Representatives from Alvin ISD, Memorial Hermann, UTHealth Medical School and the Pearland, Alvin and Manvel communities gathered yesterday to celebrate the official dedication ceremony of Dr. James “Red” Duke Elementary. The Alvin ISD Board of Trustees selected the name of the district’s newest campus in honor of renowned UTHealth trauma surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC) and founder and medical director of Memorial Hermann Life Flight®, James H. "Red" Duke, Jr., MD.
“I’m such a fortunate man, I can’t even try to put dimensions on it,” said Dr. Duke. “I honestly don’t know why I was ever picked for the privilege of having this school named after me; I’m humbled beyond words but I am grateful beyond words as well. And the fact that the school is an elementary school is extra special. This is such a formative time in children’s lives, when they begin to really perfect those things you learn about courtesy, respect, and honesty. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Approximately 500 people attended the 45-minute program which featured a performance by Alvin ISD’s cast from “Peter Pan, the Musical,” two Duke Elementary students – Courtney Van Auken and Kennedy Wiltz – who sang the National Anthem, the presentation of colors by Boy Scout Troop 414, a brief video on the history of Memorial Hermann Life Flight, and a special video tribute to Dr. Duke from the students of Duke Elementary.
The cafeteria was decorated with balloons and yellow roses, the official flower of Memorial Hermann Life Flight. Refreshments of punch, fresh fruit and vegetables, sandwiches, cheese and crackers, and Life Flight-themed cookies were provided by Pearland H-E-B plus! and Memorial Hermann, in addition to a large helicopter-shaped cake provided by Create a Cake. There was also an indoor “photo booth” where participants young and old were invited to put on wire-rimmed glasses and red mustaches, a playful reference to Dr. Duke’s iconic visage.
“For more than 50 years, Dr. Duke has saved lives and inspired others to do the same,” said Craig Cordola, CEO of Memorial Hermann-TMC. “A colorful personality, he has lived a robust life of service and extraordinary accomplishments. In addition to his dedication to serving patients, he has always been passionate about teaching and now his legacy will be known to generations to come.”
In addition to the guest of honor and Cordola, there were a number of notable attendees at the ceremony, including: Tommy King, Interim Superintendent of Schools for Alvin ISD; Fulvia Shaw, Principal of Duke Elementary; Cheryl Harris, School Board President for Alvin ISD; Alvin Mayor Paul Horn; Manvel Mayor Delores Martin; Pearland Mayor Tom Reid; Dr. Richard Andrassy, chair of the Department of Surgery at UTHealth and Surgeon-in-Chief at Memorial Hermann-TMC; Dr. John Holcomb, professor & director of acute care surgery at UTHealth and director of the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute; leaders representing Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital and Memorial Hermann-TMC; crew members from Memorial Hermann Life Flight; and Dr. Gregg Knape, veterinarian at Gulf Coast Large Animal Clinic, who gave a moving speech recounting how Dr. Duke saved his wife’s life.
Duke Elementary is a two-story campus with a total enrollment of 852 students, as of September 5. Located in Manvel, Texas, the campus serves students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth and includes areas for physical education, art, music and special classes. The school has adopted a bulldog mascot and the official colors of maroon and white, in honor of Dr. Duke’s beloved alma mater, Texas A&M University. Duke Elementary opened its doors for the first time on August 25 for the first day of the 2014-2015 school year.
“This campus is named after a great man who has made a significant impact on our community, and has definitely left his mark in history,” said Shaw. “We will work to ensure that the students who come through the doors of Duke Elementary will be inspired to be innovative, develop a passion for learning, and make a commitment to improving their community. They will be are encouraged to reach their full potential, and have a clear understanding of the importance of Dr. Duke and all that he stands for.”
Dr. Duke is a world-renowned trauma surgeon known for his extraordinary efforts to train medical students, residents and surgeons, improve outcomes for injured patients and educate the public about important health issues. As one of the first faculty members of the UTHealth Medical School, he established the trauma service at Memorial Hermann-TMC, the school’s primary teaching hospital. In 1976, he was instrumental in developing the Life Flight helicopter program, the only hospital-based air ambulance servicing southeast Texas. As a result of the nationally syndicated Texas Health Reports, which educated millions about topics ranging from kidney stones to injury prevention, he became one of the most recognized personalities in his field.
A Korean War veteran, Dr. Duke earned his medical degree in 1960 at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He completed his residency in general surgery at Dallas’ Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he helped save the life of wounded Texas Gov. John Connally in 1963. Before joining the faculty at the UTHealth, Dr. Duke served on the faculty at UT Southwestern, Columbia University and Nangahar University School of Medicine in Afghanistan.