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Ann Costello, longtime Golisano Foundation leader, to retire

ann costello provided with child.jpg
Golisano Foundation
Ann Costello visiting Kenya in 2019 to see Special Olympics Healthy Communities' health work. Costello, who has been executive director of the Golisano Foundation since 1999, will retire in June.

Over her 23-year tenure as executive director of the Golisano Foundation, Ann Costello said she’s been heartened to see the progress made in providing more opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Costello, who has led the foundation since 1999, will retire in June. The foundation — started by philanthropist Tom Golisano, who also founded Paychex — is dedicated to helping individuals with those disabilities.

Costello said there has been a lot of progress in supporting young people with disabilities.

“In terms of education, No Child Left Behind, the ADA in 1990; it takes time, it takes too much time, for those of us who want to see the change happen more quickly, but absolutely things have changed,” Costello said. “Is there more that needs to be done? Sure, there always will be.“

Costello’s work to leverage public media’s reach through news and programming to build more inclusive communities also led to the launch of WXXI’s Move To Include initiative. That initiative is now expanding to more than 40 additional stations around the U.S.

In a statement, Golisano said that Costello “has been a relentless advocate for inclusion and dignity for people with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of their lives.”

Costello has also managed Tom Golisano’s personal philanthropic endeavors, including Golisano Children’s Hospitals in Rochester, Syracuse and southwest Florida and numerous other health care and education institutions.

During her tenure, Costello has seen the Golisano Foundation's rapid growth with assets now exceeding $60 million with the distribution of funds at $3 million annually.

Costello feels that in general, society has made a lot of strides in recognizing the abilities of people with disabilities over the last two decades.

“What I’m most pleased about and encouraged by are the younger generation,” said Costello. “And that's part of No Child Left Behind and mainstreamed and integrated classrooms. They have been with children, schoolmates with intellectual or any disability for any number of years. And they don't think it's odd or different.”

This story is part of Dialogue on Disability Week — a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies — in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.