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Who owns Duke University – Founding history of Duke University, United State.

The world of higher institutions are now revolving around research as the 20th century has saw some American universities serve as model for research universities around the world where Duke University is one.

Duke University is one of the private research universities in America with great founding history and vision. Duke admission being one of the most selective universities in United State, the institution has an overall acceptance rate of 5.7%.

In these article, I will be answering the question on: who owns Duke university?, Duke university founder, as well as walking you through the founding history, administration and how the name ‘Duke University’ came to light.

As we all know, the story of a university is not complete without the university owner, dream, vision and its founding history and revolution of the university.

So relax and read through as I unravel the owner of Duke university and it’s exciting rich historical background.

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Who is the Owner of Duke University, Durham?

The then Brown School (now Duke university), the institution was initially founded in 1938 by a Local Methodist and Quakers in the present-day city of, Trinity, Texas, United State.

In 1924, Duke University was officially created by a tobacco and electric power industrialist, James Buchanan Duke who through his generosity changed the institution name to ‘Duke University‘ in remembrance of his father, Washington Duke.

However, Duke university maintain historical affiliation with United Methodist Church but does not affiliate with or restricted with a particular religious group as it’s a nonsectarian and independent private institution.

Is Duke University, Durham Accredited?

Duke University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC), [a body charged with the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states] to award baccalaureate, masters, doctorate, and professional degrees.

Where is Duke University located?

Duke University is located in the serene city of Durham NC 27708, in North Carolina, United State.

Historical Name changes of Duke University

Duke have had many names since it’s establishment in 1838 due to some reason and change in managements.

In 1838, Duke was established as Brown Schoolhouse in Randolph County, North Carolina but was later renamed to Union Institute Academy in 1841 when North Carolina issued a charter before it was renamed to Normal College by the state of North Carolina in 1851.

In 1859, the school changed it’s name to Trinity College due to financial support from Methodist Church to reflect the new partnership with the Church.

Fast-forward to 1924, the school underwent another transformation as the trustee renamed Trinity College to Duke University in memorial of Buchanan Duke’s father Washington Duke who finance the school’s new location and funding through his philanthropy and to also separate the school from numbers of colleges and universities carrying the name ‘Trinity‘.

However, James Buchanan Duke continued from where his father stopped by establishing Duke Endowment (a charitable foundation) to charge the college with funds which fast-track the growth of the university.

Brief history on the Founding of Duke University

Duke University Logo

Duke University trace it’s origin back to 1838 when a small school called Brown’s Schoolhouse was created, a private subscription school in Randolph, North Carolina.

A group of Methodists and Quakers were granted authorization by the state of North Carolina in 1841 and Brown School became Union Institute Academy (Originally a preparatory school for young men).

The academy was authorized to run as a teaching college in 1851 and the school was renamed to Normal College.

In 1859, the college received a huge financial support and partnership from the Methodist Church, and to reflect the new partnership with the Methodist Church.

The college was renamed to Trinity (a doctrine of the church used to illustrate the three equal persons of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Braxton Craven who was the then principal and president of the college from 1842 to 1882, shortly before his death help create Cherokee Industrial School at Trinity College to westernize indigenous students (boys and young men from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee) even though it only lasted few years.

However, it is worth mentioning that Braxton Craven also enslave Black people including a number of faculty and trustee members ahead of the American Civil war in 1860.

John F. Crowell took over from Craven in 1887 and suggested the college move to the city to attract more students, faculty and financial support. The trustee agreed and Trinity moved to Durham in 1892 with help of a local tobacco tycoon, Washington Duke and Julian s. Carr who donated the amount of then $85,000 and 62 acres of land respectively.

Washington Duke late donated another $100,000 contributions in 1896, 1899, and 1900 each and requested the school start admitting women as a regular students making it a co-educational institution.

Carr’s support for Trinity College was recognized with a building to his name in the campus in 1930 but unfortunately in 2018. due to his toxic white race belief, his name was removed.

Fat-forward to 1924, Washington Duke son, James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment (a charity foundation) with $40 million trust fund. The fund was distributed to several needed places and institutions of which one of the big beneficiary is Trinity College.

William Preston Few, the then president of Trinity College who went ahead to became first president of Duke university proposed the college change it’s name and wad agreed by the trustees as they settle to rename the college to Duke University in memorial of James B. Duke’s father, Washington Duke to honor the family’s philanthropy and distinguish the college from numbers of institution carrying the name “Trinity”.

And finally, the college became Duke University in 1924 till these moment.

According to DHRC, the school’s 1920’s policy excluded Blacks from admission and access to some certain facilities in the campus. However, Duke university admitted her firs Black gradate students in 1961 and undergraduate students in 1963.

Julian Abele, a Black architect who desugn the architecture of Duke Uiversity was largely overlooked during his lifetime due to being a Black. However, In 2016, main quad on West Campus was renamed Abele Quad in his honor.

Duke university has changed in many ways since it’s founding and continue to tackle issues of racism, sexism, and other inclusion and equity challenges. The university have also grown to have a numbers of schools under it as backed up by facts and figure from Duke facts.

Duke university have also been able to meet the university aim: “to foster a lively relationship between knowledge and faith; to advance learning in all lines of truth; to defend scholarship against all false notions and ideals; to develop a love of freedom and truth; to promote a respectful spirit of dialogue and understanding; to discourage all partisan and sectarian strife; and to further the advancement of knowledge in service to society.


As we look to wrap up our journey of Duke University owner, we’ve had a look at its evolution from its early days as Brown School founded by a local Methodist and Quakers to its recent days as Duke University created by James Buchanan Duke.

We’ve examined its ownership, accreditation, location, change in name and the historical background of Duke university.

This private research institution’s focus on accessible and affordable education, academic excellence, and innovative research shines through.

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Founder and editor at AcademyPathways. Habeeb is a National Diploma(ND) holder of Statistics graduated from the highly esteemed The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Nigeria. With over a decade of experience in the education sector and career setting, Habeeb provides first hand information on educational and career related topics.

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