Another $10 Million from the Basses


Fort Worth philanthropists Anne T. and Robert M. Bass have given $10 million to Duke, to strengthen the undergraduate curriculum and teaching. It is the Basses’ second $10-million gift to the university in less than five years.
In 1996, their gift established the Bass Society of Fellows at Duke. Like that gift, their most recent contribution is intended to enhance undergraduate education and provide incentive to other donors to do the same by matching their gifts.
The new gift will provide funds both to expand Duke’s pioneering FOCUS (First- year Opportunity for Comprehensive Unified Studies) program and to prepare selected graduate students for undergraduate teaching. “We are delighted to support Duke’s FOCUS program as an exciting option for first-year students,” says Robert Bass. “We are also pleased to establish the undergraduate instructional program to offer future professors teaching experience. These two areas, undergraduate curriculum and instruction, are at the heart of what Anne and I want to sustain at great universities like Duke.”
Half of the gift will fund the Bass FOCUS Challenge, which would match the $250,000 contributions of others to establish twenty endowed funds of $500,000 each to produce income for FOCUS. The funds will be named for the matched donor and produce both more resources in courses and a 40 percent increase in the pool of available classes. It is hoped that the funds will be nearly evenly distributed across the program’s three broad areas: globalization and cultural change; science, technology, and society; and human and natural resources.
The FOCUS program began in 1974 and is Duke’s unique approach to the critical first semester. In 1998 the Carnegie Foundation cited it as a “sign of change” in undergraduate education for its ability to “open intellectual avenues that will stimulate original thought and independent effort.” Each matriculating student to Duke is given the opportunity in June to apply for a place in FOCUS. Selected students have the chance to participate in small classes on subjects taught from different perspectives by some of Duke’s most distinguished professors. The classes are structured to develop close intellectual and social companionship with fellow students and with faculty.
There were fourteen interdisciplinary FOCUS programs last semester, including such diverse subjects as “The Changing Faces in Russia,” “Exploring the Mind,” “Health Care and Society,” “Medieval Spaces: Bodies, Monuments, and Spirits,” “Computers and Society,” and “Diversity and Identity.”
The other half of the gift will establish the Bass Undergraduate Instructional Program, which will provide annual funds for approximately fifteen advanced graduate students to be trained for and then to teach an upper-division undergraduate course in the field of their disciplinary research. Each Bass Instructional Fellowship will offer an annual stipend of $12,500 and cover required academic-year fees of $3,500. Recipients will be expected to spend a semester in advanced pedagogical training, which will emphasize using technology to transfer research to undergraduate learning. In the second semester, they will teach an undergraduate course.
Bass Instructional Fellowship recipients will become members of the Bass Society of Fellows, which includes Duke faculty members who hold named professorships and associate professorships created and partially funded by the Basses’ 1996 $10-million gift. That gift provided funds to match the contributions of donors who establish professorships supporting faculty members who have achieved “true excellence in both research and teaching, and are good university citizens.” Twenty-five such chairs have been established.
Anne Bass is a graduate of Smith College and a member of the Campaign for Duke Steering Committee. Robert Bass earned degrees from Yale and Stanford universities and is president of Keystone Inc., an investment, acquisition, and merger-management company based in Fort Worth. Both are members of Trinity College’s board of visitors and co-chairs of Stanford University’s recently announced Campaign for Undergraduate Education. They have four children, including Christopher, a member of Duke’s Class of 1997.

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