Pratt Honors Donors; Celebrates Campaign for Duke

The Pratt School of Engineering Feb. 27-28 celebrated the successes of its eight-year Campaign for Duke and honored some of the philanthropists whose generosity made it possible to nearly triple the school’s teaching and research space, increase its faculty by 30 percent and set the stage for a 20 percent addition to its undergraduate student body.

In all, the school raised $210.2 million since the start of the fund-raising drive in 1996, topping its goal by 24 percent. The largest single gift, totaling $35 million, came in October 1999 from Edmund T. Pratt Jr., the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer Inc., who died in 2002.

“His transforming gift to the school which bears his name was truly that,” said Dean Kristina M. Johnson, who joined the engineering school four months before Pratt’s gift was announced. “In the four years since his magnificent gift, the school cracked the top 20 rankings, tripled its research expenditures and its diversity. Without that founding gift we would not be where we are today.”

Edward M. Reefe, chair of the Engineering Board of Visitors, said the generosity of many people allowed the engineering school to turn its “outrageous ambitions” into “outrageous realities.”

“I don’t believe anyone in their wildest dreams could have imagined what has happened over the past eight years,” he told celebrants gathered at the Washington Duke Inn. “It’s been truly phenomenal.”

The Pratt family was among five benefactors recognized at a special luncheon of the Board of Visitors, which timed its Spring meeting to coincide with the university’s celebration of the conclusion of the Campaign for Duke. A record $2.36 billion was raised for the entire university, the fifth largest in American higher education history and the largest for a university in the South, according to figures compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
On hand to celebrate the Pratt gift and the successful completion of the fund-raising drive were Nancy Pratt, Pratt’s widow; one of his sons, Keith, and his wife Terry; and Nancy Pratt’s daughter, Kate Ruhf.

Also honored at the luncheon were Patricia and Michael Fitzpatrick, for whom the Fitzpatrick Center for Photonics and Communications Systems is named; Lucille and Edwin L. Jones Jr., long-time Duke and Pratt School benefactors; Jeffrey N. Vinik, who donated $5 million to the school in December 1999; and Mary and Harold L. (Spike) Yoh Jr., Duke alumni who are major contributors of time and funds to the school and university.

“Growing up in this family I always heard how important it was to give back, to get involved and to make a difference in the world,” said Harold L. Yoh III, also a Duke engineering alumnus and current member of the Board of Visitors. “Duke is a great example of how both my parents give back and get involved and make a difference. Mom and Dad are always willing to give their time, energy and effort, and yes, money to help out Duke University and Duke engineering. So I am here today very proud, Mary and Spike Yoh, by saying thank you for everything you have done for Duke engineering.”

The weekend concluded Saturday night with Pratt joining the rest of the university in celebration. Pratt’s part of the program included a Mission Impossible theme and a video of CIEMAS being built; tuxedoed and gowned named chairs and faculty scholars; and nearly 125 Pratt students representing the Pratt Fellows program, Duke Robotics Club, the Formula SAE Race Car group, the Smart House and students from the Devices for Individuals with Disabilities course. Undergraduate students taking the Photonic and Electronic Design Projects class designed and put on a laser light show.

The weekend actually began Thursday night, Feb. 26, when Associate Dean Linda Franzoni hosted a dinner with Pratt students and members of the Board of Visitors. Ozey Horton, a board member and chair of its Student Affairs Committee, said later that he was encouraged by his talks with students and felt a growing sense of community among the students and faculty.

University President Nannerl O. Keohane was honored by the board at the start of its regular meeting the next day. Keohane is stepping down as president at the end of June after leading Duke for 11 years.

The board’s seven committees met Most of Friday morning, and in the afternoon, Professors Craig Henriquez and Larry Carin briefed the board of their latest research. Henriquez, associate professor of Biomedical Engineering, is working with a team of engineers, neurobiologists and neurosurgeons to develop mind-controlled robotic limbs. Carin, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is developing techniques to detect landmines and unexploded ordnance. Two Pratt seniors, Sumit Shaw and Whitney Eriksson, closed the session by discussing their experiences at Duke.

Astronaut Ellen Ochoa, a veteran of four space shuttle flights and electrical engineer with a Ph.D. from Stanford, spoke to the board and guests Friday night in the Bryan Center. She spoke earlier in the day to a large audience of students and faculty at Love Auditorium in the Levine Science Research Center. (See related story).