Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Awards $400,000 To the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States, made its debut today by awarding grants totaling $18.6 million to support the environment, medical research and the performing arts – including a $400,000 grant to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies – F&ES.

At Yale, the grant will establish the Doris Duke Environment and Natural Resource Fellowships to support 10 graduate students over the next two years, beginning next fall. The students will be working toward master’s degrees in applied conservation as well as management of natural resources and environmental systems, according to John C. Gordon, F&ES dean. Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment also received fellowship grants.

“The Doris Duke Fellowships will give us significant additional funds to attract the brightest and most dedicated students for training as environmental leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors,” Dean Gordon said. “We are extremely pleased that the Foundation selected the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies – the oldest forestry school in the nation – to receive one of its first grants.”

Doris Duke, scion of the family that endowed Duke University and the wealthiest woman in the United States at the time of her death in 1993, bequeathed the bulk of her estate to the Foundation. Based in New York City, the Foundation will award approximately $55 million in grants each year.

The environmental grants reflect Ms. Duke’s long-standing interest in conservation and ecology, said Joan Spero, Foundation president. Her will establishing the Foundation with assets exceeding $1.25 billion also specified that funds be given to support her “special interest in the preservation of wildlife, both flora and fauna, and other ecological endeavors.”

The Foundation today also awarded $5 million to complete the purchase of Sterling Forest, an environmentally sensitive parcel of open space on the border of New York and New Jersey. The property is a source of drinking water for 25 percent of New Jersey residents, provides habitats for many species, and offers recreational opportunities for the New York City region just 35 miles away.

The grant will enable the Open Space Institute and the Trust for Public Land to complete the purchase of 15,850 acres. The objective of this broad coalition of environmental groups is to prevent planned commercial development on the land and to create instead a public park with a mixture of pristine forest lands, historic sites such as the Appalachian Trail, and recreational facilities.

The combination of funding for the Sterling Forest together with the academic grants demonstrates the Foundation’s interest in working beyond traditional environmental preservation measures, Ms. Spero said. Initial grants also were awarded to three prominent dance companies, the Jazz at Lincoln Center program to help preserve the music of Duke Ellington, and to 10 young physicians conducting clinical research in cancer, heart disease, AIDS and sickle-cell anemia.

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