Duke To Receive $25 Million To Stimulate Faculty Excellence

DURHAM, N.C. - Duke University will receive a $25 million gift to encourage $50 million in additional support for endowed faculty positions and academic resources, President Nannerl O. Keohane announced Thursday.

The gift from Peter and Ginny Nicholas and their family was announced at the February meeting of the Academic Council, the faculty governance body of the university. Peter Nicholas is vice-chair of the university's Board of Trustees, and the Nicholases co-chair the $2 billion Campaign for Duke.

Duke officials said the gift is the largest Duke has ever received in direct support of the faculty. By matching new contributions on a 1:2 basis, the gift is expected to yield a total of $75 million in additional philanthropic support over the next two years.

The gift specifically supports academic priorities identified in "Building on Excellence," the university's strategic plan adopted in February 2001 by Duke's trustees. "Building on Excellence" calls for "investment in constant improvement of the faculty (as) the route to excellence in all the university does."

Officials said the gift is timed to coincide with the beginning of the last two years of the Campaign for Duke, which the university announced in October 1998. The trustees increased the goal to $2 billion in December 2000 to help underwrite the costs of implementing academic priorities in "Building on Excellence." To date, the Campaign for Duke has raised more than $1.7 billion, including funds for 72 new professorships.

The Nicholases are 1964 graduates of the university. Their three children - Katherine, Peter and J.K. - and J.K.'s wife, Virginia Shannon, also earned degrees from Duke. Over the years, the Nicholases have given more than $56 million to support major academic areas at Duke. The university's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences was endowed by them with a $20 million gift. At the time, Duke officials said it was the largest gift ever to support environmental education.

"It is particularly fitting that Pete and Ginny are making this gift now as we enter the final stages of the Campaign for Duke. Their gift will encourage others to support our faculty, the cornerstone of the excellence to which Duke aspires," Keohane said.

The Nicholas gift provides $20 million to endow "university professorships" that cross departmental lines, other faculty chairs and curatorships, as well as some directorships. The remaining $5 million is for specific faculty support, including research and equipment, and opportunities for faculty to take time to focus on enhancing their teaching and research.

"I am not aware of any other grant of the magnitude and reach of this one in supporting faculty," said Provost Peter Lange, who is leading the university's strategic planning process. "It has enormous potential to leverage Duke's efforts to 'deepen' our faculty - providing positions and resources, a process that we see as essential to Duke's future."

Pete Nicholas said, "At a time when our nation is faced with unprecedented challenges, the leadership of universities like Duke is more important than ever, and the foundation of that excellence is the faculty. Our gift is an investment to help strengthen teaching and research by outstanding current scholars and new faculty who will be recruited from across the globe to help Duke continue its trajectory as a leader in education and research."

"As President Keohane is fond of saying, at its heart Duke is teachers and students," concurred Ginny Nicholas. "Pete and I hope that our gift will encourage others to join us in making that heart even stronger."

Ruth Virginia "Ginny" Lilly Nicholas, who graduated from Duke's Woman's College, has served over the years as an admissions adviser, chair of the executive committee of Duke's Annual Fund and Reunion Class chair. She is the founder and president of Open Market of Concord, Mass., and has served many Boston area charitable organizations.

Pete Nicholas, who holds an MBA degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, co-founded the Boston Scientific Corporation in 1979 and is the company's chairman. Boston Scientific has become a world leader in developing minimally invasive therapy devices and therapies. He has served the university in a variety of capacities, including as university trustee since 1993, as a member of Duke's Trinity College Board of Visitors and as Reunion Class chair.

Officials say the $56 million that the Nicholases have given to Duke over the years makes them the largest individual donors to Duke in the university's history "in absolute dollars." James Buchanan Duke, the university's founder, gave more than $40 million in 1924 to establish The Duke Endowment of Charlotte, N.C., as well as to name Duke University and build its Gothic West Campus. Over the years, The Duke Endowment has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to support the university.

In the current fund-raising campaign, alumni Edmund T. Pratt Jr. gave $35 million to endow the engineering school, which was named for him, and Michael J. and Patty Fitzpatrick gave $25 million to Duke, as well as to Stanford, to establish new centers for advanced photonics.