Siblings establish endowed scholarship in honor of aunt who paved the way

By Lauren Winton

Published: Aug 5, 2020 9:02:00 AM

Don, Janice (James) and John Duke Don, Janice (James) and John Duke

The Auburn Family is a real phenomenon — any fan will tell you. It is a legacy of generosity, loyalty, hospitality and kindness that extends to anyone who believes in the Auburn Creed and emphatically embraces the “War Eagle!” battle cry.

Patrick Duke is one such family member. A 1999 civil engineering graduate whose family grew up in Hueytown, Duke remains loyal to his alma mater and believes Auburn Engineering set him up for success. And in July, Duke and his sister — Auburn Shukla, who is named after the university and graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and special education — established the Janice Duke James Soaring Eagle Diversity Endowed Scholarship in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

“We believe this scholarship demonstrates the power of the Auburn Family, literally and figuratively,” said Duke, who serves as the managing director for CBRE Healthcare.

The scholarship is named in honor of the siblings’ aunt, whom they say played an instrumental role in their lives.

John Duke and Janice James“Aunt Janice is the glue that holds our family together,” Duke said. “She embodies all of the things that my sister, Auburn, and I aspire to be. She’s tough, generous, hospitable, smart, and she takes care of people.”

Janice James grew up with two siblings, with the youngest, John, being Patrick and Auburn’s father.  Both John and her older brother Don attended Auburn University where Don was a graduate of chemical engineering in 1958.  She remembers traveling to Auburn as a family to attend sporting events.

“I’ve always bled orange and blue,” James said. “It was exciting to come down to visit my older brother when he was at Auburn. He was the first in the family to graduate from college.”

When James was 18, her father passed away, and this, she said, was a time when she helped her mother and took her younger brother under her wing.

“After dad died, I helped mom take care of John. He was eight years younger than me, and in a way it was like taking care of my own child,” James said.

Caring for her family, James never shied away from working hard. She went to work at U.S. Steel to help provide for her mother and brothers.

“I grew up being taught to be a hard worker,” James said. “My parents always told me ‘I don’t care if you’re a ditchdigger — dig the biggest ditch.’ They always wanted us to be the best at whatever we decided to do.”

Although James never enrolled at Auburn University, she pursued her career with a passion. She continued with U.S. Steel and moved to Atlanta, where she met the love of her life.

“After we got married and had kids, I decided not to go back to work. But, as you know, taking care of the kids is the hardest job of all,” she said with a laugh.

In addition to taking care of her kids, James also opened her home to anyone who needed it. Both Duke and Shukla reminisced about how James was always providing for others, and caring for her own children and for them when they were growing up. Duke and Shukla credit James’ determination and “the love she constantly shows to her Creator and her family” as the inspiration for naming the scholarship in her honor.

“Dad and Aunt Janice showed us what it means to be generous to everyone. They were accepting of all people. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from, they would show anyone love,” Shukla said.

“My grandparents did not have a college education,” Duke said, “and it was Aunt Janice’s generation with my Uncle Don first that broke that cycle. Auburn and I hope this scholarship has a similar effect — that it will allow for first-generation college students, or whoever it is that needs the help, to have the support they need to find success in their careers.”

Duke credits his upbringing in Hueytown and his time at Auburn Engineering with setting him up for success. He said his degree prepared him totally for the workforce, and that he formed relationships with professors that allowed him to create a vibrant professional network.

“I had more than an Auburn Family in college,” Duke said. “I had the support of my family, and I had an engineering family. I hope this scholarship opens doors and allows others to have the same opportunities I had.”

Duke and Shukla both hope that the scholarship will honor their late father, late uncle and their aunt. They hope it will inspire students to look to Janice James as an example of how to live, love, and welcome them into the Auburn Family.

Media Contact: Lauren Winton, lmw0090@auburn.edu, 334.844.5519

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