Investing in their Engineering Family: Jim Vogeley B.S.E.’80 and Dr. Nial Quinlan
Jim and Nial set up their charitable giving to help fuel important Duke work in the short and long term.
It’s been a while since Jim Vogeley threw a television off the roof of a building. These days, he’s interested in quietly helping fix problems rather than spectacularly breaking things.
The TV stunt, which was his contribution to the engineering school’s version of the classic egg-drop challenge, was admittedly a one-time thing — just college students being college students in the late 1970s. Vogeley’s experience at Duke included a few other shenanigans, but mainly it consisted of a firm grounding in electrical engineering, solid courses on writing and speech communication, and a mentored introduction to innovation and entrepreneurship.
A degree in electrical engineering was a must for Vogeley, who came from a family of MIT engineers but wanted to chart his own course by starting a technology company. He got accepted to MIT like his father and brother, but the education there seemed too narrow. He needed something broader to become an entrepreneur.
“It felt like I could get a more diverse education that might help me learn engineering and communication skills as well as all those things you need for entrepreneurship,” Vogeley says. “I made that decision to go to Duke and I have never regretted it for one minute.”
He credits professor William Joines with supporting his entrepreneurial vision. Joines gave Vogeley and his research partners office space in Hudson Hall, and encouraged their ideas. The student research team won an award for their project — from Hewlett Packard, which would become Vogeley’s first employer.
After a few years at HP, Vogeley had an idea for a liquid crystal projector. He left HP, filed for a patent, and connected back with Joines and others at Duke to help set up his company. He met industry contacts through a conference at The Fuqua School of Business, and Joines introduced him to a colleague in electronics manufacturing who helped Vogeley with a critical component for his new projector. The start-up, nVIEW Corporation, was off and running.
By then, Vogeley was on the board of visitors for the engineering school, and had become a regular donor. He loved staying involved at his alma mater, and soon, Quinlan also learned how effective a Duke engineering education could be.
“Every single time we go back there’s a sense of ‘ahh’ at what the students are doing and their enthusiasm for the school,” Quinlan says. “The same thing goes for faculty. It’s not just a single moment, it’s been multiple events.”
Vogeley and Quinlan’s latest gift is through a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) that will benefit the Pratt School of Engineering. A CRUT pays the donor or other designated recipients a variable income for life or for a specified number of years. After that time, the balance of the trust is applied to the purpose the donor designated at their favorite charities – like Duke! Vogeley and Quinlan’s trust counts toward the Duke 100 Challenge, in which 10% of a new planned gift is matched with current-use funds for a chosen area of support.
The couple has even engineered a way to leverage the impact of their CRUT by using income they receive from the trust as a source for additional giving to Duke.
“The remainder that stays with Duke after we die is that long-term commitment which will ultimately have a much greater impact in enabling younger generations to solve big problems, like climate change,” Vogeley says. “But the beauty of the charitable remainder unitrust is it also, psychologically and financially, enables you to feed some back for the short term if you’d like to do that.”
Some of that recent giving turned into a “garage lab” at Pratt where students work on projects. It gives Vogeley and Quinlan an easy way to check in on the latest ideas when they are on campus. And it reinforces their relationship with the university by actually meeting and talking with students, faculty and administrators.
“Many other institutions, you’re sort of on the sidelines,” Quinlan says. “With Duke, there’s such a warm sense that we’re part of a family. We go there, they know us, we get to know the students. We feel a powerful family connection to Duke, which is really important.”