$5M gift launches Duffield Family Cornell Promise Scholarship

A $5 million gift from David A. Duffield ’62, MBA ’64, to the College of Engineering has established the Duffield Family Cornell Promise Scholarship, providing financial assistance to undergraduate engineering students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gift is the largest single contribution to the Cornell Promise initiative, which upholds Cornell’s founding commitment of “an institution where any person can find instruction in any study,” by addressing the ability of Cornell students and their families to afford an education despite financial hardships brought by the pandemic.

David Duffield

“Cornell has been important to me and my companies, and the Cornell Promise initiative gave me the chance to say thank you,” said Duffield, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who is the founder of six companies, including two successful public software firms, PeopleSoft and Workday.

He is currently the chairman of Workday and founder/CEO of Ridgeline, an enterprise software company building products for investment managers. Both Workday and Ridgeline recruit from Cornell Engineering on a regular basis.

Duffield’s fund will provide 200 term scholarships that will be disbursed over the next three academic years and will help the College of Engineering meet the dramatically expanding financial needs of students. The college had budgeted $36 million for student aid in the 2020-21 academic year, but that number is now expected to reach more than $50 million.

“Dave has played an outsize role in strengthening the College of Engineering as a place that shapes the leaders and innovators of tomorrow,” said Cornell President Martha E. Pollack.  “We are incredibly fortunate to have someone who immediately recognizes what Cornell Engineering needs and is willing to step forward to make it happen.”

“Solving the grand engineering challenges of our time requires educating every talented student, regardless of financial circumstance,” said Lynden Archer, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering. “Dave’s support comes at a critical moment for the next generation of engineers and problem solvers, and I am grateful for his leadership.”

One of the College of Engineering’s most successful alumni, Duffield’s support for nearly three decades enabled the construction and ongoing maintenance of Duffield Hall, which houses some of the world’s most sophisticated research and teaching facilities for nanoscale science and engineering. He also funded the Workday Atrium in Gates Hall and Workday Labs in Phillips, Rhodes and Sage Halls.

Duffield and his wife Cheryl founded Maddie’s Fund, which supports companion animal welfare and promotes no-kill animal shelters across the country, including Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Among other honors, Duffield was named Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year in 1996 and received the Cornell Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award in 2018.

Syl Kacapyr is public relations and content manager for the College of Engineering.

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Rebecca Valli