The head of the Charlotte-based Duke Endowment died Sunday, leaving behind a legacy of support and loyalty to the University.
Chairman Neil Williams, Trinity ‘58 and Law ‘61, died of a heart attack at age 76 in Winston-Salem Sunday. Williams served as head of the Charlotte-based foundation—started by James B. Duke but separate from the University—since January 2011.
Under his leadership this March, the Endowment contributed $80 million toward the renovation of the West Union Building, Page Auditorium and Baldwin Auditorium. The gift was the single largest in Duke’s history.
Williams joined the Endowment’s board in 1997, leading committees on Investments, Trustees and Governance and Educational Institutions. A member of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1980 to 1993 and Board’s chair from 1983 to 1988, Williams was well-known in the Duke community.
“Neil was a person of surpassing warmth and wisdom and a citizen of the very highest order,” said President Richard Brodhead in a release. “His services to Duke over more than 50 years—including as board chair and chairman of The Duke Endowment—have made a permanent mark on this university.”
He also played a critical role in the establishment of Duke Engage. He worked the Financial Aid Initiative under the direction of former Duke Endowment Chairman Russell Robinson. The Initiative raised more than $300 million in the University’s effort to conduct need-blind admissions and meet every student’s demonstrated financial needs.
The University has honored Williams with multiple awards throughout his duration in the field—including the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990 in commemoration of his dedication to Duke and to humanity, as well as the Charles S. Rhyne Award in 1996, an award given by Duke School of Law recognizing integrity and professionalism.