From his first philanthropic efforts 35 years ago, the model initiatives Tom Golisano has helped to create, have paved the way for better health care and the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities, leading to improved qualitly of life.


Intellectual Disabilities

Helping people with developmental and intellectual disabilities is a mission close to Tom Golisano’s heart. From developed countries to the developing world, people with intellectual disabilities are often neglected, forgotten and denied basic rights and protections. Global health reports indicate health disparities facing this population are enormous. Even well intended efforts fall short of reaching this population.

Through the Golisano Foundation and through partnerships with organizations such as Special Olympics and others, life-changing and much needed services are being provided to help people with intellectual disabilities find pathways to self-sufficiency, personal dignity, and the best possible expression of their abilities and talents throughout their lifetimes.

Golisano Foundation

The Golisano Foundation is Tom Golisano’s largest ongoing initiative to help people with intellectual disabilities. The Foundation was founded in 1985 with an initial gift of $90,000 from Tom Golisano. Now 31 years later, it has become one of the largest private foundations in the United States devoted exclusively to supporting programs for people with intellectual disabilities. The Foundation has more than $40 million in gross assets and has awarded more than $25 million in grants, about $2 million annually, to non-profit organizations in Western and Rochester, NY regionas and Southwest Florida that serve people with developmental disabilities.

Special Olympics Health

Tom Golisano has provided more than $37 million to Special Olympics create a world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities and access to health care as people without intellectual disabilities. As the world’s largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is uniquely poised to address and improve the unmet health needs of people with intellectual disabilities. It is working to create a tipping point where health becomes inclusive for people with intellectual disabilities globally by changing curriculum, training health care professionals and policymakers, influencing policy, advocating for inclusive health programming, building partnerships for follow up care and harnessing the power of the Special Olympics Movement to build awareness.

In 2015, Tom’s gifts to Special Olympics Health were recognized as one of Philanthropy’s Big Bets for Social Change, a goal estimated by the Bridgespan Group that only 20% of philanthropic donations seek to achieve.

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center logo

Golisano Center for Community Health at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

The Golisano Center for Community Health is the only outpatient center of its type in Western New York and one of very few in the United States. Dedicated in June 2016, the $7 million, two-story, 23,000-square-foot building was supported by a $3.5 million gift from Tom Golisano. The Center provides comprehensive integrated health care services to adults with special needs and their families, breaking down barriers to care and supporting the Tom Golisano and the Foundation’s vision of inclusive healthcare for all -- ensuring that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are in no way excluded from healthcare systems within their communities.

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Golisano Autism Center

Al Sigl Community of Agencies, AutismUp and CP Rochester are collaborating to build the new Golisano Autism Center Rochester, which will expand and enhance autism services to serve the more than 10,000 people diagnosed with autism in the Greater Rochester and surrounding areas. The new Center will be named for philanthropist and Paychex and Golisano Foundation Chairman, Tom Golisano, who announced on May 16, 2017 that he is making a matching challenge grant of $2.5 million to help build the Center. The establishment of the Golisano Autism Center Rochester will transform the delivery of autism services by colocating and coordinating resources offered by multiple autism providers, each of which, has specialized areas of expertise. 

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Golisano Pediatric Behavioral Health & Wellness Center

In October 2017, Tom Golisano announced his donation of $5 million towward this new center, which will open in 2019, will provide the greater Rochester community a new, critically-needed home base for child and adolescent behavioral health services. The new building will be the primary outpatient location for the children’s hospital’s Pediatric Behavioral Health & Wellness program, which treats children with depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, PTSD, and other behavioral and emotional conditions, and will be staffed by a multidisciplinary team that includes child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors, nurses, and more.

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Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College

Nazareth broke ground on June 14, 2018 on the new $23.5M 91,000-square-foot center will bring together the strengths of Nazareth College, Special Olympics, and the Golisano Foundation to create a new model of inclusion, fitness, and wellness for athletes with intellectual disabilities. It will open in Fall 2019. Tom Golisano made a gift of $7.5 million toward the new center.

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Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing

On October 30, 2018, St. John Fisher College, Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation announced the creation of the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing thanks to a $5.8 million gift, $5 million from Tom Golisano and $800,000 from the Golisano Foundation.  The Institute will be fully integrated into Fisher’s Wegmans School of Nursing and is designed to transform the health care and support of individuals with developmental disabilities.  It will be the first institute of its kind in the country, and will have local, national, and international impact.

The Golisano Institute will be led by Dr. Dianne Cooney Miner, founding dean of the Wegmans School of Nursing, the largest enroller of nursing and mental health counseling students in the region.  The School—which consistently achieves rankings as a top nursing program in the region, state, and nation—will draw upon relationships with professional nursing associations, and partnerships with international nursing schools such as the Waterford Institute of Technology in Waterford, Ireland.  It will also capitalize on the network of Golisano Children’s Hospitals and community health centers as well as the Foundation’s collaboration with Special Olympics Health to extend the Institute’s reach.

Related News & Resources

What is Intellectual Disability? - Special Olympics

Estimated Prevalence of Children With Diagnosed Developmental Disabilities in the United States, 2014–2016 - CDC

Students with disabilities - National Center for Education Statistics

Intellectual disability is a below-average cognitive ability with three (3) characteristics - The ARC

About Developmental Disabiities - CDC

Disability Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017/2018

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities - NIH

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (EKS-IDDRCs)

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch (IDDB) - NIH

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (IDDRCs) - Association of Univerisity Centers on Disabilities

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs

University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD) 

Disability and health - WHO