Robert and Sarah Gorrell donated $2.1 million for the creation of an endowed chair in the department of psychiatry, announced President Nan Keohane yesterday.
The Gorrell Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry will help the department attract prominent faculty and improve its visibility in the field, said Ranga Krishnan, chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
"The endowed chair will be helpful and can do much for a department," he said. "This a very big step for us.... Child psychiatry is a big area where we can do more research into school education and violence and so on."
The gift, part of The Campaign for Duke, will be donated to the department as a bequest.
The Gorrell family has many ties to the University. Robert Gorrell, Trinity '53, and his brother both graduated from Duke, and his grandfather graduated from its predecessor Trinity College.
"I was raised to be a Dukie. I have no interest in any other school except Duke," he said. "We just have a nice love affair with it."
Gorrell is the former owner of Carolina Moving and Storage Co. and currently serves as president and chief executive officer of Sabob Corp., an equipment leasing company.
The family has a history of giving to the department of psychiatry, Gorrell said, partially because one relative suffered from bipolar disorder.
In 1979, the couple created the Gorrell Family Psychiatry Research Endowment for the department.
The endowment has also received contributions from the family's two daughters.
"We've been pretty well connected with the department and think highly of it," he said.
Gorrell, who was present at the department's Campaign for Duke planning session, said it was fortunate that his interest in adolescent psychiatry matched the department's needs.
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"An endowed chair is the most coveted and prestigious position in academic medicine," said Dr. Ralph Snyderman, chancellor for health affairs, in a press release.
"This gift will enable Duke to attract a world-leader in child and adolescent psychiatry who will strengthen immeasurably our research and training in this critical field."
Steven Wright contributed to this story.