Our Giving Story: The Howards

It has been nearly 40 years since Jeff Howard ’76 and his wife, Carson Dowd Howard ’76, roamed the “Gothic wonderland” they loved as classmates at Duke. Still today, these Duke alumni, and now Duke parents, continue to find inspiration in the energy of intelligent, motivated learners and limitless options available to students at their alma mater.

“Duke opens doors to opportunities and challenges us to expand our minds and to pursue lifelong learning,” said Jeff, a Duke trustee and former Duke Alumni Association (DAA) president.

A native of Minnesota, Jeff always wanted to attend a university in the east, and he discovered Duke as a great adventure. “Duke’s campus was everything I thought a college campus should be,” he said. “It was, and continues to be, a challenging environment that takes us out of our comfort zone and teaches us to question everything.”

Carson grew up in Charlotte, NC, and wanted to go somewhere different from classmates headed to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or the women’s colleges that were popular in the early 1970s.

“For me, Duke was not too far from home, but it was worlds away from the rest of North Carolina,” Carson said.

The couple chose to make a planned gift of stock to fund a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) to recognize the valuable education they received and the people and places they hold dear at Duke. Their gift provides support for DAA, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, and a student scholarship fund: The Jeffrey C. and Carson Dowd Howard Family Scholarship Fund.

“Duke’s world-class education to make us lifelong learners is a stepping stone for professional careers and the learning never stops,” they said. “Our family is pleased to provide future students with similar opportunities to be challenged, grow, and contribute to their communities.”

The Howards’ daughters have also followed in their parents’ footsteps. Sally Howard McCaffrey ’06, Cameron Smith Howard ’09, and Abigail Dupree Howard ’11 attended Duke as undergraduates, and each has made a gift to The Jeffrey C. and Carson Dowd Howard Family Scholarship Fund to support the education of future students.

What is your family’s connection to Duke?

Jeff and Carson: We are proud to be involved with Duke, and the Duke experience continues to enrich our lives. Duke continues to be a blessing to our family. From the beginning, we outfitted our three girls in little Duke warm-up suits and cheerleading outfits.

They sat on our laps during games in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Even though we visited other campuses and they applied to other schools, in the end the opportunity to go to Duke was too valuable to miss. Each of our three daughters had very different experiences at Duke. 

Why did you choose to make a planned gift?

Jeff and Carson: Jeff came to Duke in part because of a generous financial aid package and work/study opportunities. We are grateful to be in the position to make such a gift because of our Duke experience and the opportunities Duke gave us. Giving back in time and money keeps us engaged with the leadership at Duke, the DAA, and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. We chose to include the gardens because it welcomes everyone, refreshes the soul, and reminds us of the connectedness of all life.

What are your aspirations for Duke?

Jeff and Carson: We hope Duke continues to be an open, challenging, and accepting place for students from North Carolina and all over the world. Duke University makes Durham and North Carolina a better place. We appreciate how Duke has helped rejuvenate the Durham area, attracting talent from across the globe and moving our region into the 21st century as a leader. 

The shared Duke bond is very powerful! We are proud of what Duke was and what Duke is becoming. Our family is pleased to be able to play a small role in Duke’s vision.

Why do you think giving back to Duke is important?

Abigail Howard: Duke holds a significant place in our family’s history throughout our education, careers, and even childhood memories. We hope to share the same Duke experience that we have all grown to love and cherish with future students. Even as a recent graduate, it is amazing to see the growth and exciting developments Duke continues to put forth.

Sally Howard McCaffrey: My experience at Duke was, in a word, wonderful! I made friends at Duke who are still, and hopefully will always be, part of my life. ​I think it is important to provide support to those for whom money is an obstacle standing in the way of the Duke experience. I hope Duke will continue to grow and be an excellent place to get an education. And winning another national basketball championship certainly helps, too!

Cameron Howard: Attending a place like Duke is life changing and for me, horizon expanding! My friends, professors, classes, and an incredible study abroad experience opened up the world to me. It is important to make that opportunity as accessible as possible, regardless of a student’s finances. I hope Duke continues to grow as a world-class institution where just about anything feels possible.

TAGS: charitable remainder unitrust planned gift

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Gift Planning


Duke University’s Office of Gift Planning specializes in charitable gift planning for estates, charitable trusts and annuities, and other complex current and future gift plans.

For more information, please contact the Duke University Office of Gift Planning at 919-681-0464 or giftplanning@duke.edu.