There were debacles along the way, including the issue of divestment in
South Africa (Duke was the first major Southern university to divest);
the political correctness "wars" that swept academe in the 80s, in which
Duke took part; and the controversial "Black Faculty Initiative," an effort
Dr. Brodie championed to increase the number of minority faculty. Two
national college basketball championships helped further enhance the image
of an institution he likes to describe as "an academic Harvard of the
South, an athletic Notre Dame, and an intellectual haven in the Berkeley
mold, all rolled in one: a little microcosm of America's best."
A Private Man in the Public Spotlight
With a psychiatrist's appreciation
for the dynamics of conflict, Keith Brodie appears to thrive on apparent
contradiction. A mild-mannered Connecticut Yankee, he has spent the greater
part of his career south of the Mason-Dixon line. A private man who relishes
and protects family time, he has always maintained a high public profile.
Once dubbed a "wunderkind psychiatrist," he enjoyed a meteoric academic
and professional rise. In 1982, at age 43, he ascended to national prominence,
becoming the youngest president in the history of the American Psychiatric
Still trim and youthful-looking at 58, he is clearly more at ease in sweater
and shirtsleeves rolled up to the elbow than a three-piece suit and tie.
And he is more amenable to one-on-one colloquies than the committee room
diplomacy of high office. He remains passionately and absolutely devoted
to intellectual inquiry as a way of life and to fostering a climate to
help it thrive.
Keen on chemistry as a kid, he attended Princeton, where an undergraduate
biochemistry research project on the Bence-Jones protein led him to Walter
Kauzman's laboratory at Columbia and Elliot Osserman's myeloma ward at
the old Delafield Hospital. "The 60s," Dr. Brodie explains, "was an era
of relevance and working to make a difference." So the budding young chemist
switched to a medical track, despite the qualms of his mother, a practicing
Christian Scientist--who later allowed that "even Mary Baker Eddy said
you've got to get a doctor to, maybe, set a bone."
Intrigued above all by the biochemistry of mental illness, it was the
biological substrate and pharmacological potential of psychiatry, not
the more popular psychoanalytic focus of the field, that grabbed him.
On a third-year elective at P&S, he participated in a pioneering clinical
study of lithium. At Columbia he also broadened his intellectual horizon
at the University's International Fellows Program in the School of International
Affairs, honing his cultural and medical skills in another third-year
elective at the Firestone Plantation in Liberia.
Rounding out his medical knowledge after graduation on an internship at
the Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans (his first tantalizing
taste of the South), he returned to New York to pursue his residency in
psychiatry at Columbia and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Applying
to the Public Health Service, Dr. Brodie joined the National Institute
of Mental Health in 1968 and spent the next two years as clinical associate
in the psychiatry section's clinical science lab, studying the use of
lithium in manic-depressive illness. He became assistant professor at
Stanford in 1970, researching a newer and cleaner generation of anti-depressive
drugs. Among his discoveries at Stanford was an untapped talent for administration,
successfully running the General Clinical Research Center.
He left Stanford in 1974 at age 35 to head up and invigorate Duke's psychiatry
department. In Durham, his administrative talents blossomed along with
his academic prowess. He was named the James B. Duke Professor of Psychiatry
and Law in 1981, became acting provost then chancellor in 1982, and president
in 1985 after Duke President Terry Sanford retired.
Leading by Listening
Having observed a number of fellow
university presidents in action, Dr. Brodie forged his own unique leadership
style, "inextricably bound up with my background as a psychiatrist," he
writes in the introduction to "Keeping an Open Door, Passages in a University
Presidency," a 1996 collection of his speeches co-edited with Leslie Banner,
former special assistant for university affairs. "The listening, reactive
side of me," he adds, "served the institution in large ways and small."
Intent upon building a consensus as opposed to ruling by decree, he maintained
an open-door policy to all members of the university community. He enjoyed
regularly scheduled "sign-up" lunches with undergraduates and used a "President's
Suggestion Box" in the student center to seek out and address student
concerns. Faculty were at first disarmed and then delighted by his decision
to not live in the official presidential residence but transform it into
a university guest house under the able management of his wife, Brenda,
a 1965 graduate of the Columbia School of Nursing.
An educator to the bone, President Brodie continued teaching for the sheer
love of it and "to ensure that the administrator in me did not lose touch
with the student-faculty point of view." Throughout his tenure, he conducted
a freshman seminar in psychobiology, which he still teaches today.
He invested a great deal of time and effort in recruiting outstanding
academic leaders, including the deans of divinity and engineering and
the director of development. He is particularly proud of having handpicked
"the perfect provost," Phillip Griffiths, formerly a tenured mathematics
professor at Harvard, to whom he gave an active role in reshaping the
school's academic profile. Together they built a vital and highly respected
School of Environmental Studies, reassigning the resources of an outmoded
School of Forestry, a neglected marine laboratory, and other elements
from the medical center. Dr. Griffiths subsequently left Duke to become
director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Another major
initiative was creation of the Terry Sanford Public Policy Institute,
modeled after the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton.
