March 22, 2011
Interview with Mrs. Anne T. Wilkinson Rajagopalan L’86 and Dr. Shrinivas Rajagopalan Ph.D M’85, G’86, H’87-‘92.
Anne T. Wilkinson Rajagopalan L’86 and her husband Shrin met at Duke while she was in law school and he was in medical school, on his way to becoming a pathologist. Some 27 years and three children later, they attribute much of their success to Duke.
“Duke is really interwoven in the tapestry of our lives — the games, concerts at Page Auditorium, the Dance Festival, picnics at Duke Garden I don’t know if we can separate it out,” Anne says. “Even when we lived in San Diego for a time when the girls were small, Shrin’s idea of a family outing was taking the girls to a sports bar to watch Duke basketball. This was, of course, before Duke games were televised on national TV.”
Recently, they had cause to revisit again how much Duke meant to them. This year, both Anne and Shrin are celebrating their 25th reunions. “We each received scholarships to attend Duke,” Anne recalls, “and they meant so much to us. We want to make that possible for someone else.” They decided to give the same support to others by contributing to the Law School Scholarship Fund. Their gift will be used in support of financial aid at the Law School.
“We are now at a point in our lives where we are starting to get our kids to college and on the road to adulthood,” Shrin adds. “We feel that we have been very fortunate to have gotten to this place and to take stock of the gifts we’ve been given in life.”
Both Anne and Shrin come from families that know the value of a dollar. Shrin is the son of an immigrant who came to Duke from India in 1959 for a post-doctoral program in biochemistry. A year later, Shrin and his mother joined him in Durham.
As the oldest daughter of 12 children, Anne attended the University of Maryland on a scholarship before coming to Duke Law School. “I lived at home — it was just like going to a bigger high school, and at the end of the day I still had chores to do. I couldn’t wait to get away,” she recalled. “I’d been wait-listed for Stanford, but at the end of the day, I decided on Duke. That was a great decision.”
Anne’s first job after law school was clerking for Justice Burley Mitchell of the North Carolina Supreme Court followed by a position as associate general counsel to Gov. James G. Martin. She went on to clerk for Judge N. Carlton Tilley of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. After two years there, she returned to Gov. Martin’s office and later served in the administration of Gov. James B. Hunt, Jr. The family moved to California in 1994 for Shrin’s first position with Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside, and then returned to North Carolina in 2000.
For the past 11 years, Anne has put her analytic and leadership skills to work for Hospice of Wake County, the Pines of Carolina Girl Scout Council, and has served on the PTA boards of every school her daughters have attended. Shrin serves on the board of the WakeMed Foundation and has been deeply involved in facilitating the new WakeMed Children’s Hospital.
“A long time ago,” Anne says, “we realized that our hearts are touched by so many different stories. We decided to focus on what mattered most to both of us, and we have focused on charities that have something to do with children. Our scholarship gift to the Law School fits in with that.”
“Everything our parents built, they have done themselves,” Anne continues, “and everything that we’ve built follows their example of careful planning and financial management. In times like today, when so many people are having to ratchet down their giving, we are in the fortunate position of finally being able to give. Luckily, the time in life that we can give coincided with a time of great need. It was our turn to step up.”