Giving to Duke

Senior Student Stories

May 19, 2017 | by Duke Annual Fund

Senior Student Stories

Read how Duke became home and the community became family for Duke’s Class of 2017—and how that inspired them to give back through their Senior Gift.

Uzo Ayogu

Uzo Ayogu

I made my senior gift because I understand what giving back to Duke means in spirit and letter. I'm leaving this school with the belief, resources, and network to tangibly make this world a better place. Through my global and civic education at Duke, I've been able to establish my own venture—Releaf—an online platform that uses big data to make investing in African businesses easier to fuel the economy and transform communities.

I know that giving back to Duke will empower more students to feel the same way and do the same thing.

I have been a beneficiary of full need-based financial aid and being able to direct my donations there and know that someone will receive a Duke education somehow impacted by my contribution is among one of the most incredible gifts I could give.

Katie Cottam

Duke was always my dream. Four years ago that dream became my reality. In my four years, I've taken many classes with distinguished professors, joined several clubs and a sorority, and attended hundreds of sporting events. But my story is less about what I did and more about what others did for me. Thanks to the generosity of Plato and Dixie Wilson, I was given an opportunity that most can only dream of -- graduating college debt free. As a Trinity Scholar, I was able to focus my time at Duke on the things that I enjoy and seek opportunities to do things that I love.

I gave my senior gift because I believe that the ability to pay for school should not be a college student's primary concern. The financial aid that the Annual Fund provides does just that.

A generous alumnus helped make my Duke dream come true, and now my senior gift can help do the same for others.

Jacqui Geerdes

As a first-generation college student, the number of ways that Duke has changed my life cannot be counted. My two study abroad experiences in Greece and France, the ability to learn from such passionate and brilliant faculty members, and the opportunity to meet such amazing students from around the globe just brush the surface of what Duke has given to me.

I dedicated my Senior Gift to financial aid so that every Duke student will be able to take advantage of all that this university has to offer.

John Guarco

I gave my senior gift because the experiences and interactions I've had with students and faculty would not have been possible without the continued existence of this institution.

From leading in student government to being a member of my fraternity to deepening my faith in the Catholic Center to meeting some of the most distinguished professors in the world, Duke has provided it all. The least I could do was open my wallet to a university that has opened so many doors for me.

Daniel Hull

I'm an engineer today because of Duke University. It was my freshmen year, and I had about given up on the program. It was then I had a professor pull me aside and offer me a vision that I could in fact do this. Being a Duke engineer has been a gift even in its hardship, and I am incredibly grateful for the countless professors who've given 100% in and out of the classroom, the TA's who have guided me in OH, and the friends and classmates who have supported me in my group projects. Duke University connections have found me post-grad opportunities and guided me to be a better engineer.

That's why I give. I can't imagine another place that could have given me the opportunities Duke did, and I hope others can enjoy these same privileges.

Anna Lombardo

The first part of freshmen year, I was pretty homesick. However, the more I began to explore Duke, attend fun events with friends, and get into the Blue Devil spirit, Duke became home and the friends I made here my family.

I'm giving back because I want future students to share the same, incredible home I did for four amazing years.

Chidinma Nnoromele

I was inspired to give my senior gift because my Duke experience has been showered with opportunity. I have taken classes with distinguished professors, studied abroad, and gained lifelong mentors. At Duke, I have discovered new passions and learned to dream even bigger. Duke has helped me grow in character, ambition, and gratitude.

So just as Duke has helped me grow, I wanted to donate to create opportunities that help future students grow as well.

Christina Oliver

I gave my Senior Gift for financial aid, so that all students who are passionate about getting a Duke education can get one.

Duke is special because a good part of our education happens outside of the classroom, whether it's in dorms with friends, in extracurriculars, such as, the Brodhead Center, in sports stadiums, or in another country. All these dynamics have made my Duke education feel incredibly wholesome. I hope to pass on that same feeling to future students.

Gonzalo Pernas

I am Spanish and I grew up in London, but I wanted to study in the US – hopefully at a university like Duke. I was attracted to the outsized-influence, the inter-disciplinary approach, and the resources for students. There were many unknowns when I first arrived, but Duke has become another home to me.

It is hard to choose my favourite aspect about Duke – the friends I have made, the classes I have taken, the opportunities this institution has, and of course, the weather – but it is the combination that makes this place so special to me.

I gave to Duke to keep it precisely this way, yet always striving for better.

Anya Ranganathan

Duke has consistently provided me with opportunities to deepen my understanding of the world around me, explore my passions, and develop my leadership skills.

I gave my senior gift to do what I could to ensure that the university that I've called home for the past three and a half years-- and that will always be home-- can continue to improve the student experience.

Beth Sercombe

I gave my senior gift because through the Duke Annual Fund, Duke gave me more than just an elite education.

I took a class taught by a military General. I studied abroad in three different countries. They gave me the tools to chase my passions around the globe and to prepare myself for my dream job after graduation. I want the students who come after me to have these same experiences and successes that were given to me through my Duke education and the generosity of the Annual Fund.

Priyanka Venkannagari

I donated because Duke has been one of the best growing experiences in my life.

It has introduced me to people that challenge me every day.

Alex Zrenner

I jokingly say that the Kenan Institute for Ethics has subsidized my Duke experience. However, I honestly believe that Kenan has shaped my Duke experience at every stage. I have spent four years working as a member of Team Kenan, three years writing Kenan Teaching Caselettes, two months as a Kenan Summer Fellow, a week at Project Change, and endless Friday afternoons hanging out in the Kenan office. Kenan introduced me to mentors who challenged me to think critically and fueled my passions, it gave me the resources and support to pursue those passions on my own, and it has prepared me for the real world.

Kenan gave me the space to develop my leadership and independence, figure out how to live alone, find a community, and most importantly live purposefully.

The least I could do to thank Kenan was to donate my senior gift into this institute.

About the author

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