Kennedy-Donovan Center grew out of the close relationship between Luella Hennessey Donovan and the family of Joseph Patrick and Rose Kennedy. Luella Hennessey joined the Kennedy family in 1936 as a private duty nurse and traveled with them when Joseph Kennedy was appointed ambassador to Great Britain in 1937. Luella tended to the needs of the Kennedy children, including Rosemary, the eldest daughter, who had developmental disabilities and was institutionalized in 1941.
Rose Kennedy confided with Luella that she wished her daughter could have lived a typical family life attending a local school. This inspired Luella to embark on a new career at the age of 59. In 1969, after earning her degree from Boston College, Luella fulfilled her dream by opening one of the first community-based educational and therapeutic programs for young children with a three-year grant from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation.
In gratitude, Luella named her program the Kennedy Center for Handicapped Children, the program began serving four children in a borrowed space, with Luella as teacher, along with a physical therapist. Over the years, the center grew into a multi-purpose agency serving thousands of children and adults throughout eastern and south central Massachusetts. The agency was renamed Kennedy-Donovan Center upon her retirement in 1987 in recognition of Mrs. Donovan’s contributions.
Today, Kennedy-Donovan Center remains committed to the principle that all individuals have the right to participate and thrive in their communities. We honor Luella’s legacy through leadership in providing flexible, creative, and community-based human services.