Paul G. Duke was a remarkable businessman and philanthropist. He evolved his Miami County-based Duke Garden Centers into a national lawn and garden service, Chem-Lawn. Mr. Duke generously supported many community projects and charitable programs and founded The Paul G. Duke Foundation, a Supporting Foundation, in 1983. Over the past 33 years, the foundation has supported many nonprofit organizations throughout the Miami Valley and in central Ohio.
For more than 30 years, his daughter, Patricia Duke Robinson, has carried on her father’s legacy, serving as a respected leader of the foundation and valued community champion. In 2015, Mrs. Robinson and the Duke Foundation announced she would be graciously turning over the governance of the foundation to trustees selected from the Miami County community and appointed by The Columbus Foundation and the Duke Foundation board. Mrs. Robinson recently offered her thoughts on her years on the board, and the future of the Duke Foundation.
What was your father’s philosophy on giving back? Is it something that was always important to him?
I don’t believe he had a philosophy on giving back. The family was always doing for “others” and it was simply a way of life—very natural and automatic. Kindness was his reaction first and foremost.
The Duke Foundation’s grantmaking efforts focus on benefiting children, young adults, and families. What grants are you especially proud of?
Dad was extremely proud of the support he gave to the children of Clear Creek Farm, and today that support continues. A total of 249 children have been housed and nurtured by loving house parents and other adults in the Clear Creek system. It is a very successful and life-changing program for many of the children.
Your guidance and support was instrumental in creating The Future Begins Today during the 1990s, an effort to help ensure high school graduates in Troy have opportunities to go on to college. How has this program positively affected your community?
The Troy community schools have been awarded or have received $620,000 for students to attend colleges. There have been 1,300 grants since 1999 or 2000 to students and it has involved 84 universities or like institutions. Also, The Future Begins Today has sold its famous strawberry salsa for 13 years and those dollars are donated to the students as grants to further their education.
The Duke Foundation helped The Columbus Foundation realize its vision for a new philanthropic campus by making a grant for what is now Duke Hall. Why was that so satisfying to you, and why do you think it would have been satisfying to your father?
The Duke Foundation was honored to be able to be a benefactor in helping The Columbus Foundation attain its goal of creating Duke Hall. It remains a privilege to be part of the new campus and at the same time to be able to honor my father. Dad was always pleased to support anything that promotes the goodness of children and education.
In 2015, you generously bestowed the Duke Foundation’s future to community leaders in Miami County, entrusting your family’s legacy to the broader community. Why was this decision made, and what are your hopes for the Duke Foundation in the coming years?
The Duke Foundation was created by the beginning of the family business in Troy, and later served Columbus and several other communities across the nation. The success of the business made it possible for my father to create a foundation that enabled him to distribute grants to causes of his choice within the local community he was so proud to call home. My hope for the Duke Foundation in the coming years will be that it continues to attract new and interested individuals who will be eager to serve on the board and encourage local nonprofit groups to apply for appropriate assistance when needed—perhaps start-up seed money.