From our Leaders
As the 1918 flu pandemic subsided, Dr. Watson Rankin, a key state health official, considered the untimely deaths of nearly 14,000 North Carolinians and recognized that the state’s health care system badly needed upgrading. As an original Trustee of The Duke Endowment, he is credited with persuading James B. Duke to dedicate a portion of his philanthropic gifts to health care. A hospital construction boom ensued. The crisis revealed what needed to be done.
As today’s pandemic slowly recedes, history teaches us how instructive it can be to look back and ask: What did we learn? How can we improve? In this annual report, we pose that question to some of the people within our grantmaking networks who have inspired us most over the past year — heroic grantee partners and their clients, people who worked in the trenches of the fight against COVID-19, helping their neighbors and communities by providing food, promoting vaccinations, offering counseling or simply keeping public areas safely sanitized.
America has lost more than 1 million souls to COVID-19, including more than 24,000 in North Carolina and more than 17,000 in South Carolina. This tragedy would have seemed unthinkable a few short years ago. As we all work to regain normalcy, the Endowment would like to take a moment to consider the everyday heroes of the pandemic. What did they learn from their work and the personal challenges they endured? What can we learn from their perseverance, determination and continued optimism? At a time when talk of gun violence, soaring inflation and war have joined the “bad news” of COVID-19, we hope you will find, as we do, a sense of hope and inspiration from their example, and from the example set by countless others like them across the Carolinas each day.
We faced a host of challenges in 2021. Even as vaccinations spread and hospitalization rates fell, the impact of COVID-19 remained devastating. Amid all the struggles, however, we at The Duke Endowment have been inspired by the will and determination countless individuals have shown to keep their families safe, their communities healthy and their organizations together. We hope you will find, as we have, a shared sense of hope and inspiration from these stories.