Skip to main content

Von der Heydens Give Duke $8.36 million to Support Arts, Global Health

$7.36 million of the gift will support programs, events and other educational opportunities in the new arts center at Duke

Karl von der Heyden and his wife, Mary Ellen.

An $8.36 million gift from Duke University alumnus and trustee emeritus Karl von der Heyden and his wife, Mary Ellen, will support the arts at Duke and graduate students at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), President Richard H. Brodhead said Wednesday.

“The von der Heyden name is already known to everyone at Duke because of the pavilion that is such a beloved gathering space in the library,” Brodhead said. “It’s a privilege to express our gratitude once again to Karl and Mary Ellen for their extraordinary generosity in continuing to support Duke’s highest priorities. This gift will help to develop a flourishing arts scene on campus and will give students the opportunity to become leaders and experts in global health.”

Of the total, $7.36 million will support programs, events and other educational opportunities in the new arts center at Duke. The 71,000-square-foot facility will provide space for rehearsal, performance, video production, classroom instruction and other uses. Construction was approved in early October by the university’s Board of Trustees and is expected to take two years to complete.

The other $1 million from the gift will help fund graduate fellowships at DGHI, which has projects around the world focused on tackling diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer and addressing complex issues such as access to care. Launched in 2006, DGHI is among the top global health programs in the world. More than 400 students, from undergraduates and master’s candidates to medical residents, have completed education programs at DGHI.

“Mary Ellen and I are delighted to support the arts at Duke. Activities at the arts center will benefit the entire Duke community and beyond, and will help to emphasize the critical role of the humanities at a modern research university,” von der Heyden said. “We are also happy to support the growing importance of global health initiatives at Duke.”

The von der Heyden gift will contribute to Duke Forward, the seven-year, comprehensive fundraising campaign that aims to raise $3.25 billion by June 30, 2017. The couple has also donated $1 million to the Duke Institute for Health Innovation (DIHI)during the campaign. DIHI connects expertise and resources across the university and Duke Medicine to solve health care challenges around the world through research, innovation and applied health policy. Past DIHI projects include novel care models for improving diabetes management and implementing a new mobile intervention for patients with sickle cell disease.

The von der Heydens have a long history supporting Duke. Their previous gifts include:

-- $4 million in 2000 to help renovate and expand the university's libraries. Von der Heyden Pavilion, the airy, glass-encased space with looming arches within Perkins Library, is named in their honor.

-- $1 million in 1995 to establish the von der Heyden Fellows Program Endowment Fund, which brings to campus prominent international leaders in business, government and academics for lectures and meetings with students and faculty. Fellows have included President Belisario Betancur of Colombia, investigative journalist Bob Woodward and Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department.

A native of Berlin, Germany, Karl von der Heyden graduated from Duke in 1962. He is the retired vice chairman of PepsiCo, Inc., where he also served as vice chairman of the board of directors and in various senior management capacities, including chief financial officer.

Before PepsiCo, von der Heyden served as co-chairman and chief executive officer of RJR Nabisco, Inc., as president and chief executive officer of Metallgesellschaft Corp., and as senior vice president, chief financial officer and a director of H.J. Heinz Company.

Von der Heyden was on Duke’s Board of Trustees from 1995 to 2007. He served as a member of the board’s executive committee as well as on the boards of visitors for the Duke University Health System and The Fuqua School of Business. He also led the major gifts committee for Duke Libraries.

The von der Heydens have two children; their daughter is a Duke graduate.