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Duke Launches Engineering Scholars Program with $15M Gift

Support from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation will establish a new undergraduate program focused on leadership, service, and business and entrepreneurship at the Pratt School of Engineering

A. James Clark

Duke University has received $15 million from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation to establish a new undergraduate program focused on leadership, service, and business and entrepreneurship at the Pratt School of Engineering, President Vincent E. Price announced Monday.

The endowment is the single largest gift to Duke Engineering in support of an undergraduate scholarship program. By providing funding and enrichment opportunities to promising students with significant financial need, the A. James Clark Scholars program will expand access to Duke’s nationally recognized engineering education and create a new generation of entrepreneurial engineering leaders.

“Duke University offers a transformative undergraduate experience, and the Clark Scholars program will help us open the doors even wider to those opportunities,” Price said. “We are enormously grateful for this gift, which will advance our broader commitments to create global leaders in technological and scientific discovery.”

The Clark Scholars program honors the legacy and values of the late A. James Clark, a noted engineer, businessman and philanthropist who never forgot that his business successes began with an engineering scholarship at the University of Maryland. Clark Scholars at Duke will participate in dedicated service-learning experiences, business courses and leadership training, as well as one-on-one mentorship and enrichment seminars throughout their four years. They will also learn how to translate their ideas into meaningful impact through coursework and a focused summer program in entrepreneurship and management.

“Technology is profoundly changing the world, and engineering leaders with business savvy and entrepreneurial mindsets will undoubtedly shape our future,” said Ravi V. Bellamkonda, Vinik Dean of Engineering at Duke. “The Clark Scholars program will make the outstanding opportunities at Duke Engineering more accessible to a diverse population of students. It will open the path for bright people to pursue entrepreneurial approaches with the potential to transform not only their lives, but the lives of others as they design solutions for the world’s greatest challenges.”

The Clark Scholars program will be a signature component of Duke Engineering’s initiative to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset among all its undergraduate students. Scholars will join classmates from engineering and across Duke in participating in courses, workshops, grant competitions and other opportunities offered through the new Entrepreneurship @ Duke Engineering program, a collaboration with the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship initiative. 

Courtney Clark Pastrick '77, board chairman of the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, knows first-hand the value of a Duke education.

"My dad always talked about the transformative impact a scholarship had on his life. At the Foundation, we want to ensure that generations of students are not limited by their financial status but propelled by their potential and promise," Pastrick said. "As an alumna, I am particularly proud that Duke University is part of A. James Clark Scholars family of institutions."

Ten Clark Scholars will be selected each year based on financial need, academic accomplishments, engagement in engineering and leadership skills. They will receive support over four years to help offset loans, work-study and summer earnings requirements, allowing them greater freedom to participate in unpaid service, extracurricular and internship opportunities.

The first cohort of scholarship recipients will be selected from the Class of 2022. Duke University will become the 10th Clark Scholars campus, joining The George Washington University, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins University, The University of Maryland, University of Pennsylvania, Stevens Institute of Technology, Vanderbilt University, The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

“We are honored to partner with Duke University to establish the Clark Scholars program as part of our commitment to building the pipeline of future engineers,” said Joe Del Guercio, president and CEO of the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation. “We are particularly excited about the entrepreneurial focus at Duke; Mr. Clark believed that the best engineers also developed strong business acumen.”

Inspired by its founders’ belief in the power of hard work, the A. James & Alice. B Clark Foundation invests to help those with a drive to achieve, seeking out grantees that build concrete connections between effort and opportunity. The foundation focuses its investments in four core areas: engineering studies, D.C. education, D.C. community and veterans support.