Duke Benefactor Fuqua Dies

June 1, 2006
Groundbreaking for Fuqua School of Business: President Terry Sanford, left, J.B. Fuqua, and Thomas Keller '53, business-school dean
Groundbreaking for Fuqua School of Business: President Terry Sanford, left, J.B. Fuqua, and Thomas Keller '53, business-school dean
Duke University Archives

J.B. Fuqua, the retired entrepreneur for whom Duke's Fuqua School of Business is named, died at an Atlanta hospital on April 5. He was eighty-seven.

Though Fuqua never went to college, he set a high value on education. He began his relationship with Duke as a teenager, borrowing books by mail from the Duke library. He was a voracious reader and a quick study. "I began to order books on finance and banking and things I did not understand much about," wrote Fuqua in his book Fuqua: How I Made My Fortune Using Other People's Money. "I think if I had not had access to those books from Duke and other reading materials, I would certainly have been less successful early on in my business career."

Fuqua was born John Brooks Elam Jr. and raised on a tobacco farm in Prince Edward County, Virginia. He changed his name to Fuqua, his mother's maiden name, and eventually dropped the "Jr."

Fuqua is best known as the founder and chairman of Fuqua Industries Inc., the Atlanta-based Fortune 500 company. What started as a small manufacturer of bricks grew to become a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate of business holdings. "I am proof that any obstacle can be overcome if you are willing to educate yourself and work hard," Fuqua wrote in his book.

His cumulative giving to Duke was nearly $40 million, establishing him as one of Duke's largest individual benefactors. He was a Duke trustee emeritus and a charter member of the board of visitors of the Fuqua School. In addition to an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Duke in 1973, Fuqua was awarded honorary degrees from nine other colleges and universities.

Fuqua is survived by his wife, Dorothy, and his son, Rex. He was preceded in death by his other son, Alan.