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Duke donors set record in donations for fourth straight year

Duke donors have set a new record, giving $571 million in gifts and pledges to the University during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

This is the fourth consecutive year the donations record has been broken. According to a Duke Today release, the University received $506 million in cash this year—a 5.85 percent increase from the $478 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year. 

Among the largest donations in the past year were a $25.5 million award from the Marcus Foundation to Duke Health for stem cell research in the treatment of autism, stroke and cerebral palsy, as well as a $16.5 million donation from Duke medical school alum Dr. Robert Margolis and his wife Lisa for the establishment of a new health policy center to develop ideas for healthcare reform. 

In addition, the Duke Annual Fund—which supports faculty, financial aid and fellowships as well as educational programs at the University—also set a new record in donations with more than $37.5 million received this year.

“Thanks to our generous alumni and friends, Duke can empower our faculty and students to create solutions to the most difficult challenges in the world,” said President Richard Brodhead in the release. “We’re grateful for the loyalty to Duke that inspires so many alumni and friends to want to sustain and enrich the Duke experience for the future—and to ensure that we welcome the most talented and promising students, regardless of their financial circumstances.”

Of the donations, $180.4 million was will support research, $83.9 million went to financial aid, $71.1 million went to “hallmark” programs like DukeEngage and Bass Connections, $47 million went to faculty support and $41.1 million went to campus transformation projects, according to the release.

This July, Duke Forward—the University’s largest fundraising campaign to date that set aside different goals for each of Duke’s 10 schools, athletics, the libraries and “University-wide priorities”—reached its $3.25 billion goal almost a year early. In an email sent to donors and Duke staff at the time, Robert Shepard, vice president of alumni affairs and development, noted that the campaign had raised more than $390 million toward financial aid and established 77 new endowed professorships.

Despite reaching its goal early, Duke Forward will continue fundraising as scheduled until June 30, 2017.

Brodhead told The Chronicle that the funds given to the University reflect people’s commitment to Duke.

“I’ve been on the road doing Duke Forward events for the last few years,” he wrote in an email. “In city after city, the audiences have been huge, by far the biggest we have ever seen. It’s palpable how much people love this University and how excited they are by its continuing progress. The dollars are an index to how much people believe in this place.”

When asked if he expected the record to be broken this year, Brodhead wrote that he was “hoping, to be sure!” and noted that Duke’s future fundraising plans are “to build on our momentum to assure the University’s trajectory continues to rise.”

Other sizable donations received during the 2015-16 fiscal year include a total of $30.5 million for the Access and Opportunity Challenge, a challenge fund established this year for undergraduate financial aid. A $4 million gift was also given by William Powers to Duke Athletics in order to name the west gate of Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium in honor of his father N. Thompson Powers, who played football and baseball at Duke and has held the University’s single-game record for touchdowns since 1950.

Large donations were also given to support programming and events for the arts and for the new arts center announced earlier this year. David Rubenstein, Trinity ‘70 and chair of the Board of Trustees, donated $25 million in 2015 to help fund the construction of the new $50 million arts center, expected to be completed by Summer 2017.

“The continued generosity of Duke’s donors has kept us in the forefront of education, research and health care, and allowed us to tackle head-on some very critical global problems,” said Robert Shepard, vice president for alumni affairs and development, in the release. “We are especially grateful for the resources to give our students the best possible experience.”

Editor's note: This article was updated August 30 at 11:00 p.m. to include additional information and quotes from Brodhead. 


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