Children honor their parents’ legacy with financial gift to Roanoke College

October 3, 2016



Donald Morel found his future at Roanoke College. The first in his family to attend college, the Midland Park, New Jersey, native was extremely proud of the education that prepared him for medical school and an eventual career in medicine.

Roanoke also was where Morel, a member of Sigma Chi fraternity, found love.

He met Shirley Childs, a Chi Omega sorority member who’d grown up in Rich Creek, Virginia, and graduated at the top of her Narrows High School class. The two, both chemistry majors, married after they graduated in 1956.

Donald Morel went on to attend the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and spent much of the 1960s in medical training and service in the U.S. Army as a captain and medical examiner. The family also lived in Germany for three years as part of his military work.

After retiring from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, Donald Morel became chief of nuclear medicine at the former Allentown General Hospital in Pennsylvania.  Shirley Morel worked as a chemist while her husband attended medical school. She also was a self-taught gourmet cook and a concert pianist who loved Mozart, Liszt and Chopin. The couple had two children, Donald Jr. and Michelle.

An avid learner, Shirley Morel taught herself differential calculus in order to help Donald Jr. with his high school homework.

Donald Morel Sr. died in 1988; Shirley Morel in 2015.

This year, the Morel children, recognizing their parents’ belief in the importance of leaving a legacy at their alma mater, established Roanoke College’s Shirley C. and Donald E. Morel MD Dean’s Chair in memory of their parents. The position currently is held by Dr. Richard Smith, who is vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the College.

The Morels asked that their gift benefit the sciences at Roanoke College.

“Their gift helps ensure that our science facilities, equipment and programs remain at the forefront of what the best liberal arts colleges offer and that the learning opportunities we provide to our students are second to none,” Smith said.

Education was extremely important to the Morels.

“Dad was very proud of the education that he received at Roanoke,” said Michelle Morel. “It was the springboard for him to be accepted at medical school.”

Ultimately, a financial offering to Roanoke “was my dad’s wish,” said Dr. Donald Morel Jr. “Roanoke meant a lot to him.”

It is a symbol of the Morels’ legacy at Roanoke, said President Mike Maxey.

“This gift honors two of our alumni who not only found a passion for science at Roanoke, but also a lifelong relationship with each other,” he said. “Their lives have now come full circle back to the College through this significant gift. This is a wonderful legacy for the Morels and a very special honor for the College.”