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Bucks County resident’s $8 million donation to Duke second largest in school history


Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) alumna Bettye Martin Musham has committed $8 million to the school to address the most pressing issues of wellness and prevention, to reduce health inequities, to develop community-based educational programs, and to transform health care delivery.

Her gift is the second-largest donation by an individual in the school’s history and the largest ever for faculty, students and programs.

Musham’s gift, via her estate, allots $5 million to endow the William and Bettye Martin Musham Professorship and $3 million to endow the William and Bettye Martin Musham Fund. The bequest will be transformational to the school, cementing the creation of a DUSON learning and research center that places nurses at the core of transforming health care.

The professorship endowment will fund a scholar who will collaborate with students and faculty across DUSON and Duke University. The nurse-led framework is founded in multi-disciplinary collaboration, including professionals in health care as well as those in family planning, mindfulness, nutrition, physical therapy, and health policy.

After graduating in 1945, Musham, a Guilford, N.C., native traveled to England for a year with Duke colleagues and studied midwifery at Hammersmith Hospital. She returned to the U.S. and worked as an OB/GYN nurse in New York before deciding to pursue a different path.

Her varied career over several decades included stints as a stand-up comic and a representative for a photographer, and she spent many years in the advertising industry, co-founding Gear Holdings Inc., a branding, design, marketing, and communications firm in New York. In the 1970s, she was the first woman executive at Louis Vuitton North America. Also an author, Musham has served on various corporate boards and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Musham resides in New York City and Bucks County. Her late husband, William “Bill” Musham, was an admired business leader and in his retirement started the Center for Learning & Living at Marymount Manhattan College and taught at Delaware County Community College. Bill Musham later suffered from Alzheimer’s, inspiring Bettye Musham’s book, “The Thing I Miss Most Is My Mind: An Insider’s Guide to Achieving Positive Results When Confronting Alzheimer’s.”

Musham has supported Duke University through her leadership and gifts for many years. She has served on the School of Nursing Board of Visitors since 2017. She was a founding member of the Duke Islamic Studies Center advisory board and served many years on the Nicholas School of the Environment Board of Visitors.

“Bettye Musham’s generous bequest honors Duke University, its students and our community,” said Provost and Chief Academic Officer Alec Gallimore. “Bettye’s loyalty and dedication to her alma mater is remarkable, and the impact of her philanthropy will be felt for generations.”

Throughout her life, Musham has been a leader and a philanthropist, remembering those people and places that made a difference in her own life.

“People were so helpful to me, and I admired strong people and I wanted to be like them,” she said. “There’s so much new knowledge and I think that nurses have the ability to be influential in the community-based delivery of not only health care, but helping people become part of society.”

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