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 cousin’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. O’Brien, and the legacy began. Forty-six students and a full-time staff of seven encompassed what was known as a special education laboratory – the first of its kind in Connecticut.