Gift honors Major’s legacy and supports underserved depression patients

Dr. William Laurence “Larry” Thornton

By Remekca Owens

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971, Nicholas Major went on to build a successful clothing manufacturing career in Dallas. However, the depth of his mental illness – specifically clinical depression – negatively affected his quality of life and hindered his ability to enjoy social interactions and create lasting relationships.

What the disease did not deter was Mr. Major’s generosity and desire to help improve the lives of others.

“Nick was a very kind man who worked hard and was very successful,” said longtime friend and confidant Joe Pederson. “Toward the end of his life, however, the disease just totally consumed him and he was practically unable to leave his home. He had very few family members so, because of our 35-year friendship, he placed his trust in me.”

Before his passing, Mr. Major, who grew up in the New York metropolitan area, outlined his charitable wishes to UT Southwestern Medical Center and to his physician, Dr. William Laurence “Larry” Thornton, Professor of Psychiatry and renowned leader in psychiatric care and psychotherapy. Mr. Major desired that his $2.3 million estate gift be used to help fund the treatment of underserved patients suffering from depression at UT Southwestern’s outpatient psychiatric clinic, establishing the Nicholas A. Major Fund for the Care of Underserved Patients with Depression.

The clinic currently serves more than 1,200 patients with depression, including approximately 250 underserved patients with limited or no mental health insurance coverage who pay out-of-pocket, or utilize charity, Medicare, and Medicaid for care. With support from the Major Fund, these patients will have access to the clinic’s state-of-the-art medication management approach as well as evidence-based cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, interpersonal, and supportive psychotherapies.

“We are extremely grateful for Mr. Major’s generosity,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “Our commitment to honor his legacy will be carried out by offering compassionate patient care to hundreds of individuals, particularly those with low incomes, who are afflicted with the debilitating disease of depression.”

Major depressive disorder or clinical depression is a common mood disorder that can cause severe symptoms affecting how individuals feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. In 2015, an estimated 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This number represented 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults.

Mr. Pederson said he is thankful for the role UT Southwestern will play in demonstrating Mr. Major’s compassion for years to come. “If Nick’s gift can help save one person’s life, it was completely worth it.”

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

Dr. Thornton holds the McKenzie Foundation Chair in Psychiatry II.