Duke Trustees Approve Construction, Naming of New Genetics Center at Duke Marine Lab

May 23, 2012

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084, tdlucas@duke.edu

DURHAM, NC – The Duke University Board of Trustees have approved construction of the new $6.75 million Orrin Pilkey Marine Sciences and Conservation Genetics Center at the Duke Marine Lab.

Groundbreaking for the approximately 12,000-square-foot facility will take place in a public ceremony July 30 at the Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C.

At their May meeting, the university trustees also approved the request of donors Philip “Flip” and Kathy Froelich to name the new center in honor of Orrin Pilkey, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Geology.

Pilkey, a longtime faculty member at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, is one of America’s most widely cited coastal geologists and was a mentor of Flip Froelich.

The new Pilkey Marine Sciences and Conservation Genetics Center will provide state-of-the-art facilities where faculty and students can apply new genetic tools and techniques toward understanding marine systems and helping solve problems in the marine environment.

The center will feature a molecular biology research laboratory, a teaching lab for molecular-based coursework, and office space and meeting areas for faculty, students, research associates and visiting scientists.  The environmentally sustainable building will be designed with sensitivity to the changing coastal environment.

The center is anticipated to open in fall 2013.

In 2011, the Oak Foundation, an international organization that commits its resources to address issues of global social and environmental concern, including global climate change and the conservation of marine resources, provided a $4.5 million challenge gift to support construction of the new building.

The Froelichs provided the first leadership contribution to take advantage of Oak Foundation’s challenge when they made a $1.5 million gift by establishing a charitable remainder unitrust to benefit the new facility. They plan to continue to build the fund over time.

For Flip Froelich, T’68, a chemical oceanographer, the decisions to support and name the new building “was easy.”

“My ‘foundings’ as a marine environmental chemist began as a senior at Duke, when I took marine geology classes with Orrin Pilkey at the Marine Lab and went to sea with his group twice. I joined him on his sabbatical to Puerto Rico the next year, where I ended up getting a master’s degree in marine sciences before going to the University of Rhode Island for my PhD,” Froelich said. “This is our way of regifting back to Duke and to the Marine Lab the opportunities that were given to me when I was a student there.”

The Froelichs worked closely with Duke staff to establish the charitable remainder unitrust.

Froelich, who graduated from Duke with a bachelor of science in chemistry, is a member of the board of visitors of the Nicholas School of the Environment, of which the Marine Lab is a part.

“Inspiration and leadership by the Oak Foundation and by Kathy and Flip Froelich make the new center possible,” said Marine Lab Director Cindy Lee Van Dover. “Their investment in this research infrastructure comes at a time when marine research is no longer a luxury but an imperative.

“The Marine Lab has not seen a new research building constructed since the 1970s,” Van Dover noted. “The new center will be home to faculty research groups that use the latest molecular tools to understand the ecology of our oceans and coasts, and will give Duke and the Nicholas School much- needed room to expand our marine research programs and provide our faculty scientists and their students with state-of- the-art and environmentally sensitive research spaces.”

To learn more about additional funding opportunities for the new Pilkey Center, contact the Nicholas School Office of External Affairs at (919) 613-8003.