Aubrey and Katie McClendon Give $6 Million to Duke for Student Plaza, Other Needs

The gift will also fund a pipe organ in Duke Divinity's new Goodson Chapel

Duke University's new student plaza and divinity school chapel are among university priorities that will benefit from a $6 million gift by alumni Aubrey and Katie McClendon, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Thursday.

"Aubrey and Katie have long supported residential student life needs, a core component of the Duke experience," Brodhead said. "Their most recent gift enables us to move ahead with our West Campus student plaza, assures that magnificent music will grace the new Goodson Chapel and provides vital operating support through the Duke Annual Fund. It is no wonder that the McClendon name is so prominent at our university."

With this latest gift, the McClendons' financial support for the university totals more than $16 million. The Tower in Duke's Keohane Quad and the Commons in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions are named for the couple.

Kathleen "Katie" Byrns McClendon is a 1980 Duke graduate and a former member of the Board of Visitors of Duke's Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, where about 85 percent of Duke undergraduates are enrolled. Aubrey K. McClendon, a member of Duke's Fuqua School of Business Board of Visitors, graduated from Trinity College in 1981. The McClendons live in Oklahoma City, where Aubrey is co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of NYSE-listed Chesapeake Energy Corporation, one of the nation's largest natural gas producers.

"Katie and I are pleased to be able to give back to the university, a very special place for us where we met 27 years ago," Aubrey McClendon said. "Duke changed our lives in many important ways, and we are hopeful that through our giving back to Duke, we can help enhance the lives of today's Duke undergraduates. We believe Duke is an exceptionally well-run institution, and we look forward to further philanthropy at the university in the years to come."

Three quarters of their most recent gift, $4.5 million, will support Duke's new student plaza that will connect the main student center (the Joseph M. and Kathleen Price Bryan University Center), as well as surrounding student buildings, with other elements of West Campus.

Construction of the 40,000-square-foot plaza began this summer and is scheduled to be completed by fall 2006. Designed to accommodate various types and sizes of activities, the new plaza will feature both fixed and moveable furniture, a main stage for the arts, as well as performance space, dining areas, and small and large group "gathering nodes."

The new plaza will be used for both student and alumni activities, but its primary function is to provide outdoor space for interaction among members of the Duke community, said Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs.

"The West Campus Plaza continues the tradition of support for student life by the McClendon family," Moneta said. "The McClendon Tower provides wonderful 'hang-out' and event space for students. The new plaza will greatly increase the opportunity for students to get together, have fun, socialize and relax with other students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members."

An additional $800,000 of the McClendons' gift will fund a new pipe organ in the Goodson Chapel of Duke Divinity School's new Westbrook Building. Previously, the couple's giving helped restore the Aeolian organ in Duke Chapel. Katie was a member of the Chapel Choir during her freshman year, and Aubrey was a volunteer Chapel attendant for several years.

The new organ, being built by Richards Fowkes & Co. of Ooltewah, Tenn., will stand 26 feet tall and contain about 1,900 pipes. The company, with a staff of up to nine craftsmen, makes just one organ per year.

"We are extraordinarily grateful to Aubrey and Katie," said L. Gregory Jones, dean of Duke Divinity School. "It will be wonderful to have a great organ in the Goodson Chapel, so close to the magnificent organs of Duke Chapel. We will be able to model beautiful music for our students in worship, helping to prepare them for leadership in the churches they will serve after graduation."

The balance of the gift, $700,000, will support both the Trinity College and Fuqua School of Business annual funds from 2005 through 2009, with half of that total designated for the classes of 1980 and 1981 -- Katie and Aubrey's respective 25th year reunion classes.