singapore and forging a partnership for a new campus with the Municipality of Kunshan in China.

Closer to home, Brodhead is a champion of the relationship between Duke University and the City of Durham. Under his leadership, Duke’s investments have strengthened K-12 public education, funded several new community health clinics, and spurred downtown renewal and neighborhood revitalization through the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership. He is also involved in shaping the future strategic direction of the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina.

Nationally, Brodhead is a leader in education issues through a number of organizations. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004, he was named the Co-Chair of the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, created by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at the request of a bipartisan group of Congressmen and Senators to bolster teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences. Brodhead served as a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 2004 to 2012 and has held a Presidential appointment to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.  He also served on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Security Higher Education Advisory Board. In 2013, he was named a trustee of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Prior to coming to Duke, Brodhead had a 32-year career at Yale University. Born in Dayton, Ohio, Brodhead graduated from Yale in 1968 and received his Ph.D. there in 1972.  He then joined the Yale faculty, where he served as the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of English and American Studies.  Brodhead has written or edited more than a dozen books on American literature, analyzing the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, Richard Wright and Eudora Welty.  Brodhead researched and edited the pioneering edition of the diaries of Charles W. Chesnutt, the leading African-American author of the post-Civil War generation.  A devoted teacher, Brodhead won the DeVane Medal for outstanding teaching at Yale and spent eight summers teaching high school teachers at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, in Middlebury, Vermont.  He has lectured widely in universities in the U.S., Europe and Asia. After serving as chair of Yale’s Department of English for six years, Brodhead was named dean of Yale College in 1993 and served in the post for 11 years until he assumed Duke’s presidency. As dean, he undertook a major revision of the Yale undergraduate curriculum. His writings as dean are collected in The Good of This Place:  Values and Challenges in College Education. 

Brodhead was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in May 2006 and received an Honorary Doctoral Degree from Tsinghua University in Beijing in June 2006; this was only the ninth honorary degree to be awarded to a non-Chinese person at Tsinghua, the second to a foreign university leader, and the first to a humanist.  He also received a Doctor of Humanities honorary degree from Fisk University in May 2007.

Brodhead and his wife Cynthia, an attorney, have been married for 43 years.  Their son Daniel, 33, lives and works in New York City.