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Golisano gift will fund a new intellectual and developmental disabilities institute at UR

Tom Golisano stands behind a dark-colored wood podium with a University of Rochester Medical Center placard attached. He is wearing a light tan sport coat, white shirt, and dark tie. Behind him stand several people, including University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf.
Racquel Stephen
On Thursday, the University of Rochester announced that philanthropist and Paychex founder Tom Golisano has pledged $50 million to build a new intellectual and developmental disabilities institute on the medical center campus.

The University of Rochester has received its single largest financial gift ever, and it is using it to establish and build a center focused on health and quality of life issues that affect people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Philanthropist and Paychex founder Tom Golisano has pledged $50 million for the Golisano Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Officials have yet to decide where on the medical campus to build the institute.

"I'm excited about this project," Golisano, who has a son with disabilities, said during a news conference Thursday. "And I look forward to see it developing over the years, and I know it's gonna do a lot of good for a lot of people. We may never ever be able to measure the good it does, but it'll be great. I really believe that."

University officials said Thursday that the new facility will centralize and expand the university's patient care, community outreach, and caregiver support programs in one place. Those programs currently are spread across a handful of UR schools, institutes, centers and departments.

Officials also said the center will allow greater collaboration between the different disciplines.

Emily Brushafer of Dansville, a swimmer who has won several Special Olympics gold medals, said many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their parents struggle with navigating the health care system. She thanked Golisano for his pledge.

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"Here are some challenges my friends face," Brushafer said. "Getting the right doctors and appointments can be tough and takes a long time. Getting to and from the appointment is difficult, especially when you have some appointments in different locations. Most importantly, getting the right diagnosis and treatment. So let's celebrate this new facility, a place of hope and understanding and compassion."

The university has appointed John Foxe, chair of URMC's Department of Neuroscience and director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, to direct the new institute.

"We're really gonna swing for the fences here," Foxe said. "We intend to be the absolute best IDD Institute on the planet. And we want to be a global leader in providing new ways, new cures, new therapies and new standards of care. I'm certain we can do that."

Additionally, an Eastman Dental Center clinic that annually serves roughly 2,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be named the Golisano Specialty Clinic at Eastman Dental Center.

According to the university, about 19,000 people locally and 120,000 regionally have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

UR officials said that with today's announcement, Golisano has contributed nearly $100 million to the medical center personally and through his foundation.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk.  

Racquel Stephen is WXXI's health, equity and community reporter and producer. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
Jeremy Moule is a deputy editor with WXXI News. He also covers Monroe County.