ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Have you ever wondered what $29 million could get you? No doubt, it’s life changing money and is even better when it’s just gifted to you. Abilene Christian University (ACU) is on the winning end of a generous donor, who provided the largest single academic gift in the school’s history.

The College of Business Administration (COBA) at ACU is known to be one of the larger programs provided, serving more than 700 residential businesses and technology students.

However, even such a popular department keeps the small private school feeling, part of the reason Junior Accounting and Finance major, Sydney Meyers said she came to ACU.

“I grew up going to a big public school, and I knew by pursuing a private Christian school, like ACU, I’d be able to put Christ at the center of my education,” Meyers gave testimony.

Led by her faith, Meyers said she quickly realized how much she enjoyed the smaller class sizes, as well as the unique relationships between professors and students. She said professors truly care about each student and their well-beings, making her educational experience that much better.

“Getting to have relationships with professors helps you to retain material better and be motivated to show up for class,” said Meyers.

Through those relationships and COBA, she said she’s been able to fulfill a dream come true of getting into the financial world – while also potentially getting firsthand experience in New York at the New York Stock Exchange.

Be that as it may, those fond relationships and friendships span far beyond the outer boundaries of the Lunsford Trail.

“That’s the story here with General Bill and Janie Dukes, two people with great faith who value what we do here at Abilene Christian and developed close relationships with some members here in our community,” ACU President Dr. Phil Schubert said.

The late Dr. William “Bill” Dukes (1920-2015) was known as a godly family man, military hero, business leader and academician. Dr. Schubert said he was a revered professor of finance at Texas Tech University for nearly 45 years, as well.

Dr. Dukes enlisted in the Navy, graduating number one in his class, and chose to enter the Marines. However, after completing his doctorate program and retiring from the Marine Corps, he started his career at Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business.

Aside from a strong friendship with two former deans of ACU’s College of Business Administration, Dr. Dukes had no personal ties to ACU. But it was those ties that led to the monumental gift for ACU’s business program.

Doctors Bill Petty and Jack Griggs were colleagues and longtime friends of Dukes, finding the values of his colleagues and the school aligned closely with his own.

However, after his passing in 2015, the impact left by ACU led he and his wife of 73 years, Janie Dukes, to gift the school a transformative gift.

“You tend to see these transformational gifts – and $29 million is certainly transformational for us – that culminate over a lifetime,” Dr. Schubert gave heart.

Donated through the Dukes estate, the more than $29 million donation became the largest single academic gift in ACU’s history.

“Their generosity, the way they love this institution, the way they want to help us build a finance program that is world class… Is quite the story,” bragged Dr. Schubert.

“This overwhelmingly generous gift presents a permanent base of funding that allows us to resource and dream at a completely new level about the coursework, experiences and outcomes we can offer to our finance students,” said Dr. Brad Crisp, dean of COBA.

With such a great amount of money gifted to the school, Meyers said she hopes they will look at adding more women as faculty members, and creating scholarships allowing for more trips. She said she is most excited to see how the school creatively uses the funds to better the program for her class, as well as classes to come.

According to a press release sent out by Abilene Christian University, the generous gifted funds will establish the Dr. William P. and Janie B. Dukes Excellence in Finance Endowment, supporting prestigious finance student scholarships, preparing students to attend highly preferred graduate programs and establishing several endowed faculty positions in finance. In recognition of this historic gift, the university will launch the Dukes School of Finance in the College of Business Administration in 2023.