$6.25m endowed chair established in Psychology

A gift of $2.5 million from Andrew and Virginia Rudd of California, combined with matching funds, will create a $6.25 million endowed professorship in the Psychology Department. The position will be dedicated to the study of complex issues surrounding adoption.

The endowed chair is designed to attract a preeminent international scholar to build a high-profile research program and lecture series to rapidly advance the study of adoption and play a significant role in advancing public policy in the field.

The Rudd Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Psychology will be created with the Rudd gift, $2.5 million in available matching funds, and $1.25 million from the state’s Public Higher Education Incentive program. The fund will provide for support of a new senior faculty member, including research aid and an annual lecture or seminar series. The fund will be administered by the UMass Amherst Foundation. A major goal of the seminar series will be to foster sustained communication between scholars and public policy experts in adoption.

Chancellor John V. Lombardi said the Rudd gift recognizes the excellence of the existing work being done by faculty in psychology and promises to make a significant impact on the public policy debates concerning adoption.

“This gift also demonstrates how the generosity of a family can leverage other sources of funding to enhance a donor’s wishes and strengthen the university,” Lombardi said. “It shows how private giving, public support and academic excellence can address a vitally important field such as adoption.”

The Rudd family has close ties to the campus. Andrew and Virginia Rudd are the parents of Alexi Rudd, who completed her undergraduate studies in 2004 with a degree in Sociology and Psychology. In 2000, the Rudd Family Foundation provided funding to create Rudd Field, the soccer facility for the men’s and women’s Division I teams. Andrew Rudd also serves as a founding director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Foundation, Inc.

“Over the last few years we have come to appreciate and respect the academic excellence of UMass and the strong leadership of its academic programs,” the Rudds noted in a statement. “Consequently, it was an easy decision to locate our gift in the Psychology Department at UMass Amherst. Our goal is that the professorship should act as a catalyst in focusing academic research on the emotional and psychological trauma often experienced by adoptees. Eventually, we hope research might be able to suggest potential avenues toward a better understanding of adoption issues.”

The new psychology professorship will be located within the Child, Adolescent and Family (CAF) concentration in the clinical division of the Department of Psychology. CAF has been designated as an area of exceptional strength within the psychology department, and it includes faculty members highly respected in the field of family psychology. The new endowed professorship will also be affiliated with the Center for Research on Families based in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Establishment of the endowed chair and programs associated with it are expected to produce a rapid advance in the understanding of the basic physiological, psychological, and behavioral processes involved in adoption and its effects on child development, according to professor Sally Powers, head of the department’s clinical division.

“Within psychology, there are many areas of basic and clinical research that have important implications for understanding adoption and its effects,” Powers said. “These include studies of biological, emotional and social processes involved in attachment and bonding; the effect of stress and trauma, particularly early separation trauma; family processes such as parenting and marital relationships in families of origin and adoptive families; the interacting influence of genetics and the environment on child development, and factors that foster resiliency and coping in children exposed to early family disruptions.”