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Alumni gift endows Picket Family Chair of English

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Rebecca Valli

Joel Picket

David Picket

A gift from Joel I. Picket ’60 and David L. Picket ’84 has endowed the Picket Family Chair of the Department of English, in honor of the family’s long association with Cornell and their commitment to the humanities. The gift will help the department to pursue its mission of fostering thoughtful and passionate conversation about books, writers and literary ideas in and out of the classroom.

“The English department is one of the largest and most distinguished departments in the college – it is a jewel in the crown of the college and the university,” said Gretchen Ritter ’83, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences. “We are very grateful to the Pickets and their support of the arts and humanities.”

Said David Picket: “My Dad and I are thrilled to have this opportunity to help make sure that the humanities continue to have a central place in the education of our children and our children’s children.”

Two of Joel Picket’s children – Allison Fehrenbaker ’88 and David – attended Cornell, as have David Picket’s three children. Fehrenbaker’s eldest daughter is an incoming freshman.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Picket family for their generous support of English, and we’re excited to explore the many new opportunities this gift will make possible,” said Roger Gilbert, professor and English department chair. “We’re particularly eager to enrich the experience of our undergraduate majors and minors, and to provide them with a fuller sense of community.”

Joel Picket is chairman and CEO of Gotham Organization, a family-owned real estate developer, and vice chairman of Gilbane Building Co. A government major at Cornell, he has served as a member of the Cornell University Council and the Advisory Council of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

David Picket is president of Gotham Organization and CEO of Gotham Development. An English major at Cornell with a law degree from Columbia University, he is a member of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Advisory Council.

The Pickets’ support has already made a difference to the English department through the Creative Writing Program fund that supports summer writing fellowships for MFA students and other initiatives in the department. The Picket family was honored in 2015 when the college renamed the English department offices in their honor.

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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