History of the Shriver Center

The E.K. Shriver legacy

Raymond Adams, Rose Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Ted Kennedy & David Crockett
Pictured at the dedication of the Shriver Center in 1970 (from left to right): Co-Founder, Dr. Raymond Adams, Rose Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and David Crockett, Associate Director of Mass General Hospital.(c) UPI/Landov.
The history of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center is closely tied to the national movement started more than 50 years ago to improve the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities spurred by the efforts of its namesake. The Center, dedicated in 1970, was named in honor of Mrs. Shriver to acknowledge her tireless work to champion the right of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to influence public perception of their value and potential contributions to the communities in which they live.

In her role as the Executive Vice President of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, Mrs. Shriver shifted the organizational focus towards determining causation and prevention of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Among the programs inspired by her leadership were the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in 1962, the University of Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities in 1967 and Special Olympics in 1968. NICHD established a network of research facilities called Mental Retardation Research Centers (now known as Intellectual and Developmental Research Centers or IDDRC’s) across the U.S. that encouraged multidisciplinary, collaborative and integrated approaches to research aimed at ameliorating the problems associated with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center was one of the 12 original IDDRC’s, receiving its first core grant in 1970. The Center was established as a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at about the same time. Located originally on the grounds of Fernald Center in Waltham, the Center merged with the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester in 2000. While many of its operations have moved to that campus, the Waltham site continues to house a number of IDDRC laboratories and portions of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.