Campaigning for Duke

Ginny Lilly and Peter Nicholas

Faculty funders: Ginny Lilly and Peter Nicholas.

In late February, Duke announced a $25-million gift to encourage $50 million in additional support for endowed faculty positions and academic resources. The gift is from Peter Nicholas '64 and Ginny Lilly Nicholas '64; Peter Nicholas is vice-chair of the board of trustees, and the Nicholases co-chair the $2-billion Campaign for Duke.

The Nicholas gift is the largest Duke has ever received in direct support of the faculty. By matching new contributions on a 1:2 basis, the gift is expected to yield a total of $75 million in additional philanthropic support over the next two years.

The gift specifically supports academic priorities identified in "Building on Excellence," the university's strategic plan. "Building on Excellence" calls for "investment in constant improvement of the faculty [as] the route to excellence in all the university does."

Officials say the gift is timed to coincide with the beginning of the last two years of the Campaign for Duke, which was announced in October 1998. The trustees increased the goal to $2 billion in December 2000 to help underwrite the costs of implementing academic priorities in "Building on Excellence." By early March, the Campaign for Duke had raised more than $1.7 billion, including funds for seventy-two new professorships.

Ruth Virginia "Ginny" Lilly Nicholas has volunteered over the years as an admissions adviser, chair of the executive committee of the Annual Fund, and reunion class chair. She is the founder and president of Open Market of Concord, Massachusetts, and has served many Boston area charitable organizations. Pete Nicholas, who holds an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, co-founded the Boston Scientific Corporation in 1979 and is the company's chairman. Boston Scientific has become a world leader in developing minimally invasive therapy devices and therapies. He has served the university in a variety of capacities, including as university trustee since 1993, as a member of Duke's Trinity College board of visitors, and as reunion class chair.

Over the years, the Nicholases have given more than $56 million to support major academic areas at Duke--making them the largest individual donors to Duke in the university's history "in absolute dollars," say university officials. The university's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences was endowed by them with a $20-million gift. At thetime, it was called the largest gift ever to support environmental education.

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