50 Years - Opening Doors, Transforming Lives

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Timeline

How quickly the world has changed for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in 50 years. Families, community organizations, researchers, clinicians, staff, students, educators, public policy makers - all have worked together to create change. We will create an even better future together over the next 50 years. The VKC Timeline places VKC milestones within the context of the national disabilities rights movement.

1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s

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Photo of John F. Kennedy shaking hands with a child

1961 — President Kennedy created President’s Panel on Mental Retardation, which called upon America to address the desires of people with intellectual disabilities to be part of everyday life. Peabody College’s Nicholas Hobbs and Lloyd Dunn were appointed.

Photo of Nicholas Hobbs with some children outside on the playground

1961 — Nicholas Hobbs received NIMH grant to develop an ecological approach to helping children with emotional problems, which evolved into Project Re-ED. When the Kennedy Center was founded, Re-ED became a part of the Research Group on Behavior Disorders in Children.

Photo of the NIH logo

1962 — The National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) was founded as part of the National Institutes of Health.

Top photo of Early Training Project participant in preschool. Bottom photo of same participant in high school.

1962 — The Early Training Project began (following 1959 pilot study), led by Susan Gray and Rupert Klaus, with NIMH funding. This pioneering early education intervention and research program served as a model for Head Start. Later, as part of the national Consortium on Longitudinal Studies, Gray followed participants from ages 3 to 21; the data indicated long-term benefits.

Photo of John F. Kennedy with Carl Haywood

1962 — Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation Visiting Professorships in Mental Retardation Research were established at Peabody College.

1963 — Congress passed the Mental Retardation Facilities and Mental Health Centers Construction Act (Public Law 88-164).

Jan. 31, 1964 — Peabody College submitted a proposal to the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation for a matching gift to establish the “Center for Research on Human Development.”

Photo of Lloyd Dunn and two children

1964 — The Institute on Mental Retardation and Intellectual Development (IMRID) Program Project was funded by NICHD; it became a part of the Kennedy Center at its founding and was continuously funded for the next 32 years (ending Dec. 31, 1996).

Nov. 25, 1964 — Peabody College submitted an application for a Joint Construction Grant to build the Mental Retardation Laboratory and Child Study Center, and the Human Development Laboratory to house the Kennedy Center.

Photo of Rose Kennedy, the Shrivers, and the Governor at the Convocation

May 29, 1965 — A Convocation was held marking the establishment of the John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Education and Human Development. Pictured left to right: Governor Frank G. Clement, Rose Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Sargent Shriver.

Photo of the construction of the new Kennedy Center building

August 1966 — Ground was broken for construction of the two buildings.

Photo Susan Gray with children

1966 — The Demonstration and Research Center for Early Education (DARCEE), directed by Susan Gray, was founded as a part of the Kennedy Center.

March 1967 — 1st Gatlinburg Conference on Research and Theory in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the premier national conference in the field, initiated by Norman Ellis, Peabody Professor of Psychology and Center Investigator.

Photo of the architectural rendering of the new Kennedy Center building

March 31, 1968 — A Dedication was held celebrating the completion of the two Kennedy Center buildings. With completion of MRL, the Experimental School was founded. A bronze bust of President Kennedy by sculptor Robert Berks, donated by the Kennedy Family, was installed in MRL. Pictured are Nicholas Hobbs and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Photo of Carl Haywood with a child

June 1968 — The Kennedy Center organized and hosted the first international conference on social-cultural aspects of mental retardation, led by H. Carl Haywood, with NIMH funding; proceedings were published as a book edited by Haywood, Social-cultural aspects of mental retardation. (Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1970).

A photo of the mosaic hung in the Human Development Laboratory

Oct. 5, 1969 — A mosaic by Ben Shahn for the Human Development Laboratory was dedicated. Susan Gray led the planning and fundraising effort.

Blue text = federal legislative landmarks

[Unless noted all photos are from the George Peabody College Photograph Collection, Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives]

VISIT A DECADE: 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s


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