Alumni gift endows Picket Family Chair in English

A generous gift from Joel I. Picket ’60 and David L. Picket ’84 has endowed the Picket Family Chair in 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 both 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, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts & Sciences. “We are very grateful to the Pickets and their support of the arts and humanities.”

“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,” said David Picket.

Joel I. Picket ’60 (left) and David L. Picket ’84

The Picket family has deep roots at Cornell: 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 Professor Roger Gilbert, 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 the chairman and CEO of Gotham Organization, Inc., and vice chairman of Gilbane Building Company. Gotham is a family-owned firm, which Picket has built into a leading real estate developer, as well as what was one of the largest privately-held construction contractors in the country prior to its sale. A government major at Cornell, his service to Cornell includes having served as a member of the Cornell University Council and the advisory council of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum.

David Picket is the president of Gotham Organization and the CEO of Gotham Development. He has led Gotham’s new project development business through a period of unprecedented growth and is responsible for Gotham’s development and property operations. An English major at Cornell, he holds a law degree from Columbia University. He is currently a member of the College of Arts & Sciences Advisory Council. 

The Pickets' support of the Department of English has already made an important difference to the 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. 

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