Zippo Owner to Receive Pitt-Bradford’s Presidential Medal of Distinction

BRADFORD, Pa. – George B. Duke, owner of Zippo Manufacturing Co. and a generous benefactor at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, will receive the university’s highest honor at this year’s commencement ceremony.

Duke will receive the Presidential Medal of Distinction from Dr. Livingston Alexander, president, at the commencement exercises, which will be held at 2 p.m. May 1, in the KOA Arena of the Sport and Fitness Center.

“Presenting the medal to George Duke is an honor I look forward to with much anticipation,” Alexander said.

“His generosity is legendary, and we at Pitt-Bradford are fortunate to have been the beneficiary of his philanthropy on numerous occasions. This is yet another opportunity to both say ‘thank you’ and place the spotlight on his generosity.”

Duke said, “I am very honored to receive the Presidential Medal of Distinction from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. To follow in the footsteps of the past recipients of this enormous award is truly humbling.”

Duke has been a member of the university’s Advisory Board since 2000.

As the owner of Zippo and as a philanthropist, Duke follows in the footsteps of his mother, Sarah B. Dorn, and grandfather, George G. Blaisdell, the founder of Zippo.

Duke, along with his brother, Paul C. Duke III, and mother became full owners of Zippo in 1999. George Duke later became full owner and serves as its chairman of the board.

After growing up in Houston, Texas, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Louisiana State University, graduating in 1977.

Duke had spent summers in Bradford working for Zippo in both the factory and office. Upon graduation, he began working with Zippo in the ordering and scheduling department and moved on to become the customer service manager.

Later Duke worked in Toronto at Zippo Canada, returning to Bradford to become a regional manager. He continued moving up in the company with promotions to national sales manager and export manager for Europe, Russia and Africa.

In 1995, Duke left sales to begin overseeing the entire corporation, which, along with the

Philo and Sarah Blaisdell Foundation, named for George G. Blaisdell’s parents, have been major contributors to the university.

Together, Zippo and the Blaisdell Foundation have made gifts totaling $2.41 million. Last year Duke donated $350,000 in honor of his mother to construct the Sarah B. Dorn organ in the new chapel on campus named for his aunt, Harriett B. Wick.

In 2005, the Blaisdell family was inducted into the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning Society following the creation of the Blaisdell Fine Arts Challenge, which raised money to build Blaisdell Hall, Pitt-Bradford’s fine arts and communication arts building.

Additionally, the family provides scholarships for more than 80 Pitt-Bradford students annually through the Miriam Barcroft Blaisdell Scholarship.

Duke is the 24th individual awarded the Presidential Medal of Distinction, which is presented to a person who has either volunteered his or her time for several years; supported the university either financially or with expertise or advice; served the university’s service region through community, government, or business affiliation; or has made distinctive achievements in his or her field that have affected Pitt-Bradford.

Previous medal winners were Thomas Bromeley, former University of Pittsburgh Provost Dr. James V. Maher, Dr. William C. Conrad and the Stackpole-Hall Foundation, Harry R. Halloran Jr. and Harvey L. Golubock of American Refining Group, Madeline Miles, Judge John M. Cleland, Dr. Richard E. McDowell, Dennis Lowery, Edwin Clemens, Marilyn Horne, Howard Fesenmyer, Henry P. Pruch, Robert D. Galey, Lester Rice, William F. Higie, Samuel Gregg Jr., Dr. Robert C. Laing, Harriett B. Wick and Sarah B. Dorn, former U.S. Rep. John E. Peterson, Virginia L. Miles and Dr. Robert B. Bromeley.


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