It started with a challenge, and meeting challenges has been its motivation ever since.
In the early 1960s, Clayton Gengras, an associate trustee of University of Saint Joseph, vowed to donate a quarter of a million dollars to the University if a center were built on campus for intellectually disabled students. A primary motivation was his cousin Reverend J. Calvin Gengras, who throughout his adult life devoted time and energy to the disabled community. Clayton was touched by his cousinâ€™s commitment.
The University endorsed the project on March 23, 1963, and Mr. Gengras made good on his pledge. The following year the State of Connecticut approved a special education curriculum, Dr. John T. Cassell was appointed director, and 20 students were enrolled in a temporary facility on campus.
On December 8, 1965, the Gengras Center for Exceptional Children was officially dedicated by Archbishop Henry J. Oâ€™Brien, and the legacy began. Forty-six students and a full-time staff of seven encompassed what was known as a special education laboratoryâ€”the first of its kind in Connecticut.