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Duke appointed to state youth services board

Robert Duke has spent almost all of his adult life working to help shape young minds and build young people into leaders. Through his experiences and his own leadership, he was appointed to the Alabama youth service board by Gov. Bob Riley on Dec. 5.

“As one of my appointees, you will be making important decisions that directly affect the citizens of Alabama,” Riley said in the letter notifying Duke of his appointment. “I have made honesty and integrity a priority in my administration, and I know that you will embody these two virtues while serving the people of Alabama.”

The term of the appointment will expire on Sept. 2, 2014.

A Gallion resident, Duke is a retired senior chief from the Navy and serves on the commandant’s staff at Marion Military Institute. He was selected to represent the 7th Congressional District.

Duke served 20 years in the Navy, retiring in 1998 as a senior chief.

“You become a leader early in the military,” he said. “They push you towards that. As a senior enlisted person, I got vast amounts of experience dealing with young people, people coming into the military.

“When I retired from the military, I got a job in Washington, D.C., working as a DOD (Department of Defense) contractor, working for the Titan Corporation, and I was again responsible for several things, including working with young people.

“I also ran my own company, learning the ropes of human resources,” he said. “I actually ended up as a human resources professor at the University of Alabama. Of course, a dimension of being a professor is being concerned with the growth and potential of these students, counseling and advising them.”

Duke has been at Marion Military Institute just since the beginning of the school year, Aug. 1.

“I see this (state youth services board) job and several other things that I’m doing as community service,” he said. “I jumped on it because it gave me the opportunity to use the skills that I gained over the years, counseling and helping these children go and become leaders.

“We don’t do only academic education here; we do what I like to call ‘life education.’ We teach life lessons here: grow up, take responsibility for yourself. We teach truth, integrity, honor — those things that are kind of left out of the typical academic setting.”

Duke graduated from Linden College Prep School, then enrolled in the Navy, earning a bachelor of science degree in liberal studies from Regents College. He also earned a master’s degree in telecommunications from George Mason University and has been accepted for the master’s program in education at the University of West Alabama.

Duke’s first encounter with Gov. Riley was when Duke ran for state senator two years ago.

“He actually helped me campaign somewhat,” Duke said. “He was on the campaign trail as well. I have a picture here of he and Sen. John McCain actually helping me campaign at the Demopolis Civic Center.”

The Department of Youth Services was created in 1973 and is governed by the 18-member youth services board. The board meets at least once annually.