Giving to Duke

An $85,000 donation and a gift of 62.5 acres of land. That’s what it took to move Duke University from rural North Carolina to Durham in 1892. Then, Duke was Trinity College, a small liberal arts school born out of a tiny schoolhouse run by Methodists and Quakers, and Durham was a New South town riding the crest of a tobacco boom. Find your first destination.

Today, Duke is a world-class research university and Durham is the City of Medicine, a tribute to its prominence in the healthcare industry, and a rising star among U.S. cities. A close relationship between the two, built on a steady, powerful exchange of knowledge and ideas, has been key to their individual successes locally and globally. The partnerships that have been forged span research, the arts, entrepreneurship, sports, the environment and more. As Duke President Vincent E. Price has said: “Duke wouldn’t be Duke without Durham, and Durham wouldn’t be Durham without Duke.”

For the university, an identity intertwined with Durham’s means continuously redefining and expanding beyond the bounds of East, West and Central campuses in line with its commitment to knowledge in the service of society. Read on for some highlights featuring films, bees, okra, history, choreography, DNA, homeruns and an iconic red bridge.


Originally built in 1948 to manufacture Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company cigarettes, the newly renovated Chesterfield on Main Street re-opened officially in December and is now home to several Duke labs and offices, which occupy almost half of the airy 286,000-square-foot building.

The labs are run by Duke’s School of Medicine, the Pratt School of Engineering and the Nicholas School of the Environment, and are ground zero for worldchanging, collaborative research in the life sciences and technology.

Think along the lines of developing new markers and predictors for Alzheimer’s, cancer and autism, as well as generating data from DNA and RNA sequencing to advance projects focused on finding genetic mutations that cause those conditions. That’s the kind of work the Duke Center for Genomic and Computational Biology, a joint effort between the School of Medicine and the Office of the Provost, is doing in its labs at the Chesterfield.

Or how Duke Biomedical Engineering’s Bioengineering Research Initiative to Develop Global Entrepreneurs (BRiDGE) is providing lab access, mentoring and internships at BRiDGE-related companies for biomedical engineering faculty, graduate students and alumni trying to turn an idea into a startup. Born from a gift from a Pratt alumnus, BRiDGE currently hosts companies that are creating next-generation solutions like personalized cancer therapies and 3D printed surgical implants.

Duke’s investment in the Chesterfield is the next step in Duke and Durham’s partnership focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, which bring to life the university’s commitment to knowledge in the service of society. Look around downtown Durham and you’ll see evidence of that in every direction. There’s the Bullpen, where Duke I&E serves as an umbrella and entrepreneurship resource center for students, faculty and alumni who are creating social impact by crafting creative solutions to complex problems; the Duke Clinical Research Institute, which has a mission to improve patient care through innovative clinical research; and Smith Warehouse, home to Duke Global Education and DukeEngage, which collaborate with Duke I&E to offer Duke in Silicon Valley, Duke in Chicago and DukeEngage-Detroit.

PRO TIP: When you’re in the Chesterfield, look up and enjoy the stunning skylight!


One of the best ways to appreciate Durham, its community and its history is through the eye-catching murals that have bloomed on walls around town. There’s one on Morris Street depicting the city’s civil rights history with a focus on lesser known events like the sit-ins at Royal Ice Cream Parlor and the story of Julian Abele, the African American architect who designed much of Duke’s campus. Another is called “Angel of Spring,” a floral-themed piece commemorating the rejuvenation of the Ninth Street area. “Wall of Hope,” a celebration of life and community empowerment, was part of a fundraising effort for East Durham’s Threshold Clubhouse, a nonprofit organization supporting adults who struggle with mental illness.View the locations for each mural to visit.

There have been so many murals in the last couple of years that a movement — Mural Durham — has formed to archive them and encourage even more creativity. The Mural Durham movement began in late 2016 by several Duke student leaders in duARTS, DUU VisArts, and Arts Annex Advisory Board in connection with Duke Student Affairs/UCAE, Duke Office of Durham & Regional Affairs, Burch Avenue Neighborhood Association, artstigators and Duke Arts. It has grown into a grassroots collaboration, with local partners including Nasher Museum of Art at Duke UniversityPreservation DurhamMuseum of Durham HistoryCity of Durham’s Cultural and Public Arts Program and Discover Durham.

