Lauren Harris, Special to the Torch
Two students, wearing nothing but gym shoes, streak in the rain past Christopher Duncan’s front porch, where he and his father are celebrating his speech given earlier in the day at the school’s opening convocation with a cold beer. His father, with the same dry sarcasm that Duncan himself is known for, quipped, “This is an interesting place to live.”
Perhaps an interesting place is exactly the right fit for Duncan, a bear-like man who immediately impresses you with his intelligence and quick wit, who has led an equally interesting life. In fact, a younger Duncan, who has now spent about 30 years in academia, probably would have laughed in your face if you had told him he would one day be a provost at a private university.
“My dad sold printing and my mom was a bank teller,” Duncan said. “I was the first person in my family to go to college, and I went to follow a girl I was in love with.”
Little did he know that he would be spending the rest of his career in academia. After taking six years to graduate with his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Duncan continued on to get his Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Wayne State and eventually worked his way up the academic faculty member ladder.
However, his studies weren’t the only thing on the young Duncan’s mind. He met his wife on his 20th birthday when she arrived with Duncan’s best friend, and their first child was born during his second year of graduate school. Now a father of three rambunctious children and having been married for 28 years, Duncan has had to learn how to juggle the demands of his career and his family life. His family is part of the reason he came to Witt.
Though being closer to his family is a certain perk of the job, being Provost of a private university during these hard economic times isn’t always fun.
“There are lots of good things about this job, but there are also lots of hard conversations that I have to have.” Duncan said.
Duncan certainly has a lot on his plate as a new provost. However, his work may be made easier due to the strong support he has from the faculty. Stefne Broz, as associate professor and Chair of the Communication Department, acknowledges that Duncan entered Wittenberg at a difficult time, but she believes he has the ability change Wittenberg in a positive way.
“Duncan does a good job of listening to the faculty,” Broz said. “I can tell he is dedicated to the success of this place and, with the sufficient faculty support, I think he has the potential to accomplish quite a bit.”
Jeff Ankrom, a professor of Economics and Associate Provost, works closely with Duncan and agrees with Broz about his potential success at Witt.
“He’s got good judgment and he is a man of action who is willing to move quickly,” Ankrom said.
Despite his many challenges and responsibilities, the provost is a kind of “thankless job,” according to Broz. But Duncan seems to embrace this.
“The task of an academic administrator at best is like being a Sherpa: hauling all the crap up the hill so others can get their picture taken,” Duncan said. “At the end of the day, no one should know who I am, but know Wittenberg by our good work.”
Duncan’s favorite part of his position is, surprisingly, something he has been doing for many years: teaching. Though it is only a small part of his job, he calls teaching American Political Theory his “salvation” and where he feels “most alive and like myself.
Duncan may be surprised by where his life’s journey has taken him, but he is a man with little regrets.
“I am a reflective person, not a big regretful person,” Duncan said. “I just pursued what I loved and I did it with reckless abandon. My life has been a wonderful, great, amazing adventure.”
(Lauren Harris / email@example.com)
Editor’s note: This is an edited version of this story. To read the full version, please visit www.thewittenbergtorch.com