Gift Establishes Inaugural Presidential Distinguished Chair

Duke University School of Medicine Trent Semans BuildingA $5 million gift from an anonymous donor has established the first Presidential Distinguished Chair at Duke University. In accordance with the desires of the donor, the inaugural Presidential Distinguished Chair will go to a scholar of exceptional eminence in neuroscience or another field within science and technology in the Duke University School of Medicine. Duke Health will match the donor’s endowment with $5 million in expendable funds to support the chairholder’s research and scholarly activity.

The Duke Presidential Distinguished Chairs, a new class of endowed professorships, were created to maximize the university’s ability to recruit and retain exceptional faculty in a wide range of disciplines, including those aligned with the Duke Science and Technology (DST) initiative. DST is a university-wide research initiative aimed at addressing critical global challenges by advancing research and scholarship in the fields of computing, materials science, and body and brain resilience—capitalizing on the unprecedented scientific potential afforded by revolutionary advances in data science, genomic analysis, artificial intelligence, and other areas in recent decades.

The Presidential Distinguished Chairs program is supported by philanthropic commitments of at least $5 million in endowed funds. For each chair established in the Duke University School of Medicine, Duke Health will invest an additional $5 million in expendable funds to ensure that the faculty chairholder has the resources necessary to advance discovery at Duke.

“Solving the world’s most pressing challenges begins with attracting the very best people and providing them with the means to innovate. We created the Presidential Distinguished Chairs to advance our strategic commitment to empowering the boldest thinkers across the disciplines. We are profoundly grateful for the benefactor whose generosity will enable us to name our first Presidential Distinguished Professor.”

— Duke University President Vincent E. Price, PhD

The recipient of this inaugural Duke Presidential Distinguished Chair is yet to be named. The donor who established the chair did so to promote superb science and improve human life, and also to honor Chancellor for Health Affairs and President and CEO of the Duke University Health System A. Eugene Washington, MD, and his wife, Marie. The donor has requested that, upon Washington’s retirement or departure from Duke, the chair be named for him and Marie.

“We are deeply humbled and appreciative,” Chancellor Washington said. “This gift will help attract a visionary scientist to Duke and provide the secure research funding that will enable her or him to focus on discovery. Our philanthropic partners play a critical role in shaping the future of scientific knowledge.”

“This is an exciting day for the School of Medicine,” said School of Medicine Dean Mary E. Klotman, MD. “The Presidential Distinguished Chairs will give world-class researchers the resources and flexibility to be innovative, to explore ideas and new approaches, and to build fruitful collaborations. Those are the ingredients you need to make the discoveries that transform lives and improve human health.”


April 19, 2021

By Dave Hart