Nicholases' $72 Million Gift Closes Campaign at Record $2.36 Billion

Most of the Nicholas gift will go toward environmental programs

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University has received the largest gift in its history, $72 million from Pete and Ginny Nicholas of Boston, on the final day of the fund-raising campaign they have co-chaired for the past eight years, Duke President Nannerl O. Keohane announced Thursday

Their Dec. 31 gift brought the Campaign for Duke total to a record $2,361,205,387, the fifth largest in American higher education history and the largest for a university in the South, according to figures compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Nicholas gift, the largest from an individual or couple to Duke, commits $2 million for the renovation of the university's Perkins Library and $70 million to "extend the reach and impact" of Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, in a manner to be determined during the coming months and announced later this year, officials said.

The dean of the Nicholas School, William Schlesinger, said he was "delighted by this wonderful news," and predicted it would lead to a "long-sought unification of environmental programs on the campus" and strengthen Duke's leadership at the forefront of studies involving the environment and related areas of public policy.

"There's a pressing need to raise the level of environmental debate and policy-making in our country and around the world, and the Nicholas School now has an unprecedented opportunity to bring together a unique constellation of resources to identify and tackle the problems we face," he said. "We're going to move quickly and thoroughly in the months ahead, enlisting the best people at Duke and elsewhere to determine how to best apply and leverage these new resources to inform the environmental decisions that confront policy makers around the globe."

The gift brings the Nicholases' contributions during the Campaign for Duke to almost $130 million, the largest amount from an individual or couple in the history of the university. Nearly $100 million of their giving supports the school of the environment and earth sciences. The Nicholases are both Duke graduates and the parents of three Duke alumni. Pete Nicholas chairs the university's board of trustees.

"The Nicholas School is already a leading force in environmental education. This extraordinary gift will make it possible for the school to become the premier institution in which research, teaching and policy development are powerfully combined to develop solutions to a wide range of environmental problems, and to share these solutions broadly throughout the world," Keohane said. "It is a most fitting capstone to the Campaign for Duke, a remarkable fund-raising effort that has been led magnificently by Pete and Ginny Nicholas. Our campaign has strengthened all of Duke and its capacity to serve society."

Keohane, midway through the final year of her presidency, led the planning and execution of the campaign, which began in 1996 and was publicly announced in 1998 with a goal of $1.5 billion by 2004. The goal was raised to $2 billion when the trustees adopted in February 2001 a strategic plan, "Building on Excellence," that called for extending Duke's global reach and influence and strengthening science and technology, among other goals.

"A campaign like this one is most often measured in dollars," said co-chair Ginny Nicholas, "but it is a success only if it makes life better for students, faculty, researchers, librarians, physicians and the many others who make Duke such a special place. Pete and I loved working on the Campaign for Duke, and we are grateful to the more than a quarter-of-a-million people who made gifts. Most of all, we are proud to be part of a community whose generosity will yield benefits for Duke and the larger world for many decades to come."

The campaign covered all parts of the university, including Duke's Medical Center, undergraduate programs, graduate and professional schools, library system and intercollegiate athletic programs. Each area exceeded its fund-raising goal; details are available at

During the campaign more than $750 million was given for the university's endowment, mostly for financial aid to perpetuate Duke's "need-blind" admission policy and to support the faculty. More than $200 million was given for undergraduate scholarships and nearly $100 million for graduate and professional school student fellowships. During the campaign, two of the scholarship funds established were the University Scholars Program and, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Robertson Scholars Program.

Some 119 faculty professorships were established, many of them through the $25 million Nicholas Faculty Leadership Initiative that the Nicholases created in 2002 and the Bass Program for Excellence in Undergraduate Education that was begun in 1996.

Dozens of new facilities were built or renovated, and many more are or soon will be under construction. They include a new children's hospital and eye research institute, a new engineering facility, a public policy building, an undergraduate science building, an addition to the Divinity School, two business school additions, renovation and expansion of the university's main library, two student recreation centers, undergraduate housing, several athletic facilities, a welcome center in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and an art museum. An Ocean Sciences Teaching Center will be built at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C.

The campaign also helped launch or strengthen several important academic programs across the university, including the university's freshman FOCUS program and a new undergraduate curriculum. Similarly, it supported local medical and legal clinics, pastoral outreach and other action programs, most notably the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership.

In addition, the campaign has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to support research efforts in the Duke University Medical Center and other parts of the campus. It also funded new or existing interdisciplinary study areas, such as the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, the Institute on Care at the End of Life and the Global Capital Markets Center.

During the campaign, the university named two schools in recognition of their benefactors, the Edmund T. Pratt Jr. School of Engineering and the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences.

The Nicholas School, named after the first Nicholas gift to the campaign, trains and prepares future environmental scientists, leaders in environmental policy and ecosystem managers. The new Nicholas gift will build on that initial investment and greatly expand the school's programs and purpose in a manner to be determined by university leaders, including Richard H. Brodhead, dean of Yale College, whom Nicholas introduced to the Duke community in December as the person who will become Duke's ninth president on July 1.

"With leadership from both our current and future president, Dean Schlesinger, Provost Peter Lange and others, we will develop a plan by which the Nicholas School will greatly expand its reach and influence in undertaking critical research, training future leaders and informing the debate about issues that range from global warming to the quality of our air and water," said Pete Nicholas. "We expect this to be a collaborative effort involving many others on the Duke campus and beyond. We'll be working over the next several months to define our strategy and enlist partners, exemplifying how the Campaign for Duke can not only transform the campus but also make a real impact on the world."

Ruth Virginia "Ginny" Lilly Nicholas has volunteered over the years as an admissions adviser, chair of the executive committee of the Duke 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.

Peter M. Nicholas, who holds an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, co-founded the Boston Scientific Corp. in 1979 and is the company's chairman. Boston Scientific has become a 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 charter member and chair of Duke's Trinity College board of visitors, as reunion class chair and as a member of the Duke University Health System board.

In addition to supporting environmental education, the Perkins Library renovation and the faculty, Pete and Ginny Nicholas have also provided support during the Campaign for programs at the Fuqua School of Business, Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, the Divinity School, the Medical Center and intercollegiate athletics.

The Nicholases' three children -- Katherine, Peter and J.K. -- and J.K.'s wife, Virginia Shannon, all earned degrees from Duke. J.K. Nicholas now serves on the Nicholas School's Board of Visitors; Peter Nicholas is a member of Fuqua's Board of Visitors.