Dr. Peter Morgane, the largest individual donor in the history of the University of New England, died Monday after a brief illness. The Kennebunkport resident was 83.

“He was a wonderful philanthropist to the university, but he also gave of himself to students and faculty to support their work and research in particular,” said Danielle Ripich, the university’s president.

Most recently, Dr. Morgane donated $1 million in memory of his late wife, Cecile Morgane, to establish the Cecile Morgane Research Laboratories in the Pickus Center for Biomedical Research.

Additional donations helped fund the construction of Peter and Cecile Morgane Hall, which opened in January 2009.

“He wanted to create facilities to advance science and inspire others to follow the same path he did,” said Harley Knowles, the university’s vice president for institutional advancement “He was a wonderful neuroscientist.”

Dr. Morgane received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Tulane University, and continued his studies at Northwestern University to earn his master’s and doctorate degrees in physiology.

Before joining the University of New England in 1985, he spent time working at the University of Oregon, the Brain Research Institute in Mexico City, Harvard Medical School and the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, a program that was moved to Boston University Medical School in 1987.

Throughout his career, Dr. Morgane published more than 230 scientific papers.

After buying a summer home in Kennebunkport with his wife, Dr. Morgane started working at the University of New England as a part-time independent contractor.

In 1994, he and his wife made Kennebunkport their permanent home and Dr. Morgane got more involved as a professor of pharmacology in the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was honored by the university in June as professor emeritus.

Dr. David Mokler, a professor of pharmacology who began working at UNE in 1986, said Dr. Morgane was “a mentor and a colleague, and always a friend.”

Together, Dr. Morgane and Mokler did extensive theoretical studies and experimental research examining how the brain works. Some of their most recent research included experimenting with rats to determine how protein malnutrition during pregnancy can affect the brain.

Continuing his lifelong research, Dr. Morgane also did theoretical work on the limbic system, which is considered the “emotional side of the brain,” Mokler said.

They sponsored a symposium on the limbic system in the spring, including scientists from Harvard University, Boston University and the University of New Hampshire, as well as from UNE.

“We had a great time doing research,” Mokler said.

Dr. Morgane’s work spanned more than 50 years, and Mokler said, “he always seemed to know the history of everything.”

While Dr. Morgane will be remembered for his financial contributions to the university, he will be remembered in other ways as well.

“He was one of those colorful characters that brought a lot of joy to the campus,” Ripich said.

She said the university became his family over the years, especially after his wife died in 2001.

Both Mokler and Ripich said Dr. Morgane “loved champagne” and hosted “champagne parties” to celebrate various accomplishments. Mokler said he would gather 20 to 30 people and offer a dozen of the very best champagnes to taste.

“He’d disguise the bottles and we would rate the champagne,” he said.

“He felt strongly about quality,” Ripich said. “Quality in champagne. Quality in education and research. That was part of his message. We want to do things in the very best way.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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