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Energy Initiative Supported by Eads Family’s $5.5 Million Gift

The Energy Initiative is a university-wide collaboration focused on the education of future leaders and research to find solutions

Duke University trustee Ralph Eads and his wife, Lisa, have committed to give $5.5 million to the university, most of which will support Duke's Energy Initiative, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Monday.

The gift will provide funding for an energy-finance professorship of the practice, fellowships, conferences and other events, and will help to create an energy information and analysis research program.

The Energy Initiative is a university-wide collaboration that is focused on the education of future leaders and research to find solutions. It also promotes engagement with business and policy decision makers to address three major energy challenges: meeting growing energy demand to support a competitive and prosperous economy, reducing the environmental impact of energy and addressing energy security concerns.

"We're grateful for this generous gift from Ralph and Lisa Eads, which will strengthen Duke's ability to contribute knowledge and expertise toward meeting the pressing energy challenges of our time," Brodhead said. "Their gift will ensure that the Energy Initiative will provide tomorrow's energy leaders and researchers with an innovative and integrated Duke experience, both inside and outside the classroom."

The Eads are giving $4.25 million to the Energy Initiative, a priority of Duke Forward, the $3.25 billion university-wide fundraising campaign launched last fall. Because of its critical and global significance, energy is also a theme of Bass Connections, a new initiative at Duke that will give students of all levels the opportunity to pursue problem-focused educational pathways with faculty and outside experts.

The remaining $1.25 million of the Eads' gift will support the Duke Annual Funds in Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, Sanford School of Public Policy, Fuqua School of Business and Duke Athletics. 

"In creating the Energy Initiative, Duke's leaders recognized that the resources of the entire university can and should be put to work to answer the complex, multifaceted questions surrounding our global energy future," said Ralph Eads, who graduated from Duke in 1981. "I'm proud to work with Duke's leadership to help the university develop programming designed to solve important global energy problems." 

The gift will support the university's Energy Initiative in a number of ways -- the creation of the new Eads Professor of the Practice in Energy Finance; funding for conferences, workshops and other events that connect Duke students and faculty with energy professionals; the establishment of an Energy Fellows program that teams visiting experts with student and faculty fellows on energy-related research and engagement; and the implementation of a targeted program, "Research to Support Better Energy Decisions."

"We must navigate a complex, global energy system in order to create energy solutions with the potential for real impact and put those solutions into practice," said Richard Newell, director of the Energy Initiative. "Duke showed leadership and creativity by forming the Energy Initiative. Ralph and Lisa Eads recognize the importance of this broad, innovative initiative as well as the strengths and resources that make Duke especially qualified to be a leader in addressing the energy challenges of the future."

Eads joined Duke's board of trustees in 2009 and is a member of both the Audit and Institutional Advancement committees. He is on the Duke Forward steering committee and has also served on the boards of visitors of the Fuqua School of Business, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and the Sanford School of Public Policy. He is vice chairman of Jefferies & Co., Inc., an investment bank, where he chairs the firm's global energy section. 

The Eads family lives in Houston. Two of the couple's five children currently attend Duke and one graduated last year.