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"Duke" Families

Updated: Jun 25, 2018

Jake Satisky

Many people have long-standing connections to Duke. Maybe they or their parents went there and received an education while meeting their best friends, business partners, or even spouses. Maybe they were involved in constructing the University's campus, or they can admire the handiwork of a parent or grandparent. And maybe they have both an education and construction connection, as in the cases of the Faulkners and Clements.


The Faulkners

When Fred Faulkner came to build the scaffolding for Duke Chapel, he probably had no idea the impact that job would have on the following generations of his family.

Like any large building during the middle stages of its construction, the Chapel was encircled by a web of scaffolding. Its scaffolding was built by New York-based scaffolding contractor Chesebro-Whitman Company, which had worked on the Woolworth building. Fred Faulkner was in charge of the Chapel project, and he got much more out of the experience than just a paycheck.

"They came down to do the scaffolding on the Duke Chapel, and that was how my father ended up going to Duke," said Mike Faulkner, Fred’s grandson.¹

Scaffolding around the Duke Chapel. ChapelConstructionSnapshotsF2.005, Box 86, University Archives Photograph Collection, Duke University Archives, Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Durham, NC.

Fred Newton Faulkner was born May 18, 1886 in Hampden, Massachusetts.² He married Daisy Zilz in 1910 and within a decade, he was working in construction and their family had grown to include two children, Newton and Clifford.³ He worked for Chesebro-Whitman—which still exists today in New York City—until his mandatory retirement, though "he was one of those who didn't have any hobbies or anything and resented that they made him retire at 65," according to Mike.⁴ Fred passed away in 1981.⁵

Mike said his grandfather was so enamored with the university that he strongly encouraged his children to apply, and they both attended in the 1930s. Newton (Class of '36), Mike’s father, was in the Delta Tau Delta fraternity and played baseball after spending his first two years at New York University.⁶ He even met his wife at Duke: Ulma Saintsing was working as a stenographer in Durham when she and Newton fell in love and married in 1937. Without Fred getting the Chapel job, living down in Durham and then pushing his sons to apply, it’s safe to say Mike would not be here today. As a result, Mike has a special connection with the University.

Newton Faulkner's 1936 Chanticleer class photo. Duke University, Chanticleer (Durham, NC: 1936), Duke University Archives, Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Durham, NC.

"We did everything!” he said. “We got an education, we put the scaffolding up, we got everyone married, we knocked it all out in one shot.”⁷

And although neither Mike nor his wife Sue attended Duke, they are regular donors and former gymnastic coaches for the Duke cheerleading team.

As they were discussing Fred and Newton, both Mike and Sue realized they knew less about Fred and his story than they would have liked. They clearly cared about family history, but they did not understand its importance until it was too late. Fred was not terribly forthcoming either—"all he would ever say is I did the scaffolding for the company," Mike noted.⁸

Nevertheless, Sue wished that they had pressed him more. "You just wish you had been smarter asking things," she said.⁹


The Clements

Elijah Hayes Clement and his construction company were the stone contractors for West Campus and the Chapel. Elijah's grandson Hayes Clement, like Mike Faulkner, owes a lot to the Duke campus construction projects.

"My mother went to Duke, and so my parents met while my father was working there at Duke, and I was born in Durham," Hayes told us.¹⁰

Elijah Clement was born on October 10, 1884 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He started his construction career building textile mills, and since the textile industry was moving south, he followed it to South Carolina.¹¹ There he married Hazel Cuppels in 1906, and the couple had Donald Hayes a year later.¹²

By 1919, Clement was living in Charlotte, where he got to know James Buchanan "Buck" Duke: Washington Duke's son, founder of Duke Energy and the Duke Endowment, and the benefactor behind West Campus and the Chapel. Clement built Duke's mansion, which still stands as a tourist destination to this day.¹³ Seven years later, Clement was in charge of constructing Duke's Chapel United Methodist Church in Durham (not to be confused with the Chapel at Duke University).¹⁴ Finally, in 1927, Clement was chosen to be the stone contractor for West Campus, in charge of quarrying the stone from the Hillsborough Quarry and preparing it for use on the buildings.

The Duke Mansion in Charlotte, built by E.H. Clement. “The Duke Mansion.” 2018. Our History - The Duke Mansion - Charlotte - USA. The Duke Mansion.

"The only thing I remember Hayes's father saying is that, at the cornerstone for the dedication of the chapel, they were going to put some relics in the cornerstone. He said a newspaper should go in there and he ran to one of the trucks and got a newspaper and put it in there, like a time capsule," recalled Clem Clement, Hayes's wife.¹⁵

Donald, Elijah's son, worked alongside his father at Duke as a timekeeper and bookkeeper. Neither Elijah nor Donald went to Duke—Donald went to NC State—but Frances Mason did, and during the construction of West Campus, Donald and Frances met. The two got married in 1931, and they had Hayes in 1935. In fact, Hayes said that he was one of the first babies born in the newly constructed Duke Hospital. Nearly twenty years later, Hayes would continue the Clement legacy at Duke (Class of '58), where he too met his wife Clem (Class of '61).¹⁶



The parallels of these two families are unmistakable: Mike and Hayes's grandfathers were subcontractors who worked at Duke; the parents of each met through their associations with Duke; and after construction work finished, they were privileged enough to be able to make Duke a part of their lives and stories.

Nevertheless, we recognize that others don't share the rosy opinion of Duke that these two families do. For many workers, Duke was just another project with long hours and little pay, with their only reward being the sight of other people's children enjoying the fruits of their labor. The ability to appreciate the stories of families like the Faulkners and Clements while simultaneously recognizing the struggles of common laborers is a core tenet of this research project.


1. Mike and Sue Faulkner, interview by Jake Satisky, Durham, NC, June 2, 2018.

2. "World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” digital images, Ancestry (, Fred Faulkner, serial no. 263, New York; citing Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration, NARA Branch 1.

3. U.S. Census Bureau, 1920, Brooklyn Assembly District 22, Kings, New York,

4. Faulkner, interview, 2018.

5. “Social Security Death Index,” U.S. Social Security Administration,, entry for Fred N. Faulkner, 097-03-3871.

6. Duke University, Chanticleer (Durham, NC: 1936), Duke University Archives, Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Durham, NC.

7. Faulkner, interview, 2018.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Hayes and Clem Clement, interview by Jake Satisky, Greensboro, NC, June 7, 2018.

11. Ibid.

12. U.S. Census Bureau, 1910, Durham, Durham, N.C.,

13. Clement, interview, 2018.

14. E.H. Clement to R.L. Flowers, July 27, 1925, Folder 34, Box 1, Operations and Maintenance Records, Duke University Archives, Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Durham, N.C.

15. Clement, interview, 2018.

16. Ibid.

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