About Elwyn

Our History

We create our legacy every day.
Child swimming with teacher
Child swimming with teacher

A challenging history shows the strength of our leadership. Our founders saw a better way.

Elwyn is the longest-running human services nonprofit of its kind in the nation. Elwyn is the birthplace of many practices, models of service and traditions of the disabilities community, and it has served as the training ground and springboard for thousands of practitioners and staff who now work throughout the region and beyond.

Today, we continue to create opportunities where there once were none. We must honor our history—while moving forward and envisioning our future.

1852

James Richards
1852

James Richards arrived in Philadelphia to open a classroom for children with intellectual disabilities.

A year later, Dr. Alfred Elwyn agreed to support James Richards’ efforts and founded “The Pennsylvania Training School for Feeble-Minded Children.”

1857

1857

Upon invitation, Dorothea Dix came to Philadelphia to see the work being done with the children.

She then spoke before the Pennsylvania legislature and obtained a grant for the construction of a new, larger school. A 300-acre farm near Media, Pennsylvania was chosen and purchased for $10,000.

1859

classroom
1859

The building was completed and the 25 children plus staff traveled to the new school.

Two yearslater, the Civil War left the school with decreased revenue and all “officers of the house and teachers” agreed to a 50% pay cut.

1876

Edouard Seguin
1876

The first professional organization totally devoted to the study of intellectual disabilities emerges.

What was to become the current American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is founded at Elwyn. As its first president, it selects Edouard Seguin, the French-born American psychiatrist who pioneered modern educational methods for teaching the severely intellectually disabled.

1921

building
1921

All children admitted to Elwyn began standardized testing.

Testing included the Vineland Social Maturity Scale. This method was developed at The Training School at Vineland, New Jersey, which later became a subsidiary of Elwyn.

1960

1960

Dr. Gerald R. Clark becomes superintendent and makes major changes.

During his tenure, he significantly modified the Kerlin/Barr Model. Campus services were opened to the community. Elwyn began new community-based vocational, residential, and educational services for people with intellectual disabilities.

1974

1974

New chapters open nationwide

Elwyn California was founded in Fountain Valley, Ca., and Elwyn Delaware was founded in Wilmington, De. to support community-based vocational and rehabilitation facilities.

1998

early intervention services
1998

Elwyn was awarded the contract for early intervention services in Philadelphia.

2008

new services
2008

New services and locations open.

Elwyn adds residential services to California. In Allentown, Pa., Elwyn celebrated the groundbreaking for the Autism Resource Community Hub of Lehigh Valley (ARCH).

2017

Charles “Chuck” S. McLister, MA, MBA
2017

Charles “Chuck” S. McLister, MA, MBA joins Elwyn as President and CEO.

Drawing from over 27 years in the health and human services industry, he positions Elwyn for near-future growth. He sees the unique capacity and expertise at Elwyn as a direct match for the industry’s rapidly growing needs

2018

Five-year strategic plan
2018

Elwyn’s Board of Directors approves our first five-year strategic plan.

Today

Today

We strengthen our future with Forever Elwyn.

As our horizons expand, so will the number of people we help. We have the resources, the plan, and the will to increase our international influence. We bring relevance, scale, and expertise. As we continue to grow, we look forward to the time when no one can imagine a world without Elwyn.

  • We are like a family and when things go wrong as a family, we help each other out. I have an awesome team.

    Cynthia Henry

    Mental Health Program Specialist, PA
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