Dean Carol Spruill wins Duke's Diversity Award

Main Content

Oct. 4, 2006

Carol Spruill

Associate Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono and Senior Lecturing Fellow Carol Spruill

Associate Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono and Senior Lecturing Fellow Carol Spruill has won Duke University’s 2006 Blue Ribbon Diversity Award, which recognizes a demonstrated commitment to the spirit of diversity, leadership through positive interaction between persons of different cultural backgrounds, and a respect and value for differing values and points of view within the University. 

Dean Katharine Bartlett nominated Spruill for the award, telling the nominating committee that Spruill does not just “preach diversity,” but lives it in every aspect of her personal and professional life. “She integrates diversity of background and points of view in the speakers she brings to campus, the multitude of activities she organizes, and the pro bono opportunities she cultivates for students. She has 100 percent credibility among students and faculty in under-represented groups, and serves as the quiet conscience for majority students on diversity issues. It is hard to imagine a more appropriate recipient of a diversity award.”

A former Legal Services attorney, Spruill established Duke’s Pro Bono Program in 1991. Since then, Bartlett noted, she “opened the eyes of students never before exposed to the effects of grinding poverty,” even tailoring a “Poverty IQ Test” for the students enrolled in her Poverty Law course. Bartlett also lauded Spruill’s facility in helping students’ find placements for public service that are specifically matched to their interests and abilities, and her inspiration to faculty and administration colleagues to participate in pro bono and public interest efforts.

“In short, Carol works tirelessly to imprint the Duke Law School experience with a common commitment to diversity — diverse peoples, diverse community organizations, diverse ideas and causes, and diverse political leanings.”

Bartlett’s accolades were backed by a package of tributes from faculty, administrators, students, alumni, and members of the community that a delighted Spruill described as “better than a retirement party and certainly better than an obituary.”

“In my time at Duke Law, she has been supportive and encouraging of my search for personal fulfillment and professional development through pro bono work,” wrote Sonja Ralston Elder J.D./M.P.P. '09. “Early into my law school career, she made time to meet individually with me, as she does every year for any interested student, and discuss my skills and goals and help find the right service project for me. This type of individual attention fosters a more honest form of diversity than is frequently measured: Beyond the identifying characteristics of race, gender, status, and background, Dean Spruill seeks to unlock the potential of every individual, and it is that potential that holds more power than any demographic.”

“When I was a law student, Carol Spruill was a constant support to me in pursuing a job in the poverty law field … and also helped those who were going to go on to private practice,” wrote John Coburn '95, an attorney with Health & Disability Advocates in Chicago. “And it is through this help that I think Carol truly makes an enormous mark. Most Duke Law graduates will go on to private practice in large firms and other prestigious positions.  With these positions, these graduates can make a huge difference in their broader community. I believe the pro bono programs and other programs created and led by Carol Spruill give these current and future leaders an important experience in working with lower income individuals that they do not forget and take with them. And with these experiences, they help build policies, infrastructure, and community that include everybody.”

Duke President Richard Brodhead will present Spruill with her award at a luncheon on November 1.