Labin Duke will serve as the first executive director of the Blake Center for Faith and Freedom, a Hillsdale College property in Somers, Connecticut.
Duke has more than 10 years of experience working for Christian non-profits, according to a news release from the college. He most recently served as the executive vice president for institutional advancement at Nashotah House, an Anglican seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin. Previously, he served as director of donor relations at Baylor University and the director of donor management at Dallas Theological Seminary. Duke studied biblical and theological studies at Ouachita Baptist University and earned his Master of Theology degree in academic ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary.
“You could say my whole career I’ve been looking up to Hillsdale College,” Duke said.
Duke said he first heard about Hillsdale while working at Dallas Theological Seminary. He wanted his free online Bible courses to imitate Hillsdale’s Constitution 101 course.
“I wanted to use the Constitution 101 as sort of the backdrop for how online courses are done well, and how they work and how they operate well,” he said.
Duke said he wanted to be involved in the future of the United States beyond voting, so when he saw the job posting, he and his wife agreed working for Hillsdale would help them share their faith on a larger scale.
“For my wife and I, Hillsdale College stood for a way to not only serve within our own faith tradition, and to spread the Gospel, as Matthew suggests that we ought to do, but to also be able to get back to and support a future for our country that’s sustainable,” Duke said.
The Blake Center opened in 2020 from the donation of Prestley and Helen Blake. The property includes a replica of Monticello and a stone barn, which the college plans to remodel into a chapel for religious ceremonies or services.
Duke said the Blake Center will allow Hillsdale supporters outside of Michigan to partner with the college.
“There are a million and a half people reading Imprimis in between New York and Maine,” he said. “There are a lot of potential supporters in this area, many of whom will likely never see the actual campus in Hillsdale, Michigan. We’ve got an opportunity to give them a slice of Hillsdale here at the Blake Center.”
The Center will offer opportunities for students, such as work study retreats, Duke said.
“Having that tight integration of a work, prayer, and study kind of balance could be an important part of the approach,” he said. “There’ll definitely be programming for college-age students, and potentially high school-age students.”
Duke said his seminary background prepared him to create an “integrated learning formational style experience” at the Blake Center.
“Labin has two degrees in theology and extensive experience in Christian education,” Vice President for Administration Rich Péwé said in the press release. “He is an excellent fit for Hillsdale and its outreach programs at the Blake Center. We are excited to see the gifts from Pres and Helen Blake be well-used under his guidance.”
College Chaplain Adam Rick said Duke’s leadership and energy show he is well-suited for his new role.
“In my conversations with him, he has seemed like a guy who builds things, makes things from scratch, and can initiate new things,” Rick said.