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Duke Endowment awards Riley Institute $1 million grant

Last updated January 14, 2014

By News administrator

The Riley Institute is named for former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, a 1954 graduate of the university.

The Riley Institute is named for former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, a 1954 graduate of the university.

GREENVILLE, S.C.—The Duke Endowment of Charlotte, N.C., has awarded Furman University a $1 million grant to support the work of the Riley Institute at Furman, a highly respected public policy organization devoted to driving significant social and economic progress in South Carolina.

The $1 million grant will go toward establishing a permanent endowment for the Riley Institute, whose wide array of public policy programs benefits not only Furman students and faculty but also people across the state and region.  The Institute is named for former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, a 1954 Furman graduate.

“The Duke Endowment has watched the Institute develop, and supports its focus on education, diversity and critical issues impacting the state,” says Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, The Duke Endowment Trustee who chairs the Committee on Educational Institutions. “It is another substantive way in which Furman can involve students, faculty and local leaders to further the public conversation.”

Furman officials said the university has to date raised nearly $4 million to fund the Riley Institute endowment, which was part of the recently completed “Because Furman Matters” fundraising campaign.  Fundraising for the Riley endowment, which began just a year ago, will continue.

“Furman is grateful to The Duke Endowment for providing this generous grant, which will support one of the university’s most dynamic and visible programs,” said interim president Carl Kohrt.  “The Riley Institute has impacted thousands of people and organizations across South Carolina during the past decade and a half, and a permanent endowment will ensure that it continues to do so.  Such support is also a testament to the life and continued work of Dick Riley, who has meant so much to South Carolina and the nation.”

The Riley Institute, now beginning its 15th year, works in the areas of public education, economic development, leadership, diversity and other issues critical to the state’s progress. Flagship initiatives include the Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative, which numbers more than 1,300 prominent state leaders among its graduates, and a groundbreaking study of how public education can best prepare South Carolina’s students for success in the hypercompetitive global marketplace.

More recently, the Riley Institute partnered with KnowledgeWorks Foundation and school districts in Colleton and Clarendon counties to open two New Tech high schools, funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The Riley Institute is working with KnowledgeWorks to build a network of New Tech schools throughout the state as part of an intentional economic development strategy focused on preparing students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

The Institute has also sponsored major conferences on women in politics, the environment, politics and the media, the American Congress, China and the European Union.  Keynote speakers have included Senators John Glenn and Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, journalist Tom Brokaw, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

In addition to sending Furman undergraduates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference each year and involving them in the Institute’s many programs, Riley sponsors free summer programs for high school and middle school government teachers (Teachers of Government) and a select group of rising high school seniors (Emerging Public Leaders).

“I have a longstanding appreciation and respect for The Duke Endowment’s philanthropy in North and South Carolina,” said Riley Institute director Don Gordon. “We are immensely gratified by this mark of confidence in our work and for the opportunities this gift makes possible.”

Based in Charlotte, N.C., The Duke Endowment is one of the largest private foundations in the Southeast.  Its annual grantmaking is focused on rural United Methodist churches in North Carolina, organizations working in health care and child care in the Carolinas, and four schools of higher education. The foundation shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but they are all separate organizations.

For more information, visit the Riley Institute website, or call 864-294-3546 or e-mail

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