The Douglas Foundation endowed the Kirk Douglas Fellowship at the American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory in early 2015.  This is a full-tuition two-year scholarship awarded biennially to one AFI Conservatory Fellow.  This scholarship serves as an enduring investment by a master filmmaker, and an educational legacy that will echo into the future of the ongoing excellence of the art form. This endowed scholarship marks the first named for a recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award, America's highest honor in film. Kirk Douglas received the honor in 1991.

The American Film Institute was founded in 1967 as a national arts organization to train filmmakers and preserve America's film heritage. The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities recommended creating AFI as a nonprofit "to enrich and nurture the art of film in America" with initial funding from the NEA, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Ford Foundation.

Under the leadership of AFI's founding director, George Stevens, Jr., the Institute established a training program for filmmakers known as the Center for Advanced Film Studies. This program grew into the AFI Conservatory, an accredited graduate film school. Over 4,300 artists have graduated from the AFI Conservatory. Their collective work is a promise fulfilled — to educate the next generation of filmmakers.