Mural Durham’s artwork is even expanding beyond walls. This spring, the project commissioned local artists to transform eight decommissioned satellite dishes on the grounds of the Duke Arts Annex to create a one-of-a-kind community park that’s open from sunrise to sunset.

PRO TIP: Check out this handy guide to learn about the who, when and what of each downtown mural, or visit the Durham Visitor Info Center to pick up a passport to downtown's murals.


Everything the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) does is built on the belief that the shortest distance between two people is a story. Created in 1989 through an endowment from the Lyndhurst Foundation, CDS was the country’s first institution dedicated to documentary expression as a mode of inquiry and catalyst for social change. Founders William Chafe, Robert Coles, Alex Harris and Iris Tillman Hill viewed the center, located just off Duke’s East Campus, as a bridge between university and local communities and experiences through the pursuit of the documentary arts. The connection is stronger than ever today, with CDS spearheading events and programming. Some examples include:

  • Its signature Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, an international festival that brings thousands of people to Durham every April to enjoy one of the premier showcases for nonfiction cinema. Full Frame also offers free screening series in the summer and winter.
  • Courses for undergraduate and continuing education students, most of whom conduct documentary projects in collaboration with Durham or other Triangle-area communities.
  • Programs like Literacy Through Photography and Full Frame’s School of Doc, Teach the Teachers and Youth Screening, which involve students and teachers from Durham Public Schools.
  • The Documentary Diversity Project, which supports young documentary artists from Durham, as well as a post-M.F.A. fellow in the documentary arts. The project is made possible in part by a grant from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.
  • Free exhibitions at CDS galleries and activities like the Audio Under the Stars summer listening parties and the Fresh Docs works-in-progress film series with the Southern Documentary Fund.


The Duke Campus Farm (DCF) is a small but mighty educational endeavor with a mission: Catalyzing positive change in the food system, and providing local and sustainable produce to the Duke and Durham communities.

Nestled along the edge of Duke Forest, the farm grew over 12,500 pounds of organic produce in 2017. While its main client is Duke Dining, its Community Supported Agriculture program is also increasingly popular with area residents who enjoy a bounty that includes tomatoes, okra and eggplants in the summer, and kale, sweet potatoes, carrots and Swiss chard in the fall.

DCF also offers for-credit courses across a range of disciplines, public workshops, tours and field trips, and internships and work opportunities for Duke students.

The farm will soon expand to a new location on Central Campus, making it even more accessible in the upcoming seasons.

PRO TIP: Want to help with planting, weeding, harvesting and more? DCF’s community workdays are a great opportunity to get down and dirty for a good cause. You may even be rewarded with flowers fresh from the fields in the summer! Check their Facebook page for details.


Photos 1 and 2 by Alex Boehner.

Every summer, hundreds of modern dance artists and students from around the world converge at Duke and Durham for the preeminent American Dance Festival (ADF). The students explore possibilities through core summer programs at the ADF School (and are shuttled around in strikingly colorful buses), while performers take the stage in seven venues.

ADF was founded in 1934 in Bennington, Vermont, by choreographers Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. It moved to Durham more than four decades ago, choosing Duke as its new home over nearly 50 other invitations from all around the country, “in part because of North Carolina’s demonstrated enthusiasm for the performing arts,” said ADF Executive Director Jodee Nimerichter. Keep your adventure going.

On opening night this year, Durham mayor Steve Schewel said the ADF had an $8 million economic impact on the city in 2017, with some 21,000 people drawn to dance events.

Other impressive numbers from the 85th season of the American Dance Festival, which ran from June to July at Duke, include: 10 world premieres, 14 debuts, 26 companies and choreographers, and 53 performances from companies from Canada, China, Israel and the United States.

2018 was the first year ADF used the new Rubenstein Arts Center for classes and performances. Also this year, Duke and American Ballet Theatre (ABT) announced a three year partnership that will begin in January 2019.

The wide-ranging, immersive partnership includes ABT’s first appearances in North Carolina since 1969, a two-week ABT Studio Company residency at Duke each year for three years, and monthly master classes for students in the Duke Dance Program led by instructors from the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. Together with the continuing partnership with ADF, this residency will position Duke as a leader in dance as it recruits its first class of students in the new M.F.A. in dance.


