North Haven probate judge Eileen Donahue will become Yale’s new director of planned giving in January, Vice President of Development Charles Pagnam said.

Donahue will replace Charles Gordy, who left this summer for a job at the Bank of New York, Pagnam said.

Donahue said she has “very much enjoyed serving as probate judge” but is excited about her new role.

“It is a very exciting and challenging position,” she said.

Part of Donahue’s job will be finding the type of gift that would be best suited for potential donors and then getting the appropriate information to them. Pagnam said whenever a potential donor has a question about a gift, Donahue will be involved.

Donahue said she looks forward to working with donors even during the current economic recession.

“Certainly the economic situation is challenging for anyone in development at this time,” Donahue said, “but it seems to me that Yale continues to derive a great benefit from [its] loyal donors.”

Pagnam said he and his staff in the development department already knew of Donahue when Gordy left the office. Donahue said they approached her late this summer. After discussions and negotiations, Donahue said she accepted the position and then decided not to run for re-election as probate judge.

Donahue said some of the skills she honed during her 10 years spent as probate judge will benefit her as she begins to work with donors.

“The role of probate judge requires the abilities to listen carefully to people and assess their needs and attempt to address them,” she said.

Pagnam said Donahue’s experience as probate judge will serve her well.

“Her current position gives her a unique perspective on what we want to accomplish with planned giving,” Pagnam said.

Between Gordy’s departure and Donahue’s official start date, George Atwood is overseeing the investment of trusts. Brenda Fisher and Ellen Hope-Ross have also been working in the department and will work for Donahue when she begins her new job.

Though she has not yet officially begun her work at Yale, Donahue said she has been in the development office, meeting staff and learning about what goes on there.

“She seems like she’ll be a good director — a great director,” Fisher said. “I think she’s energetic, very qualified, and I think she’ll bring new life to the program.”

Donahue said her youngest two children are seniors in high school. She said the timing of Yale’s offer seemed to work out well.

“It seemed like it was a good time to turn the page,” she said.