Duke gets $80M gift for campus renovations

Posted March 7, 2011

— The Duke Endowment on Monday pledged $80 million to Duke University to renovate three buildings on the university's original Durham campus, officials said.

The gift, which will be paid over several years, is the largest single donation in Duke’s history and in the Charlotte-based endowment’s 87 years.

“The Duke Endowment and Duke University have a shared history and a shared vision: to make this campus the most vibrant, compelling place for the most talented and ambitious students and faculty,” endowment Chairman Neil Williams said in a statement. “We have a unique opportunity to renew these historic facilities so future generations of Duke students will be inspired to learn and create.”

The gift will finance the first major renovation of West Union and Page Auditorium on Duke's West Campus and Baldwin Auditorium on the East Campus. All three buildings are part of the original campus construction that began following benefactor James B. Duke’s creation of both the endowment and the university in 1924.

“The Duke Endowment has a history of supporting the very highest priorities of this university,” Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead said in a statement. "Their splendid new gift will allow us to transform Duke’s central common spaces, creating rich new opportunities for community and engagement."

West Union served as the principal student gathering and eating space for more than 50 years, until the opening of the Bryan Center in 1982. It will be completely remade on the interior to create new student social space and dining opportunities.

“The gift will not only bring physical changes on campus, but I can also see it bringing a cultural change," Duke senior Yi Zhang, president of the Duke University Union, said in a statement. "As students utilize the improved venues as a common gathering place, their sense of community on campus will be strengthened."

Located between West Union and the Duke Chapel, the 1,200-seat Page Auditorium is Duke’s largest theater. Since it opened in 1930, it has hosted presidents, some of the world’s most recognized artists and musicians and generations of student programs and performances.

The planned renovation will update the interior, seating, acoustics and backstage and lobby areas, creating a modern and accessible venue that accommodates the demand of student and cultural groups as well as professional concerts, theater and dance productions and major speakers.

With its distinctive white dome, Baldwin Auditorium is the focal point of Duke’s East Campus and the primary rehearsal and performance venue for numerous student ensembles. Planned renovations include acoustical improvements, new seats and other patron amenities.

Construction is expected to take place in phases, beginning later this year with Baldwin Auditorium. University officials are developing plans to provide dining services and relocate existing programs and activities during the renovations, which are expected to take several years.


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  • diana123 Mar 9, 2011

    could have used that $ to feed the children of this state.

  • scientistjo Mar 9, 2011

    Maybe they can use it to hire new genetics professors who don't falsify data.

  • superman Mar 8, 2011

    When the money is used to update or moderize the buildings--it is a gift that just keeps giving. People who think they can earn more somewhere else--just go somewhere else. Some people are just stuck on the "help me" attitude. Its their money and they can do with it whatever they want.

  • tritonlm6 Mar 8, 2011

    They ought to start by giving their employees raises. The high level execs and physicians get huge bonuses. The workers don't get squat.

  • debikayb Mar 7, 2011

    Believe the money could be better spent on scholarships and foremost recruiting kids in the state of NC.

  • dukestudent1988 Mar 7, 2011

    I just graduated from Duke last year and it is incredible how people are attacking the university for maintaining these three buildings. First, the Duke Endowment is basically a trust fund that provides money for several universities, churches and civic groups throughout North and South Carolina. Usually, the money that is provided is from the interest or earnings of investments and not the endowment itself. This is typical of most top-tier universities. While the Duke Endowment is valued in the billions, the amount of funds doled out each year usually number in the millions.

    For those of you who think this could be spend in better in other places I would ask that you visit these three buildings. Duke is the foremost university in the state and yet many of the facilities are shabby. Yes it costs over $150,000 for four years but hardly any of that money has been used to keep the dorms, classrooms, gyms, and unions up to date.

  • arfamr1007 Mar 7, 2011

    While the rest of us worry about paying the light bill there are people out there who can dole out $80 million to spruce up 3 buildings and call it "the highest priorities of this university". Uh ... shouldn't that be ensuring a quality education?

    yeah...if the country were run by socialists....wait a minute

  • lovethesouth1 Mar 7, 2011

    I meant that plural... individualS. Those individuals that fund that endowment are entitled to say where it goes.

  • lovethesouth1 Mar 7, 2011

    ghimmy51 - the donation was made for the one purpose of campus renovations by an individual. That individiual chose to fund this project with that money, therefore, that is where the money will be spent. If we can't pay our light bills, that's not this guy's problem. He has $80 million, it's his business.

  • whocares Mar 7, 2011

    The Duke Endowment is NOT associated with the University. Read up on the Duke family and you can see what the Duke Endowment funds.