Kenneth Rockwell holding a corded telephone up to his ear
Centennial Spotlights

Kenneth Rockwell

The acronym CAPS has become instantly recognizable as a mental health resource for students on college campuses around the country. But many don’t know about the person instrumental in the creation of Duke’s CAPS, or Counseling & Psychological Services – Kenneth Rockwell.

Kenneth Rockwell was born in Paris but became a North Carolinian, having grown up in Asheville. After serving in the Navy for two years, he earned his medical degree from Duke’s School of Medicine in 1961 and completed his residency in psychiatry at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., in 1965.

In 1968 he arrived with his wife in Durham, where he joined Duke’s Department of Psychiatry. He focused on helping patients with eating disorders and in the mid 1970s was a major actor in creating CAPS.

At the time, CAPS grew out of a merger of a counseling team that helped students with career, roommate and relationship concerns, and a small group of mental health clinicians who worked with students.

Staff psychologist Joe Talley, who joined CAPS at its inception and worked there for 45 years, until 2022, noted major changes in the stigma related to mental health over the years. Talley said that early in his time at Duke, he heard of students asking for ways to discreetly come and go from their counseling session, to avoid being spotted around that office.

Today, CAPS is part of a range of wellness services, offered by Student Affairs, dedicated to the physical and mental health needs of students.