Duke Celebrates the Life of Edmund T. Pratt Jr.

When 17-year-old Edmund T. Pratt Jr. arrived on campus 58 years ago
and first saw Duke Chapel, he said he thought he was going to heaven.
University leaders, faculty, students and family members gathered in the
towering Gothic church Nov. 1 and celebrated the life of the retired
businessman and philanthropist who died in September.

"Duke University is a better and more renowned institution because of his
example, his stewardship, his love and his gifts," said Duke President
Nannerl O. Keohane. "And the world itself is a better place because Ed
Pratt is part of it."

Pratt graduated from Duke with a degree in engineering in 1947. He went
on to earn an MBA at the Wharton School of Business, served in the Navy
during the Korean War, joined the Kennedy administration as assistant
secretary of the Army for financial management and eventually went on to
become chairman and chief executive officer of pharmaceutical giant
Pfizer Inc.

In 1999, Pratt donated $35 million to Duke’s school of engineering, which
became the Edmund T. Pratt Jr. School of Engineering.

"He gave of himself not in order to receive thanks or praise or honors but
out of an old fashioned sense of conviction – the kind of conviction that
animates all good deeds," Keohane said at the service led by The Rev.
William H. Willimon, "He was convinced that one person could make a
difference and should; and so, of course, he did."

Kristina M. Johnson, dean of the Pratt School, said the school’s
benefactor was a great man who humbly said he was "just plain lucky."
"I know we are all the lucky ones to have had such a special person’s
presence grace our lives," Johnson said. "Ed’s legacy lives on in so many
ways and in particular in the lives of thousands of alumni who will be
known for ever more as Pratt graduates. Thanks Ed. You’re truly

Senior Kyle C. Smith, a biomedical engineering major who has a Pratt
Fellowship, said the school’s students are honored to carry the Pratt
name as they move forward in life.

"Mr. Pratt was a delightful, generous and remarkable person by all
accounts and cared deeply for the university and the curious young minds
here," said Smith, who met Pratt at a lunch for Pratt Fellows.

"His generosity and dedication to the school has endowed it with a
promise of continued growth and excellence in research and scholarship.
We are his legacy," Smith said, addressing the students attending the
memorial service. "Be honored to attend a school bearing the name of a
man with such vitality, intellectual curiosity and creative and energetic

Peter M. Nicholas, founder and chairman of Boston Scientific Corp., and
university benefactor for whom the Nicholas School of the Environment
and Earth Sciences is named, said, "Ed left indelible marks on everybody
and everything he came in contact with."

"Remarkable for his surprising humility, Ed was uncomplicated. He
believed in the old fashioned virtue of hard work. He was always
preoccupied with trying to make things better. Ed was a builder. He was
honest, decent, straightforward. As they say, Ed walked the talk. He was
also an idealist but he was realistic, pragmatic. Â…

"He believed that people were at their best when they worked in an
environment that was open, fair and a fun place to be. He was ambitious,
high-charging, full of energy all his life, but always on behalf of others;
rarely for himself. He was more like a plow horse and a show horse. He
got things done."

Pratt died of cancer Sept. 5 cancer at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center in New York. He went to Duke as a naval officer trainee.
"I got on this Navy bus and we went through all these woods," he recalled
in a 1999 interview. "And then we turned this corner, and I could see up
the street to this chapel. And I thought 'My God, I'm going to heaven!' And
it's been that way ever since. Duke has been like a heaven for me."