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Robert “Mike” Duncan, Alumnus and Former RNC Chair Speaks at Cumberlands


Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Robert “Mike” Duncan, ’71, addressed approximately 150 guests at University of the Cumberlands’ Alumni Dinner during Homecoming 2009.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. — University of the Cumberlands welcomed Robert “Mike” Duncan, ’71, as the keynote speaker at the Oct. 10 Alumni Dinner, which was part of the Homecoming 2009 festivities.

Although he is a well-known national political figure, among the alumni attending the dinner Duncan was remembered as a member of the class of 1971, a campus leader and classmate. He spoke of “The Five People I Met at Cumberland,” bringing to memory former President J.M. Boswell; classmates, J. Lynn Singleton, and Tim Henderlight; and professor, Jerry Davis. The fifth person he mentioned was Nelda Barton Collings, who introduced Duncan at the dinner. Although she was not an alumna or faculty member, Collings influenced him in his political career and interests.

Duncan said that Boswell instilled in him a sense of service. Singleton, who is a gifted storyteller and a Tony Award-winning producer, taught him to look at life with humor and that we are all connected. Through Henderlight, he learned not only patience but the importance of loyalty and of being a good friend. Davis, who is now president of University of the Ozarks, taught him that passion for excellence in education and a love of students are vital. Collings led him to seek adventure in life and taught him networking skills. Although he said that these five people had played important roles in his development at Cumberland, he also stated, “I could easily substitute many other names, some of whom are here tonight,” and he wove some of those stories into his main theme.

Duncan did not name President Jim Taylor, because he said that he had met Taylor before coming to Cumberland. When Duncan was a high school senior in Oneida, Tenn., Taylor, then a student, who worked in the admissions office, encouraged him to come to the Williamsburg school. Now the University’s president, Taylor has said, “One of my proudest accomplishments is that I recruited Mike Duncan for Cumberland. He has exemplified the leadership and service that we strive to instill in all our students.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree at then Cumberland College, Duncan graduated from the University of Kentucky School of Law in 1974, along with his wife, Joanne. The Duncans are the principal owners of two Southeastern Ky. banks, with five branches. Duncan serves as president of Inez Deposit Bank in Inez, Ky., and he has served as president of the Kentucky Bankers Association and as the director of the Cincinnati branch of Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank. He is on the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority, chairman of the board at Alice Lloyd College and past chairman of the Center for Rural Development.

A thirty-year, veteran political strategist, Duncan has served as a delegate to six national conventions and as a member of four standing convention committees. He has served on the campaigns of five Presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. He also was assistant director of public liaison at the White House under President George H. W. Bush. Prior to being elected the 62nd chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2007, he served as treasurer and general counsel to the RNC.