Duke’s Springtime Traditions

From Krzyzewskiville to blooms in Duke Gardens, here are some signs of spring

Flowers blooming on West Campus.
The blooming flowers on West Campus are a sign of spring. Photo courtesy of University Communications.

Chris Pipkin knows that, this time of year, a bullhorn siren will be part of the soundtrack to her day.

Pipkin, office manager for Duke Recreation and Physical Education, has been at Duke for 31 years, spending the last few in an office near the front door of Wilson Recreation Center.

Chris Pipkin of Duke Recreation and Physical Education walks past Krzyzewskiville each day when she comes to work. Photo by Stephen Schramm.During basketball season, her workspace is a few steps away from Krzyzewskiville, the tent city of students camping out for tickets to the annual Duke men’s basketball showdown with rival North Carolina, which this year occurs on March 7. That leads to quirks such as the siren, which Krzyzewskiville organizers use to signal periodic checks to make sure each tent is inhabited.

For Pipkin, the rapid rise of Krzyzewskiville is one of the signature elements of the spring semester at Duke. She often marvels at the resourcefulness of the students who survive in tents outfitted with electricity and built with materials to protect against the cold.

“It will be a tent here and tent there, and then all of a sudden, it’s ‘Oh my gosh,’” Pipkin said. “I love it, it’s fantastic. We kind of take it for granted, but then you meet people who work off campus and they say ‘Oh you work there!’”

With the official start of spring on March 19, experience more spring traditions at Duke.  

Sharing the Colors of SpringFlowers and people in Duke Gardens.

Jan Little, director of education and public programs at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, knows that the rhythm of life at the beloved 55-acre institution takes a dramatic turn once things start blooming in the spring.

With a flood of visitors enjoying the kaleidoscope of color, staff from all arms of the gardens – from horticulture to education – come together to make guests’ experiences memorable.

“You have to shift all of your attention to what’s happening now and making it better,” Little said.

In 2019, the number of monthly visitors to Duke Gardens jumped from 26,216 in February to 83,808 in March. That total peaked in April when 85,531 people passed through.

Little said it’s not uncommon for gardens staff members to field calls from guests in February asking when specific flowers will be in bloom.

While there’s plenty of work to be done, getting the opportunity to do that work amid the bursting springtime color is a treat. Little said that she often encourages co-workers to take a moment to soak in the scenery and appreciate the showpiece they help create.

“It’s always worth the 20 to 30 minutes to go outside, walk in the gardens, take your nametag off and be a visitor and just remind yourself why people love this place,” Little said. “It’s so important to do that.”

Get Out and RunA runner finishes the Pine Cone Pacer.

A veteran racer, Jeff Hawley said the Pine Cone Pacer, which winds through Duke Forest and takes place each April, is a can’t miss event. In fact, it’s so popular, all the spots in this year’s race have been filled.

Hawley, an analyst, IT, senior, with the Office of Clinical Research, has run in it twice and the event’s mix of scenery, camaraderie and purpose won him over.

“The Duke Forest is such a great resource for the community,” Hawley said. “To get a chance to race over there is so exciting.”

The Angels Among Us 5K draws hundreds of runners.The Pine Cone Pacer, which is April 18, is one of two well-known Duke-related running and walking events in the spring.

The Angels Among Us 5K and Walk of Hope, which takes place on April 25, benefits Duke’s Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center. In its 27th year, Angels Among Us begins with a 5K run through the Duke campus, followed by a Walk of HOPE with patients, survivors, families and caregivers around the medical center campus and the Duke Gardens.

“It’s not just about the money that goes to research and clinical trials, for many people, it’s about showing support for loved ones who are going through treatment,” said Anne Baker Beebe, a staff specialist with the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center and one of the coordinators for the event.

In March, Duke students and employees can register for the Angels Among Us 5K for only $20, down from the regular price of $35, by using the discount code dukeangel2020 when registering online.

The Pine Cone Pacer is a change of pace from larger road races because the course that snakes through trails in the woods and meadows of Duke Forest.

“You can tell a good race by whether the people finish the race, get their stuff and leave, or if they finish the race and stick around and encourage everybody,” Hawley said. “At the Pine Cone Pacer, everybody’s very encouraging. Everybody’s excited. Everybody’s clapping. As soon as you cross the finish line, you’re turning around and clapping for the next person to finish.”

Celebrate the PlanetStaff and students celebrate Earth Day at the Nicholas School of the Environment's annual event. Photo courtesy of the Nicholas School of the Environment.

For the students, faculty and staff of the Nicholas School of the Environment, Earth Day is one of the most important spots on the calendar. The holiday brings awareness to how we treat the planet and celebrates the ways we can lessen our footprint. It’s close to the heart of the Nicholas School community.

“It’s a very important day to those of us at the School of the Environment to get together and be mindful of the earth and how we are treating her,” said Nancy Kelly, the Nicholas School’s director of community engagement and events.

The event, which takes place near the Levine Science and Research Center, is organized largely by students and showcases the environmentally-focused work of the Nicholas School, as well as the work of other entities both inside and outside of Duke. And open to all members of the Duke community, it also features free food, music and hands-on activities.

“It’s a very fun festival,” Kelly said.

This year’s event, which is from noon-4 p.m. on April 17 will commemorate the 50th observance of the Earth Day holiday, which was created in 1970. It will feature the unveiling of an art installation constructed out of plastic debris harvested from the ocean and area waterways which will be on display in Grainger Hall over the next few weeks.

“This isn’t just about the School of the Environment and what we do for the planet,” Kelly said of the goal of the Earth Day celebration. “Our hope is that it can inspire other people to join in.”

Have a spring tradition or news to share? Share it with Working@Duke.