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Duke endowment reaches record high of $7 billion

The Duke University endowment reached a record high of $7 billion at the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

The growth—which stems from a 20.1 percent return on total investments—was announced in a report to the Board of Trustees, who held their first meeting of the academic year this weekend. The endowment's previous peak came before the economic downturn, reaching $6.1 billion in 2008 before dropping more than 25 percent.

"Everyone was glad to hear the economic report," President Richard Brodhead said. "Many of our Trustees have been on the Board the whole time through the incredible downturn, and the fact that our endowment is now wonderful."

The endowment's value represents an increase of $1 billion from the 2012 fiscal year, which also saw high growth—a reported 13.5 percent return on the endowment investments, which raised the endowment's value from $5.6 billion to $6 billion.

The endowment is professionally managed by DUMAC, an investment group controlled by the University. The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Students should not underestimate the lasting impacts that a strong and growing endowment have on academic and student life, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. He noted that the University’s endowment makes possible Duke’s extensive financial aid options, endowed professorships and programs such as DukeEngage.

Recent estimates state that slightly more than 20 percent of the endowment is designated to support the financial aid budget.

The endowment's growth comes after a second consecutive record-breaking year of fundraising. Under the current capital campaign, Duke Forward, the University earned $441.8 million in philanthropic contributions for the 2013 fiscal year—amassing $2.17 billion of the campaign's $3.25 billion goal with three years left to go.

In addition to the financial report, the Board approved funding for several campus construction projects.

Increased funding was granted for the repairs to the West Duke Building, after it was determined that the renovations were far more extensive than had originally been planned. The building was damaged when a second-story roof collapsed in the Spring.

The Board allotted additional money for the renovations to Page Auditorium as part of a scheduled funding increase, bringing the total budget close to the estimated final $5 million, Schoenfeld said.

Brodhead noted that the timeline for the Page renovations had been moved forward to accommodate the upcoming work on the Chapel, which was unexpected.

"One thing that worked out somewhat differently than we had anticipated...was the fact that we would have to close the Chapel," Brodhead said. "Planning for that led us to accelerate the work on Page."

The University discovered that the Chapel was in need of repairs during a 2012 review of the structure. The structure will close for a year following Commencement in 2015.

Preliminary discussions began regarding renovations to East Campus Union, particularly the Marketplace. The Board also saw beginning stages of the layout for the new health and wellness center, which is set to begin construction in the Spring and will open in 2016.

In other business:

Although many of the action items on the Board's agenda revolved around construction, Brodhead noted that much of the weekend's discussion centered on academics.

Dean Thomas Katsouleas presented an update on the Pratt School of Engineering's strategic planning process, and Provost Sally Kornbluth discussed the University's research efforts.

"Maybe 12, 14 years ago—the Trustees understood that Duke would never be the university it wished to be if it didn't have strength in the sciences and engineering," Brodhead said. "It's interesting for us to see how those strategic investments have paid off."

The board also Skyped with Mary Brown Bullock—executive vice chancellor of Duke Kunshan University—about DKU's opening weeks and had a discussion on intercollegiate athletics with Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White.

Brodhead and his wife, Cindy, were recognized by the Board for 10 years of dedication to Duke.

"This was as happy and positive a Trustee meeting as I've ever seen," Brodhead said.