Duke Endowment grants $24 million to Davidson College for scholarship program

The Charlotte-based Duke Endowment on Thursday announced a $24 million grant to Davidson College that will expand a scholarship program that recruits students with “exceptional abilities” to the liberal arts school.

The grant is the fourth-largest donation in the college’s history, which dates to 1837. The school north of Charlotte enrolls about 1,800 students.

The endowment’s gift will expand the James B. Duke Scholars Program, providing full tuition to five students a year beginning with the class of 2025 — three scholars are in the class of 2022 — and making it one of Davidson’s top academic scholarships. The program aims to attract top students from around the globe.

Davidson counts a film score composer, a Princeton University dean, a top executive at Google and a World Trade Organization adviser among its past Duke scholars. The students take part in programs that sharpen their skills and develop their potential.

“The James B. Duke Scholars Program enables us to equip graduates to utilize their exceptional abilities in the context of what the world needs from them,” Davidson President Carol Quillen said in a statement. “We can build a cohort of top students from all backgrounds who learn with, and from, each other. The Duke Endowment and Davidson long have partnered in leveraging scholarships to recruit academically talented students and expand educational opportunities, knowing the return will exceed their investment.”

The foundation grant pushes a $425 million fundraising campaign that Davidson launched in 2014 past the $500 million mark with three months left in the campaign, the college said. Half of the money raised will pay for scholarships.

James Buchanan Duke was a North Carolina-born tobacco magnate who, with his brother Benjamin, started the power company that is now Duke Energy. Late in life, he became known as a philanthropist.

Just before his death in 1925, Duke created the Duke Endowment to support higher education, healthcare, children’s welfare and spiritual life. The endowment supports Davidson, Johnson C. Smith University, Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and Duke University. It also funds James B. Duke scholarships at Smith and Furman.

“The Duke Endowment is proud of its strong commitment to Davidson and its extraordinary students,” trustees chair Minor Shaw said in a statement. “This scholarship program will help the college provide further opportunities for top scholars to learn, innovate and realize their full potential, and we are pleased to be part of that mission.”

The endowment has distributed more than $3.7 billion in grants in the Carolinas since its founding.