Edmund T. Pratt Jr. Gives Duke University $35 Million to Endow School of Engineering
DURHAM, N.C. -- Edmund T. Pratt Jr., the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer Inc., is giving $35 million to endow the Duke University School of Engineering, which will be named in his honor, university president Nannerl O. Keohane announced Sunday.
"What better thing to do with the resources one has than to help a great university to become even greater," Pratt said from his home in Port Washington, N.Y.
The gift is the second largest in Duke's history, surpassed only by the original gift by James B. Duke that transformed Trinity College into the university that bears his family's name. Duke created The Duke Endowment with a $40 million gift in 1924. He then left $67 million to the Charlotte-based charitable trust when he died in 1925. A total of $17 million from those two gifts was used to construct Duke's West Campus.
"How wonderfully appropriate that on the very weekend the university celebrates the 75th anniversary of James B. Duke's extraordinary philanthropy, Ed Pratt has made a gift that promises to catapult the Edmund T. Pratt Jr. School of Engineering into the ranks of the leading centers of engineering education and research," Keohane said in announcing the gift following action by the Duke Board of Trustees. "We are deeply grateful for his vision."
The board accepted the gift and the school's naming at its regular Fall meeting this weekend.
Although engineering studies at Duke date back to 1888 at Trinity College, the School of Engineering was organized in 1939. Today, the School of Engineering has a total of 108 faculty, 935 undergraduate students and 289 graduate students.
The school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in four engineering departments -- biomedical; civil and environmental; electrical and computer engineering; and mechanical engineering and materials sciences. The school also offers the Master of Engineering Management degree.
In addition to its departments, the school also houses numerous research centers, including the Engineering Research Center for Cardiovascular Technology, the Center for Cellular and Biosurface Engineering, the Center for Advanced Computing and Communications, the Design Automation Technology Center, the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics and Complex Systems and the Orthopedic Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering Center.
The gift from Pratt is the largest yet in the $1.5 billion Campaign for Duke that formally began exactly one year ago.
"This magnificent gift will provide the resources needed for our strategic plan to take Duke into the elite schools of engineering," said Kristina Johnson, who came from the University of Colorado this summer to become dean of the engineering school. "This plan emphasizes investing in graduate and undergraduate research at the interdisciplinary frontiers of medicine, business, natural and environmental sciences, all aimed at solving major global problems facing our health and environment."
Johnson said the Pratt endowment will be used to attract high-quality faculty, to fund graduate fellowships and to provide a stronger financial base for undergraduate financial aid.
The endowment will allow the school to enhance undergraduate education by improving the student-faculty ratio, expanding undergraduate research opportunities and augmenting the international honors program that enables engineering students to study abroad.
The funds also will enhance research in the school's departments, as well as such interdisciplinary research centers as the biomedical engineering research centers. And, the new endowment will enable the school to launch educational and research initiatives, such as the international master's degree program in telecommunications, Johnson said.
"As an early graduate of the engineering program, from nearly when it began, I have been proud to see the school continue to improve and rise to national leadership in critically important fields such as biomedical engineering," Pratt said. "The rapidly changing pace of technology and innovation that fuel our global economy require that tomorrow's engineering students have access to the best faculty, facilities and equipment. I feel privileged that I am in a position to help ensure that this can happen at Duke.
"Leadership is an important factor when making decisions to invest in a venture," said Pratt. "In Nan Keohane, Duke has a leader of exceptional ability who understands the importance of always striving for excellence. And I am impressed not only by the leadership (former dean) Earl Dowell gave to the school but by the remarkable scholarly and research accomplishments of its able and dynamic new dean, Kristina Johnson.
"I am also deeply honored to add my commitment to those of my friends J. B. Fuqua and Pete and Ginny Nicholas, who have been so generous in supporting Duke and whose gifts to the Fuqua School of Business and the Nicholas School of the Environment have helped them become among the best in the nation."
Johnson said Pratt "has always been a forward-looking leader, who unerringly supported investment in research as a cornerstone of his management philosophy and as the basis for bold new ventures.
"Equally important, Ed Pratt earned a well-deserved reputation not only as a talented and creative executive but as a humane leader whose concern for his employees made Pfizer among the most desirable corporations in which to work," Johnson said. "These are exactly the qualities our faculty seek to instill in our students and we believe Duke engineering students will be inspired by his example."
Pratt, 72, graduated from Duke in 1947 with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, magna cum laude. He immediately entered the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, receiving his MBA with honors in 1949.
He began his career as a salesman at IBM Corp. His career was interrupted for two years by the Korean War, when he served with the Navy in Charleston, S.C. He returned to IBM in 1954 and by 1962, he had risen to become controller of the IBM World Trade Corp., when he joined the Kennedy administration as assistant secretary of the Army for Financial Management.
He left government in 1964 to join Pfizer as corporate controller, rising through the ranks to become president in 1971 and chairman and CEO in 1972.
During his 20 years in that position, before retiring in 1992, Pratt saw Pfizer's annual revenue increase sevenfold, from $1 billion to nearly $7 billion. He also significantly increased Pfizer's global reach to include operations in 140 countries.
He was also active in business, civic and charitable affairs, so much so that then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo called him "a walking definition of civic responsibility."
Among Pratt's many awards was the 1986 Gantt Award by the American Management Association and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for his "distinguished achievement in management as a service to the community."
His charitable work has included leadership positions in the United Way, the Boys Clubs of America, the Hugh O'Brien Youth Foundation and the Girl Scouts.
He has also been an active contributor to higher education, his most recent major gift being $12 million in 1998 to Long Island University to fund new academic, computer and library facilities, increased recreational space and other improvements.
At Duke, Pratt served as a trustee from 1977 to 1988. He has also served on the board of the Fuqua School of Business, the Engineering Development Committee, the Capital Gifts Committee and the Leadership Gift Committee.
Upon his retirement from Pfizer, the company established in his honor at Duke the Pfizer Inc.-Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. University Professorship. In 1997, the university named the Pratt Commons of the Levine Science Research Center in his honor, following his $1 million gift to the center.
Pratt and his wife of 48 years, Jeannette, have two sons, Keith, and Randolf.