Published: Oct. 7, 2020

CU Boulder’s newest endowed professorial chair—the Sapp Family Endowed Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence—is the first of its kind. This $2.5 million fund allows the chancellor to support top-tier faculty at the university who are conducting research in social science, education, neuropsychology and psychology.

It is made possible by a $2 million gift from donors Shari and Richard “Rick” Sapp and a $500,000 institutional commitment from the university. 

Professor Sona Dimidjian, the inaugural Sapp Family Endowed Chancellor's Chair for Research Excellence, studies mental health and wellness among women, children and families.

Professor Sona Dimidjian, the inaugural Sapp Family Endowed Chancellor's Chair for Research Excellence, studies mental health and wellness among women, children and families.

The first CU Boulder faculty member appointed to the five-year term as the Sapp Family Chair is Sona Dimidjian, director of the Renée Crown Wellness Institute.

“The Sapps are strategic investors at CU Boulder, giving generously philanthropically and with the service of their time and talents, and we appreciate them deeply,” said Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “They share our commitment to research excellence and a well-rounded education steeped in the humanities, social sciences and research. I am honored to bestow the first chair to Dr. Dimidjian.”

Dimidjian, a psychology and neuroscience professor, researches mental health and wellness among women, children and families and emphasizes the importance of engaging people’s capacities for learning to care for themselves and their communities. 

Her current research projects focus on preventing depression and supporting wellness among new and expectant mothers, promoting healthy body image and leadership among young women, and enhancing mindfulness and compassion among youth, families and educators. 

Dimidjian is the recipient of numerous awards acknowledging her teaching and clinical research, including the Dorothy Martin Women’s Faculty Award, the Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award and the Robert L. Stearns Award at CU Boulder, along with the Susan Hickman Award from Postpartum Support International and the Women and Psychotherapy Award from Division 35 of the American Psychological Association. She received her bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Chicago and her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Washington.

“I am humbled to be the inaugural recipient of the Sapp Family Chair,” said Dimidjian. “As I reflect on the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, and impacts on mental health and wellness, the importance of working across academic disciplines and in partnership with young people, families and educators could not be more clear. With these funds, the Crown Institute will expand our interdisciplinary, practice-oriented, participatory work that aims to build a more just and compassionate world.”

The Sapp Family Endowed Chancellor’s Chair in Research Excellence is selected and eligible for renewal at the discretion of the CU Boulder chancellor, in consultation with the provost and deans, and in accordance with the established procedures for granting endowed faculty awards.

In addition to the new chair, the Sapps have made significant contributions to CU Boulder over time, including funds for scholarships aimed at students just above Pell eligibility, the Leeds and Engineering building connection project—now known as the Rustandy Building in recognition of naming donor Tandean Rustandy—the Conference on World Affairs and the Parent Fund.

Shari Sapp earned her finance degree at CU Boulder in 1984 and currently serves as chair of the Chancellor’s Parent Leadership Society Board. She is a recipient of the Exceptional Buffalo award, which the chancellor gives annually to a parent who exhibits a deep commitment to CU through contributions and service. Rick Sapp earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University and an MBA in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Shari and Rick live in Rancho Santa Fe, California, and have four children. Their youngest daughter graduated from CU Boulder in May 2020, majoring in psychology with a minor in space. 

“By creating the Sapp Family Chair, we hope to give the chancellor support in retaining and recognizing important faculty who work in social science research,” said Shari Sapp. “When we heard the inaugural recipient would be Dr. Dimidjian, we were absolutely thrilled. Her research in mental health and wellness, specifically mindfulness, has the potential to positively impact the lives of people of all ages around the world. It is an honor and privilege to know that our gift will contribute to her work.”