The Duke Endowment has awarded Duke University $7.5 million for fellowships that will provide increased and year-round support for Ph.D. candidates at The Graduate School, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Tuesday.
The gift -- the school's largest ever -- includes $5 million to establish The Duke Endowment Graduate Fellowship Endowment to support doctoral students, particularly those pursuing degrees in traditionally underfunded areas like the humanities and social sciences, as well as those working in interdisciplinary programs and initiatives. The other $2.5 million will support a challenge fund to encourage endowment contributions from other donors.
"We are grateful for this wonderful gift that will help Duke stay at the forefront of graduate education," Brodhead said. "This investment in The Graduate School will enable our students to become the next generation of scholars -- expanding the frontiers of knowledge and making vibrant intellectual contributions to the world."
The Duke Endowment grant will help advance the comprehensive $3.25 billion Duke Forward fundraising campaign, which passed the $2 billion mark last month. The seven-year effort supports priorities across Duke's 10 schools, Duke Medicine and a range of university programs. Creating access and opportunity for students through financial aid is one of those priorities.
"Trustees of The Duke Endowment approved this grant to support Duke Forward and to help the university maintain and bolster its excellent graduate school program," said Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, the trustee who chairs the endowment's Committee on Educational Institutions. "A strong graduate school is a critical component of a strong research university, and we were eager to contribute to this important effort."
Paula D. McClain, dean of The Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education, called the gift "a major boost to our commitment to offer greater support for Duke graduate students, and to keep us competitive with our peers for recruiting the best."
The Graduate School has approximately 2,500 Ph.D. students and 700 research master's degree students enrolled across more than 70 departments and programs.
"Year-round funding enhances the quality of our graduate students' lives," McClain said. "In particular, the additional summer research funding opportunities made possible by this gift will allow more students to spend those crucial months focusing on their research instead of working to make ends meet."
Established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment in Charlotte, N.C., is one of the largest private foundations in the Southeast. Through its four program areas -- child care, health care, higher education and rural churches -- it distributes grants to organizations across North and South Carolina.
In 2011, The Duke Endowment made an $80 million gift to Duke to fund renovations of the West Union building, as well as Page and Baldwin auditoriums. It is the largest single philanthropic gift in the university's history.