Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

Elisabeth Dykens, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Elise McMillan

Elisabeth Dykens, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Elise McMillan

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center leaders remember Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Updated on 9/11/2009 2:58:31 PM.

Source: Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

By: Jan Rosemergy

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center leaders remember Eunice Kennedy Shriver as tireless advocate for persons with developmental disabilities

“We join those in our nation and around the world who are celebrating the life of Eunice Kennedy Shriver,” said Elisabeth Dykens, interim director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Mrs. Shriver, lifelong champion of persons with intellectual disabilities and founder of Special Olympics, died August 11 at age 88.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is one of fourteen Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (IDDRCs) supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The NICHD and its IDDRC national network were renamed in honor of Mrs. Shriver in March 2008 in recognition of the impact that she had for almost five decades on the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Her vision and unrelenting efforts helped to establish the NICHD in 1962. Mrs. Shriver was a member of NICHD’s first advisory council, and it was under their guidance that the IDDRCs were established.

“The Kennedy and Shriver families were essential to the founding of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center,” Dykens said. “Our Center, named in honor of President John Kennedy, was the second founded, made possible not only by a federal construction grant but also by matching gifts from the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and Peabody College. Rose Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver all attended the Convocation marking our Center’s founding on May 29, 1965. Both Mrs. Shriver and her husband Sargent Shriver were members of our Center’s original National Advisory Committee. The Kennedys and Shrivers have never wavered in their commitment to and advocacy for persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.”

Governor Clement, Rose Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Convocation marking founding of the John F. Kennedy Center. Governor Clement, Rose Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Sargent Shriver

Mrs. Shriver was executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and was founder and honorary chairperson of Special Olympics, now led by her son Timothy Shriver.

In 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver invited 35 children with disabilities to her Maryland home to explore their capabilities in sports, which was the first “Camp Shriver.” The camp became a precursor to the Special Olympics. In recent years, the vision and spirit of Special Olympics has been extended through the Shriver Sports Camps.

“In 2007, Mrs. Shriver invited the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center to take part in training to establish a Sports Camp,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., co-director of the VKC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. “Since then, each summer, youth with intellectual disabilities have taken part in the Center’s Camp Shriver Transitions and Sports Camp, which provides campers with experiences to guide them toward self-empowerment, realization of life goals, and techniques to achieve a full and independent life.”

Mrs. Shriver also was a supporter of Best Buddies. Led by her son Anthony Shriver, the mission of Best Buddies is to enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships. The Vanderbilt Best Buddies Chapter, with McMillan as faculty advisor, was honored in 2008 as the Outstanding Chapter of the year by Best Buddies International.

For additional information on the achievements of Mrs. Shriver, visit

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