Opening doors, transforming lives

VKC 50th logo

The VKC celebrates 50 years!

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) will celebrate its 50th anniversary throughout 2015—and you’re invited to the party. Special events and a 50th Anniversary website are among the ways to join the celebration.

“At the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, we dare to discover ways to open doors and transform lives for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., VKC director, Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair, and professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics. “Fifty years ago, hope was slim until President Kennedy and Congress opened the doors by founding the national Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers and University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Now we are charged with opening those doors even wider to greater opportunities and bigger dreams.”

Families and community partners will join in the 50th anniversary celebrations in a variety of ways from events to social networking.

“Those in our community with disabilities and their families benefit from Vanderbilt Kennedy Center research, training, and service,” said Donna Eskind, chair of the VKC Leadership Council. “At the same time, they are the Center’s partners. Without them, the Center could not carry out its mission.”

50th Anniversary Kick-Off

“The Future of Disability Policy” is the topic of the annual VKC Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture, which will be presented Wed. Jan. 21, 4 p.m., by Andy Imparato, J.D., executive director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

As a disability rights lawyer and policy professional with more than two decades of experience in government and advocacy roles, Imparato has worked with bipartisan policymakers to advance disability policy at the national level in the areas of civil rights, workforce development, and disability benefits. Prior to joining AUCD, he was senior counsel and disability policy director for Senator Tom Harkin on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Join us for the lecture and afterwards for birthday cake. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested; register here.

50th Anniversary Website

A dynamic 50th Anniversary website launches in January for viewing throughout 2015. Experience the VKC over 5 decades in the context of the national Disability Rights Movement through the VKC Timeline and Gallery.

Read brief Reflections from families, trainees and students, researchers, educators, and disability and other professionals about ways in the VKC has facilitated discoveries and best practices that make positive differences in the lives of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities—the Center’s mission. We invite you to submit your own Reflection.

Take the 6-Word Challenge. Submit your 6 words about how disability affects your life, how you experience disability. View 6-word stories that others have submitted.

Multimedia links connect to selected brief videos to see the work of the VKC in action. A special feature is the 1971 film “A Time to Learn,” which documented the Toddler Research and Intervention Project that set the national stage for inclusive early childhood education.

Support from friends of the VKC is vital to the Center’s ability to continue to innovate. “Matthew’s Story” shows how VKC programs from toddler to teen to young adult have opened doors. Whether you could give $5, $50, $500 or more, please consider giving in 2015.

Preview of 2015 Anniversary Events

Timothy Shriver, chairman and CEO of Special Olympics International, will speak at a 50th anniversary community-wide celebration in Spring 2015. He is the author of the recently published Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters in Life.

“Tim Shriver is the perfect speaker for our 50th anniversary,” said Christine Sartain, chair of the VKC Community Advisory Council. “Not only is he the next generation of the Kennedy/Shriver family, who have been such a significant part of the Center’s history, but he truly values individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities—and he motivates others to change attitudes and expand opportunities.”

The Convocation to celebrate the founding of the John F. Kennedy Center at Peabody College was held on May 29, 1965, the birthday of President Kennedy. Present at the Convocation were Rose Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Sargent Shriver. Mrs. Shriver was present at the Dedication of the two Center buildings in June 1968, and the Shrivers were again present when the Center celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Coming in Fall 2015 is the Center’s annual Science Day, which will be a 50th anniversary celebration of research discoveries and how the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities research has progressed over the five decades.

“We anticipate having a keynote presentation by a special guest from the National Institutes of Health,” Dykens said, “and I’ll be joined by a panel of some of the Center’s former directors as we discuss how the landscape has changed and what’s needed for the future.”

Founding Vision and the Future

At the Convocation marking the Center’s founding, the Center’s first director, noted child psychologist Nicholas Hobbs, said, “Our identification with the name John F. Kennedy will demand the best of each of us: a sense of the possible, faith in what [humans] can become, vision in planning, courage in execution, excellence in all we do . . . .To the Kennedy family, to our colleagues in science and education, to the people of this community, this region, this nation, who cherish now this name in common heritage, we pledge: We shall be worthy of this trust.”

“For 50 years we have indeed acted to be worthy of this trust,” Dykens said, “and we pledge to do so for the next 50 years.”

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This is a monthly email of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Notables published by the Communications staff of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Between issues of Notables, you can stay up to date on the latest Vanderbilt Kennedy Center news, information, and resources via the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Facebook page.