Faculty Donors Make $1.2 Million Gift to Create Professorship in Psychological and Brain Sciences at UMass Amherst

Robert Feldman
Robert Feldman

Robert Feldman and his wife, Katherine Vorwerk, support excellence at UMass

A new professorship in psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been established through a financial commitment of $1.2 million from Robert S. Feldman and his wife, Katherine E. Vorwerk.

Feldman is senior advisor to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, as well as the former deputy chancellor of the university and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Vorwerk is a retired instructor in the department of psychological and brain sciences. The professorship will be awarded to an outstanding faculty member who specializes in social psychology, fostering cutting-edge research and supporting a top-notch department. The gift will support UMass by helping to hire and retain faculty of the highest caliber within the department.

Feldman and Vorwerk made the $1,225,000 commitment as a multi-year current gift, plus an additional commitment through their estate, to establish the Feldman-Vorwerk Family Professorship. They also took advantage of a 2020 state campaign that allowed them to use matching funds to fully finance the professorship.

“It is with immense gratitude that I thank Bob and Kathy for their longstanding generosity to UMass Amherst,” Subbaswamy said. “From their professional lives to their volunteer work, and now with this professorship, they have demonstrated their strong belief in the potential of UMass to continue to grow as a world-class university.”

“Gifts such as this one are so important to the future of the college,” said Tricia Serio, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “By endowing a professorship, these two devoted members of the UMass community are helping to ensure that we continue the tradition of excellence in the department by attracting and retaining the highest quality faculty.”

After giving back in many ways over the years, this gift was the natural next step for Feldman and Vorwerk. The professorship is a substantial and lasting way to support the future of the field they have both studied and worked in. “UMass Amherst offers a superlative education with extraordinary faculty who care about teaching and research,” said Feldman. Vorwerk added, “We believe strongly in the university and wanted our gift to help it fulfill its mission.”

Feldman and Vorwerk live in Amherst and both have deep connections to UMass Amherst and the surrounding community. Before joining the central administration, Feldman was a professor in brain and psychological sciences, where he served in a variety of administrative positions and won the College Outstanding Teacher Award. He initiated the Power Up for Success program for first-year students, as well as the Developmental Disabilities and Human Services Specialization Program. Feldman has written more than 250 books, book chapters and scientific articles, and more than 2.5 million students worldwide have used his psychology and student success textbooks. He is also a fellow of the American Psychological Association, Association for Psychological Science, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. Feldman now sits on the UMass Amherst Foundation Board of Directors and serves as chair of the board of directors of New England Public Media. He is also a member of the board of the Social Psychology Network, and previously was president of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Foundation.

Vorwerk served on the board of directors of the Friends of the Fine Arts Center and is a former member of the Women for UMass Amherst Steering Committee. She was elected to several terms on the Amherst School Committee, where she served as chair, and she was a member of the town Finance Committee and Town Meeting. She served as president of the League of Women Voters of Amherst and is currently a volunteer at the Fisher Home Hospice in Amherst.