Passion and purpose

Steve Veatch B.S.E. ’74 cum laude, a former Blue Devil mascot, carries Duke tradition forward.

During basketball season in 1972, Steve Veatch was hanging out in the Alpha Tau Omega house on campus when his fraternity brother called him outside.

Quite unexpectedly, the man handed Veatch a dark blue corduroy costume. It had horns and a four-foot tail.

He told Veatch, “You’re the new Blue Devil.”

Veatch’s ATO brother had been the student in the Blue Devil costume up until that point. But he was surrendering his role—and the regalia that went along with it. For one reason or another, his popularity among the Cameron crowds had waned. And in those days, when the Blue Devil was not especially popular among fans, the duties were simply passed down to someone else.

Despite the costume sagging on Veatch’s 5-foot-6 frame, he seized the role and began to infuse it with his own passion and purpose—qualities that would come to define his entire life.

The corduroy mascot suit today, still looking good.

“I wanted to grow the whole spirit of the Blue Devil,” Veatch said.

And did he ever.

“I’m goal-oriented, no matter what I do,” Veatch said. “The mascot was nothing like it is today, so I wanted to enhance that: walk through the crowd, get to know little kids, have their parents take pictures with the Blue Devil.”

“Goal-oriented” only scratches the surface of Veatch’s personality. The son of a school administrator father in Normal, Ill., with high standards, Veatch decided early on he wanted to attend Duke. He arrived with a plan, double-majoring in engineering and economics.

He built a rewarding career in industry and insurance, becoming a manager at Pennzoil by age 28, and then shifting to State Farm, where he taught auto claims adjusters about the physics of car accidents.

Now retired, he keeps his mind sharp by volunteering in the county clerk’s office near his hometown of Normal, where he also spent most of his adult life and still lives.

Veatch credits his well-rounded Duke experience for his successful career and life—to the extent that he wanted to give back to the university that had given him so much. That’s why he decided to designate Duke in his will as the beneficiary of his entire estate.

Faded memories: Veatch as the Blue Devil with a young fan.

“I feel it’s so important to give back everything I have to Duke University, because Duke allowed me be where I am today,” he said.

His Steve Veatch Endowment Fund in the Pratt School of Engineering will help reduce the financial burden for middle-class students who might otherwise take on significant debt to attend Duke.

Although retired and far away from Duke, Veatch’s love for his alma mater always feels close. Since the 1986 national championship game, Veatch hasn’t missed many games. And on special occasions—let’s say when Duke makes it to the Final Four—well, Veatch wears his passion for all to see.

“I put on that costume and cab to different locations around my town,” Veatch says, “So the Blue Devil is always at the game.”

TAGS: Giving and Impact Stories

About the author

Greg Jenkins

Greg’s work includes publications, proposals, reports, collateral materials and web content. He joined University Development in July 2012 after a stint with Duke Medicine Marketing & Creative Services. Before that, Greg worked as editor of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine, and spent more than a decade as a sportswriter covering everything from Little League to ACC basketball. A North Carolina native and lifelong resident, he holds a BA in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill and lives in Durham with his wonderful wife and two young sons.