Mary Duke Biddle specified in the foundation’s charter that half of its funding go to Duke University. Her family was instrumental in bringing its predecessor, Trinity College, to Durham, and their philanthropy supported Trinity’s development into a thriving university named for her grandfather, Washington Duke. As the leadership of the foundation has passed to subsequent generations of family members and trustees, this relationship with Duke has been carefully cultivated to ensure that the foundation’s funding honors the family’s legacy while assisting the university in achievingits goals.


Together, foundation trustees and the university’s leadership work together each year to identify where MDBF’s awards can have significant impact. The arts have been a central focus, with consistent support for the music, dance, theater, film, and art and art history programs as well as for the Nasher Museum of Art and Duke Performances, the university’s performing arts presenting organization. In addition, grants assist the continued development of the renowned Duke Gardens, named by Mrs. Biddle in honor of her mother. In Duke’s world-class medical school and hospital, the foundation supports student scholarships and Arts and Health at Duke, a pathbreaking program that makes art available to patients and staff at Duke Hospital. In recent years, the foundation created the Duke University Special Projects Initiative to fund innovative, collaborative projects that demonstrate potential for having strategic impact at the university.


Proposals from Duke are coordinated through the Office of Foundation Relations in Duke’s University Development office. The foundation does not accept proposals from Duke faculty or staff outside of this process.