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Duke University has received a $1.825 million gift from Husein Cumber P.P.S.’97 and his wife LeAnna Cumber, the majority of which will establish a full professorship in national security at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Family of four posing in front of Duke Chapel

The gift includes $1.75 million for the professorship through The Duke Endowment Sanford Faculty Challenge and support for the Sanford School and the Trinity Arts and Sciences annual funds.

In addition, the Husein and LeAnna Cumber Family Professorship Fund will be matched, doubling the impact of the family’s gift. This match is made possible through the recent $10 million award from The Duke Endowment to Sanford for graduate fellowships, professorships and strategic investments in school priorities.

Sanford Dean Judith Kelley said this gift comes at a perfect moment—the beginning of the executive Master of National Security Policy (MNSP) program and 50 years of public policy at Duke—from a family who is dedicated to the future of Sanford.

“Sanford alumni are some of the most engaged and active alumni, and the Cumber family is a true example of action and dedication. This gift will propel our new MNSP program forward. With our legacy of 50 years of public policy at Duke, this gift invests in the future of public policy at Duke,” Kelley said.

Husein Cumber said the gift was prompted by his own path at Duke, where he majored in public policy and participated in programs focusing on national security. His degree led to a policy-oriented career. As the Chief Strategy Officer for Florida East Coast Industries, LLC, he guides major capital projects from conception through development. From 2005 to 2009, Cumber served as an Assistant to the Secretary for Policy and as Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“My own academic adventure sparked an interest in public policy and singlehandedly influenced my career path. I hope this professorship will influence other students to pursue similar careers at a time where the creation of the new executive Master of National Security Policy program at Sanford allows Duke to raise its stature in the field,” he explained.

The match and Sanford’s Strategic Priorities solidified the decision around his family’s gift, Cumber said.

“The Duke Endowment creating a matching program allowed my family to make a contribution to Duke that would have a substantial larger impact. The contribution was also tied to Sanford’s strategic planning of a graduate-level national security program as a logical step of growth,” he said. “Sanford is known for being one of the top public policy schools in the country. My hope is we continue to compete for the best students by having the best faculty. 

Man, suit and green tie
Husein Cumber, P.P.S.’97

Cumber believes support for faculty expertise to Sanford is vital, especially in the area of national security.

“One of the most impactful aspects of Duke is its professors. The right professor affects a student’s life forever. Our family’s decision to endow a professorship was tied to wanting Sanford to have the ability to recruit the best national security academic to Duke,” he said.

National security expertise is needed now more than ever, Cumber said.

“National security is a part of almost every career. From infrastructure to energy to health care to diplomacy, the world has become more complicated, integrated and competitive. My family is from Pakistan and LeAnna’s family is from Cuba, and Europe. Both of us grew up around the kitchen table discussing international and domestic policy issues. These formative discussions made us more aware of the challenges our future leaders will face,” he said. “It is exciting to know that my education at Duke has allowed for a successful career and will hopefully play a part of future students having the same kind of success.”


Meet Husein Cumber

Husein Cumber is one of the Sanford School alumni featured in our '50 Years of Public Policy at Duke' series we call Faces@50.  Find more Faces@50 alumni stories >>