The Office of Durham and Regional Affairs (DARA) has expanded and deepened Duke’s engagement with Durham Public Schools, the city of Durham, local neighborhoods and nonprofits, and the region at large over the past 10 years, building on the work of the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership.

Created in 2008 by the Board of Trustees, DARA oversees a number of programs that advance community goals, with a special focus on local youth, K-12 education and economic development.

  • Duke students have myriad opportunities to engage through DARA, including America Reads/America Counts, which has been sending Duke tutors into local schools and nonprofits to work on math and reading for the last 20 years.
  • The Visions program takes Durham public schools teachers to Mexico to learn more about the Latino student and family experience, and 12 neighborhood partnerships focus on affordable homeownership, educational achievement, youth outreach and quality health care.
  • Duke Doing Good lets Duke employees make a gift in a variety of ways. During the 2016-17 campaign, a total of $579,616 was raised. The money supported 56 organizations, 12 neighborhoods, nine schools and four North Carolina counties.

Then there’s the DARA-sponsored regional qualifier for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Every year, dozens of champion spellers from elementary and middle schools across Durham and Orange counties gather to compete for the regional title. The champion and his/her family then get an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in National Bee Week. That’s pretty C-O-P-A-C-E-T-I-C.


Through all seasons, Sarah P. Duke Gardens is one of the most beloved attractions in the area. For Durhamites, it’s the go-to destination for picnics, strolls, gardening inspiration and summer concerts. Duke students flock there to socialize and study for exams; couples plan weddings among flowers and trees; the shaded benches provide respite for patients at Duke Health. Its impeccably curated flower terraces, iconic red bridge, cherry blossom-lined paths and historic fountain feature in thousands of Instagram posts from visitors near and far.

But Duke Gardens isn’t just a beautiful spot. Initially made possible by a $20,000 gift in 1934 from Sarah P. Duke, widow of one of the university’s founders, Benjamin N. Duke, it’s also a leader in horticultural artistry, conservation and sustainability, and innovative programs for adults, children and students.  

PRO TIP: Check for seasonal programs like concerts in the summer, plant sales in spring and fall, orchid and mum festivals in fall, family activity fairs in winter and traditional Japanese tea ceremonies year-round.


The 10,000-seat Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) is one of the most picturesque in the country, complete with a snorting bull inspired by the movie “Bull Durham” and an old-school manual scoreboard at the base of a 32-foot-high wall in left field affectionately known as “The Blue Monster.”

Thanks to an agreement between Duke Baseball and DBAP, Blue Devil fans get to enjoy a hot dog on a warm spring night and watch their favorite team hit a home run through 2022.

“This is a formative moment for Duke Baseball,” head coach Chris Pollard said in 2015, when the agreement was last renewed. “We’ve always enjoyed a strong relationship with the Durham Bulls and a good relationship is now a great relationship.”

And it’s been growing with time. The 2018 Blue Devils set program records for wins in a season — both overall and in the ACC — while advancing to the first Super Regional in program history. The team also celebrated seven Major League Baseball draft selections and five Blue Devils earning All-ACC honors. The grand slam of achievements was acknowledged by Mayor Schewel, who proclaimed the week of June 18, 2018, Duke Baseball Week in Durham.

The team also hosted a clinic with the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development in May, and partners with The Miracle League of the Triangle, which provides children with special needs the opportunity to play baseball, and the Long Ball Program, an inner city baseball program for young men ages 13-18.

Enjoy some moments from the 2018 season.

PRO TIP: Bull City pride and Bull Devil pride also intersect on the football field, where Duke Football is offering season tickets at a discounted rate for members of the Durham community through the 277 Club, named after the area’s 277XX zip codes. Go Duke!


For more than a century, Duke and Durham have continuously redefined what we think of when we imagine the typical southern town. Together, Duke and Durham are pushing the boundaries of knowledge, service and community into a singular destination full of unforgettable moments for residents and visitors alike.

As Duke expands its partnership with Durham for generations to come, your support is needed to continue the vitality and success of their joint vision. Help Duke lead the way in becoming the premier university of the future with your continued support of the transformation of its campuses.

Make a gift to Duke in support of one of these areas.


We’re more than a campus in Durham; we are each of you. Only through your support can we continue to save lives, discover treatments and cures, reinvent education, and anchor communities around the world. Our fiscal year ends on June 30 – please make your gift today.