Endowment Support Creates a Lasting Legacy
by Christina Johnson
Duke Gardens is a cherished haven for Andy and Suzanne Wheatcraft, dedicated supporters whose connection to gardens spans a lifetime. Raised in the concrete landscape of Baltimore, Andy’s early encounters with green spaces fueled his passion for horticulture, forestry and conservation. When Andy became a Duke student, the Gardens played a pivotal role in his life, not just as a place for reflection and study, but also as the serendipitous setting where he met Suzanne.
The Wheatcrafts have now made a commitment to fund an endowment through an estate gift, which will create a permanent source of funding to sustain the university partnerships and community engagement coordinator position at Duke Gardens. For years, the family set aside savings, knowing that one day they could be used to leave a legacy in a way that honors what is most important to them.
“For me, it’s so necessary and makes so much sense to plan for our future and the legacy that we want to leave,” says Andy Wheatcraft (MF’81). “Our primary assets are going to organizations that will continue forever and give back to the community and the world.”
Recognizing the profound impact of Duke Gardens on undergraduate students and community members alike, the Wheatcrafts reconsidered what was initially a smaller deferred gift and will instead establish an endowment, emphasizing the enduring importance of supporting this natural oasis. This decision reflects their belief in the Gardens’ ability to offer solace, educational opportunities and environmental awareness to future generations.
Andy is enormously thankful for the breadth of his Duke education and the doors that it opened for him. And from a young age, he has always believed in being generous to whatever extent is possible. The family’s commitment to education aligns with Duke Gardens’ mission and its programs, which served more than 2,650 Duke students and 5,800 schoolchildren last year alone.
Duke Gardens, free and accessible to all, stands as a testament to community connections and fosters a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world.
“Exposure to the Gardens can open the eyes of students to pathways for protecting the environment and caring about the natural world,” Wheatcraft says. “And there are so many different scientific pursuits, from biology to healthcare, that could be inspired by a visit to the Gardens.”
In a heartfelt tribute marking the 40th anniversary of their first date, Andy surprised Suzanne with a painting he commissioned of Duke Gardens, where they first met. Local artist Sally Sutton brought the idea to life. Suzanne, completely surprised by the thoughtful gesture, cherishes the painting not only for its beauty, but as a tangible representation of their shared history with the Gardens.
In reflecting on their philanthropic journey, Andy and Suzanne encourage potential donors to consider the profound joy that philanthropy can bring to their lives. Their story serves as an inspiring example of the transformative power of planned giving, supporting Duke Gardens not just for what it has meant to them over their lifetime, but for the myriad ways the Gardens will enhance the lives of future generations.