Wake Forest benefactor T. Eugene Worrell dies; University community recalls his lasting influence

By Kevin Cox
April 21, 2006

T. Eugene Worrell, a Wake Forest University graduate whose name graces the home of the university's Worrell Professional Center for Law and Management and Worrell House in London, died April 20 in Charlottesville, Va.. He was 86.

T. Eugene Worrell

Worrell, who built a chain of newspapers and other media outlets in his long business career, was recalled today by Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch as one of the university's major benefactors and most dedicated alumni.

"Gene has been an exemplary alumnus and trustee for Wake Forest. His vision for this university, backed by his generosity as one of our major benefactors, has enabled us to offer superior academic experiences to faculty and students," Hatch said. "Study at Worrell House in London is one of our most popular international programs, and Worrell House alumni frequently cite their semester there as 'life changing.'"

Each fall and spring semester, a group of about 15 Wake Forest students and a faculty director live and study together at Worrell House, a four-story residence in London's Hampstead neighborhood. Students take courses taught by the Wake Forest faculty member and British professors.

Hatch added, "Certainly, our law and graduate business students have enjoyed the many benefits of studying at the Worrell Professional Center, a state-of-the-art building designed specifically for these two disciplines. Gene Worrell had major aspirations for his alma mater, and he provided the means for us to realize them."

The Worrell Professional Center, which was formally dedicated in 1993, was built in part by a $5 million gift by Worrell and his wife, Anne. Other gifts by Worrell supported the purchase and maintenance of Worrell House; the establishment of an endowed chair in Anglo-American studies, currently held by David Coates; and the creation of the Roger Goldberg Award in Trial Advocacy, which is awarded annually to a Wake Forest School of Law student who shows the highest aptitude and ethics in trial advocacy.

Worrell visited Wake Forest twice during this academic year. In February, Wake Forest presented him with the Medallion of Merit, the university's highest award for service to the university, at Founders' Day Convocation.

"Gene described that visit to me as one of the best days of his life," Hatch recalled.

Last November, Worrell's long interest in the law and Wake Forest's School of Law brought him to campus to attend a School of Law moot court competition where Chief Justice John Roberts presided. Worrell briefly attended law school at Wake Forest after college, but graduated from George Washington University School of Law.

Worrell's association with Wake Forest began in 1936, when he arrived as a freshman on a debating scholarship. He distinguished himself as a champion orator and as a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the Golden Bough (the predecessor of Phi Beta Kappa), Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities, and Kappa Sigma fraternity. He graduated in 1940 with a bachelor of science degree.

Through the years, he served on the university's board of trustees, and was eventually named a life trustee. He also served on the boards of visitors for the School of Law and School of Medicine.

In 1979, Wake Forest awarded him an honorary doctorate degree.