Alumni Couple’s Gift Boosts Innovation and Graduate Education
Alumni Lori Cashman ’94 and Gillis Cashman ’97 are making a major commitment to Duke University, with a primary focus on the Sanford School of Public Policy.
Their $1 million gift will establish the Gillis S. and Lori Wood Cashman Fellowship Fund to support graduate students at the Sanford School, provide the lead investment to the Tony & Teddie Brown Dean’s Innovation Fund and support the Sanford School Annual Fund. In addition, their gift will support specific Trinity College funds: the Duke Financial Economics Center Fund and the Trinity Annual Fund.
Lori Cashman said the timing of the gift was very important for the couple.
“We had been supporting Duke and Sanford for some time, and the continued commitment was very important to us. The timing of this new gift aligned with several factors: 50 years of public policy at Duke, Dean Kelley’s Strategic Priorities, my leadership of the Sanford Board of Visitors and my husband’s Reunion year,” she said. “It was a perfect time to make this commitment. For both of us, it’s a way to thank Duke for believing in us, to show Duke how grateful we are, not just for our education and opportunities, but also the relationships we developed.”
Sanford Dean Judith Kelley said this commitment is invaluable to the school.
“There are so many Sanford alumni making a difference in the world and to Sanford – and the Cashmans are true alumni leaders. This gift is indeed timely, also for Sanford. Sanford is at a wonderful point in history. With our legacy of 50 years of public policy at Duke, we are at an inflection point to expand our vision. This gift sets us up for greatness in the future,” Kelley said.
Lori Cashman received her public policy degree in 1994. She said she values the education she received at Sanford tremendously.
“All roads at Duke lead to Sanford, I believe. There is a public policy application for every discipline at Duke and for every one of the challenges we face in this world. Public policy is pivotal for understanding what the core issues are and the analysis needed to develop and activate adequate solutions. Public policy is even more relevant today – in fact, it is mission critical right now,” Cashman said.
The Cashmans’ gift includes $500,000 for the Tony & Teddie Brown Dean’s Innovation Fund, named in honor of Professor Emeritus Tony Brown and former staff member Teddie Brown. Tony and Teddie have been married for 56 years, and Tony retired in December 2021 after teaching at Duke for 28 years. He arrived at Duke in 1993 after 25 years in the corporate sector, serving as chairman and CEO of an insurance company.
Brown advocated for an innovation fund to allow the dean to support activities such as research pilot projects, visiting faculty hires, new curriculum offerings, and more.
“The innovation fund gift is something I wanted to see at Sanford. I believe that innovation is important to higher education. As a former CEO, I had a fund that I could use to invest in long-shot ideas or efforts that could move from good to great. Deans need those kinds of funds to invest in their schools,” Brown said. “Sanford has a critically important role to play in innovation at Duke because it’s a public policy school. Sanford is about shaping students, moral development, citizenship, contributing to the world. What better place for innovation than the Sanford School?”
The Cashmans advocate for innovation every day in their professional lives. Gillis is a Managing General Partner at M/C Partners. Lori is the co-founder of venture capital firm Victress Capital, where she has led the growth of early to late-stage companies by identifying growth opportunities and developing strategies for successful outcomes. She received the Forever Duke award honoring individuals who advance the Duke ideal of knowledge in service to society. Lori said the name of the fund was extremely personal to her.
“If I could name one person who has had the most impact on my life from Duke, it would be Tony Brown. He modeled mentorship for me. Tony also really cared about you as a person. I was in one of his first classes he taught at Duke, an experience I will never forget. I wanted to honor him through this gift and I also wanted to encourage others who have been inspired by Tony to give back,” she said.
The Cashmans’ gift will boost graduate education through the Gillis S. and Lori Wood Cashman Fellowship Fund. The couple’s commitment of $325,000 will be matched by funds from The Duke Endowment Challenge in the amount of $325,000 to create a fund total of $650,000.
“The fellowship is important to the role that graduate education is to Sanford’s Strategic Priorities, as laid out by Dean Judith Kelley. Listening to the dean, Gillis and I saw the strategic importance of fellowship funds. We had already been giving towards a scholarship at the undergraduate level, so fellowship support was an extension of our support. Plus, the match from The Duke Endowment was compelling to double the impact of our gift,” Cashman said.
For Lori Cashman, this commitment brings her education full circle – back to her roots in public policy.
“Given that we live in a polarized society and civil discourse is eroding, I am an optimist that Duke is capable of leading the country and world through these headwinds. There are so many alumni having an impact in the world, and the students and faculty at Duke are the ones who will figure out how we move forward,” she said. “Sanford allows me to keep learning and growing, with opportunities to get involved and make a difference.”