Here’s the biggest lesson Terry T. Tucker M.B.A. ’98, J.D. ’04 took away from Duke: Live life to the fullest—and live it in the most meaningful way possible.
“For a long time, I had this gnawing feeling that there was something bigger and more impactful I could be doing in my life, that I could be changing the world,” he said. “I saw so much suffering when I was young. So many people did not have a real opportunity to live their best life. I never wanted to be that person who was just going through the motions of existing.”
“Then I got to Duke—and it changed my perception of the world and my ability to create change. It wasn’t about the individual. There was a greater goal,” said Tucker, who is now the chief operations officer and general counsel at the Georgia Center for Opportunity, a think tank dedicated to increasing opportunity and improving the quality of life for residents of the state.
He’s also served as executive director with The Sullivan Center, an organization focusing on poverty prevention and self-sufficiency through financial planning, education, lifestyle classes, and employment counseling.
Becoming a father to three children has made him even more conscious of how the past shapes the future and how receiving a Duke education ultimately gave him the ability to provide for his family.
To that end, Terry Tucker has made a $1 million bequest to establish an entrepreneurship fund to provide scholarships for social entrepreneurs and students interested in social mobility issues.
It gets even better. Tucker’s 18-year-old son, Shaquille, who will be attending Duke in the fall as a Reginaldo Howard Memorial scholar, was so inspired by what he saw when he attended a Fuqua minority board meeting with his father—the quality of the people and the issues they discussed—that he decided to include Duke in his will as well. He is the youngest person to become a member of The Heritage Society, which honors alumni and friends who have included Duke in their estate plans or have made some other type of planned gift to Duke.
Why was it important for you to make this gift?
I never want anyone to have to decide which university to attend based on economics. Selecting a university is a life-changing experience. It’s the beginning of the kind of person you are going to become. Duke attracts a certain kind of kid, someone who wants to change the world in significant ways. If I hadn’t gone to Duke and had mentors along the way, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the impact one individual can make.
I know there’s another ‘dreamer’ out there, someone like me, who will need opportunity. Duke is the reason I am able to make these financial plans today.
I agree with my dad. No student should choose a university because of financial reasons. During my interviews for the Reginaldo Howard Memorial scholar’s program, I came in contact with some of the greatest potential change-makers I have ever met. This gift will help me continue to reward students that value scholastic achievement and want to become better leaders and change their community and the world around them.
How would you describe your experiences at Duke?
TT: Awakening. It’s a place that surpasses the limits of ordinary experience and inspires young people to be concerned about global improvement by focusing on innovations that have very practical applications.
ST: Every time I come to Duke I learn something. The atmosphere is phenomenal. I see laughter, thriving social communities, and great thinkers everywhere. I can see myself staying in touch with these individuals throughout my life.
What’s your favorite spot at Duke?
TT: Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s a place where the entire Duke community comes together in an unparalleled display of spirit and togetherness. Although not a large venue, the energy that exists within those walls is legendary throughout the country.
ST: The Bryan Center is my favorite. It’s a place where you can see the Chapel, the physics department, and eat a Big Mac at the same time.
TT: He gave that answer because he has yet to attend a game as an official Dukie.
Any advice for undergrads?
TT: Try to meet as many people in your class as possible and get to know their passions.
ST: I’ve always been told that Duke is home. So make it home! Make friendly connections with the professors. Don’t be intimidated because they created JPEG or won a Nobel Prize. Be intimidated because they beat all of your friends at Wii tennis with ease, and it’s your turn to play.
Is there one theme or priority of the Duke Forward campaign that particularly resonates with you as the future of Duke?
TT & ST: Enriching the Duke Experience. Creating boundless opportunity for all that seek it has been key to both our lives, and we believe it is essential for our society to achieve all that it truly can be. But most of all, it’s the fuel that powers imagination, and we are thrilled to contribute in multiple ways to keeping Duke on the forefront of social innovation.
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What’s your inspiration?
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