Presidency at Duke University
On January 1, 1964, Knight assumed his duties as President of Duke University.
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 One of the first actions Knight took as president was the creation of the Fifth Decade Program. The Fifth Decade Program was a ten-year plan to expand educational and research programs, strengthen the faculty, and upgrade the physical plant.
The Duke Vigil
The Duke Vigil was a weeklong silent demonstration that began on April 5, 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 450 students marched 3 miles to Dr. Knight’s home to deliver the following list of demands for a restructuring of the University into something less threatening to African-American students:
“(1) That he [Knight] sign an advertisement to be published in the Durham Morning Herald calling for a day of mourning; (2) That he press for the $1.60 wage for University employees; (3) That he resign from the then-segregated Hope Valley Country Club; (4) That he appoint a committee of students, faculty and workers to make recommendations concerning collective bargaining and union recognition at Duke.”
Knight invited students into his home and spent the entire night negotiating the terms of their demands. Knight faced criticism from the Board of Trustees over his “permissiveness,” but weathered the storm.