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Duke Athletics Receives $1.5 Million for Behavioral Health Project

December 10, 2020


Duke University has received a $1.5 million gift to expand and enhance behavioral health and wellness for Duke student-athletes, Duke Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White announced today.

The endowed gift from Danny Katz, a 1980 alumnus, and his wife Nancy, enables Duke Athletics' Behavioral Health Department to expand its support for student-athletes. In recognition of the gift, the project will be named The Katz Family Behavioral Health & Wellness Project for Student-Athletes.

"To be sure, behavioral health is a supreme priority, not only within the current global climate, but at all times for the extraordinary student-athlete cohort at Duke," said White. "In this complex time within our society, health and wellness services are critical components to a robust, well-rounded student-athlete experience."

Director of Duke Athletics Behavioral Health Shawn Zeplin acknowledges the increased public awareness of mental health has led to greater public acceptance.

"In recent years, prominent figures — professional athletes in particular — have become more vocal about the importance of seeking support for their behavioral health," Zeplin said. "This has empowered collegiate student-athletes to be more aware of their needs, and, combined with the effects of a global health pandemic, have resulted in a significantly greater demand for services."

With this new funding, Duke will allocate resources to conduct research on the effectiveness of the behavioral health project. It will also enable other wellness activities, such as delivering suicide prevention education and purchasing technology for enhanced evaluation of student-athletes.

"Danny and Nancy have a focused vision worthy of support, and their commitment to this particular endeavor speaks volumes to the importance of creating long-term opportunities, access to resources, and an integrated approach to behavioral health that will empower Duke student-athletes for generations to come," said White. "We are greatly appreciative of the entire Katz family for their inspired, profound approach and generous gift."

Under the direction of Zeplin, this project will enhance wellness services to deliver additional initiatives including the development of proactive programming and group treatment opportunities for student-athletes, as well as educational seminars for coaches and staff. The project will also launch a "Mental Wealth" series to promote awareness and wellness throughout the athletics program.

"Our sincerest gratitude goes out to the Katz family for making this their mission and offering support to an often-overlooked aspect of student-athlete life," Zeplin said. "Student-athletes have already voiced the importance of support during their time at Duke. This gift will enable students to leave Duke with more comprehensive support and holistic development."

In addition to a $1 million behavioral health endowment gift, the Katz family will match other endowment commitments, dollar for dollar, up to $500,000, generating another $1 million in support for the initiative. 

Danny, a 1980 graduate of Duke, and Nancy Katz reside in Orinda, California, and are the parents of Justin and Liza Paige Katz, who graduated from Duke in 2015.

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