Gene S. Duke Scholarship
Gene's Back Story
Gene S. Duke was born in Owensboro, KY on October 18, 1922 to Jeanette and Henry C. Duke. At the time, the Duke family resided in East Moline, IL but Mrs. Duke had chosen to return to her original home in Owensboro to give birth to her son. Gene graduated from East Moline High School in June of 1939. After graduation from high school, Mr. Duke went to work at his father’s newly formed business for 25¢ per hour and was the only employee at that time.
Gene married Betty Erzinger in Silvis, IL in January of 1942. Mr. Duke enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after and saw action with the 7th Infantry Division in the Aleutian Islands as well as on Kwajalein, Okinawa, and in Leyte in the Philippine Islands during World War II.
Their Own Contribution to the Industrial Era
At the end of the war, Mr. Duke rejoined his father in their business which was then named H.C. Duke & Son. The Dukes began manufacturing large clothes washers for commercial laundries and in 1946, they agreed to design and build the first ice cream freezer for the Dairy Queen Franchise system. Their freezer design was very successful and was sold throughout the entire nation. Today, Dairy Queen is the largest soft serve ice cream chain in the world and H.C. Duke & Son, Inc. are still major suppliers of freezers to the organization.
During his working career, Gene’s vision and leadership were responsible for many innovations and patents that allowed the company to prosper. Under his guidance, the company grew from its humble beginning of only two men with nothing but their ambition and a few hand tools, to the second largest manufacturer of ice cream freezers in the country.
To Honor a Loving Man
As a memorial to a loving husband and father, Gene’s family created the Gene S. Duke Scholarship at the Quad Cities Community Foundation. The scholarship is a one-time annual award given to a graduate of United Township High School. Students should be in the top half of their graduating class and show some need for financial help. Applicants will be asked to write an essay describing their personal aspirations and educational and career goals.