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The Sanford School of Public Policy has established the Joel Fleishman Distinguished Professorship of Public Policy in honor of the school’s intellectual forefather and founding director. The new endowed chair recognizes Fleishman’s vision in establishing the public policy program at Duke, his positive influence on generations of students, and his long service to Duke University.

Sanford School Dean Judith Kelley announced the professorship on Fleishman’s 85th birthday.

 “Together with Terry Sanford, Joel Fleishman had the vision to create public policy at Duke back in 1971,” Kelley said. “Joel has been the architect and the engine of this school, but most importantly, he has been the keeper of its soul, ever reminding colleagues and students of the calling of a life of teaching and service.

Joel Fleishman
Joel Fleishman

“I am so delighted to announce a professorship in his honor, a professorship that has been made possible by the generosity of the many people whose lives he has touched. Their willingness to support this effort is a testament to his wonderful spirit and reflects the wide esteem in which he is held.”

Twenty-eight families and individuals – many of them former students of Fleishman – collectively donated $4 million to establish the endowment in his honor. The pooled endowment will remain open for future contributions.

The endowment will allow the school to attract and retain a public policy scholar “of true eminence and excellence” who will serve as faculty chair, Kelley said.

Fleishman’s landmark 1972 report Education and Training for Public Policymaking: A Program Strategy Paper for the Ford Foundation laid out a roadmap for integrating aspects of ethics, economics, political science, statistics, history, and decision analysis into the academic study of public policy. Terry Sanford, then president of Duke University, recruited Fleishman to create and lead a program in the emerging field.

Since then, Duke’s pioneering public policy programs have been emulated and nationally recognized. The school’s graduate programs are now ranked 5th in public policy analysis and its undergraduate major is among Duke’s most popular.


Fleishman, professor of law and public policy, holds three degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: an A.B. in history; an M.A. in drama and a J.D.; and a L.L.M. from Yale University. He is a leading scholar of philanthropy, and the author of several books, including Putting Wealth to Work: Philanthropy for Today or Investing for Tomorrow? and The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Money is Changing the World.

In addition to founding Duke’s public policy program, Fleishman has held several administrative positions, including vice chancellor of the university, vice president and chair of the capital campaign for the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering.

He was President of The Atlantic Philanthropic Service Company from 1993 to 2001.

Fleishman directs the Duke Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society and the Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Center for Ethics, Public Policy, and the Professions.

Man sitting, woman standing behind with hands on his shoulders
Joel Fleishman with Sanford's Dean Judith Kelley. This photo was taken on Kelley's first official day as Dean.