Committed to interdisciplinary study, Dr. Brodie, whose own teaching experience
bridges the disciplines of medicine and law, encouraged collaboration
between physicists and physicians in Duke's cancer center, where new cancer
technologies have emerged.
Dr. Brodie evinced the rare ability
to identify and nurture talent. "Those who lead research universities
are not the possessors of superhuman wisdom," he acknowledges in his book,
"but are privileged to have daily access to more of what is currently
known and thought in more fields of knowledge than those in any other
occupational group." The psychiatrist in him delights in cultivating the
genius of complex personalities, even if it means going out on a limb.
Perhaps his most famous, even controversial, recruit was Stanley Fish
as chairman of the English department. Professor Fish, a noted Milton
scholar, has been associated by some with the academic vanguard of political
correctness. A scintillating classroom teacher, his dynamic personality
and challenging manner helped revitalize a lagging department, eventually
dispelling the doubts of conservative alumni who questioned his devotion
to literary tradition.
Respecting and courting originality in all domains, Dr. Brodie managed
to attract the support of such business mavericks as Wendy's president
Dave Thomas, whose $4 million gift funded an executive education program
at Duke's Fuqua School of Business. Other generous corporate support during
his administration came from RJR Nabisco CEO Ross Johnson.
Dr. Brodie understands what he calls "the unique synergy between academia
and industry." Corporations have a vested interest in access to intellectual
property and well-trained graduates. "If the university is proud of what
it produces in ideas and people, corporations are going to be proud of
it too," he says, "and they'll respond with their support."
Duke's loyal supporters did not, however, always see eye to eye with the
president. A strong believer in the importance of using his high profile
to weigh in on pressing public policy issues of the day--"because university
presidents get instant access to the press"--Dr. Brodie decided to take
a stand on South Africa. Heeding the advice of Bishop Desmond Tutu, he
backed divestment as an economic weapon to combat apartheid, ultimately
convincing his board of trustees. Duke became the first major Southern
university to divest.
Dr. Brodie's firm stand in favor of affirmative action troubled some alumni.
"Duke had not been in the vanguard of integration in the South, and it
was only just, therefore," he writes in his book, that a sense of historical
imperative should inform our deliberations. The university first admitted
blacks to its graduate and professional schools in 1961 and to its undergraduate
colleges in 1963. Determined to redress an old wrong, he believed it to
be "both ethical and logical to add race to such other factors as alumni
status, gender, geography, athletic ability . . . etc., which we use in
selecting . . . a balanced class each fall."
He also supported the 1988 Black Faculty Initiative in an attempt to erode
old prejudice and build new academic strength. "Given Duke's historically
white professoriate, it seemed at the very least disingenuous not to consider
racial diversity a legitimate goal for aggressive faculty recruitment,"
he writes. While the initiative ultimately floundered, Duke doubled its
number of African-American doctoral candidates during Dr. Brodie's tenure.
"Universities are one of the longest standing institutions in our culture,
and so hold enormous sway for our future." American institutions of higher
learning have, in his view, "been the laboratories of tremendous inter-generational
tensions, from the relative conservatism of the 50s to the social explosion
of the 60s, the healing of the 70s, the focus of the 80s on money, mergers
and acquisitions, and," he is pleased to note, "a renewed interest in
volunteerism and community service in the 90s.
Dr. Brodie, who was invited to address the new commitment of American
youth at a New York Times luncheon, bemoaned the dearth of national volunteer
programs, like the Peace Corps, "a truncated shadow of the vibrant force
for good it once was."
Decompressing after the Presidency
While glad to return to a full-time
focus on psychiatry, he hasn't easily put the presidency behind him. During
a sabbatical in 1993, he chaired a special commission on the behavioral
aspects of AIDS research for the National Academy of Sciences, co-authoring
a major report strongly recommending enhanced needle-exchange programs
and much more funding for prevention and research on the behavioral differences
of diverse communities affected by AIDS.
Returning to Duke, he resumed his teaching, taking particular pleasure
in his first-year psychobiology seminar. Before his presidency, he created
and co-taught with a member of the legal faculty a course on forensic
psychiatry to law students. He recently applied his knowledge in behavioral
psychiatry to creating a law school course on interview techniques in
conjunction with the nearby federal correctional institute at Butner,
the mental health unit for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
A member and past board chairman of the Institute of Medicine of the National
Academy of Sciences, Dr. Brodie has received countless professional honors,
including the Psychopharmacology Award of the American Psychological Association,
the Outstanding Alumnus Award of the Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation,
and the P&S Alumni Gold Medal for outstanding achievement.
Co-author of numerous papers and four books, Modern Clinical Psychiatry"
(the definitive textbook in the field),Psychiatry at the Crossroads, "The
Importance of Mental Health Services to General Health Care," and "Keeping
An Open Door," he is now at work on a book concerning his experience in
the university presidency from a psychiatric perspective.
Keeping an open door to the future, Dr. Brodie delights in family time
and his newfound freedom--as he noted in a profile in the Durham Herald-Sun--"to
step on toes and risk breaking a few eggs.