University News

University Receives $2M Gift from Alumnus Daniel J. Hilferty ’78 and Wife Joan to Support Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support

Daniel J. Hilferty and his wife Joan Hilferty

Alumnus Daniel J. Hilferty ’78 and his wife Joan Hilferty.

Saint Joseph’s University announces a $2 million gift from alumnus Daniel J. Hilferty ’78 and his wife Joan Pilot Hilferty in support of the University’s renowned Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support. Hilferty served as President and CEO of Independence Health Group (Independence) through 2020, and Independence is making an additional gift to the Kinney Center in support of this partnership. This combined commitment will support an innovation fund designed to spur cutting-edge research and clinical approaches to further address the needs of individuals with autism.

“This partnership with Dan and Joan Hilferty and Independence will enable the Kinney Center to fuel innovation within the autism space. Combined with the work of other powerful Delaware Valley institutions focused on autism, Philadelphia has become an epicenter of the latest research, interventions and education,” said Saint Joseph’s President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D. “Saint Joseph’s University is proud to be part of this partnership because when organizations and individuals work together on a common cause we can make a larger impact. Dan and Joan’s investment will only accelerate this important work.”

“Supporting people with autism requires integrated behavioral and physical health care as well as social and educational support, and Joan and I are so proud that Saint Joseph’s and the Kinney Center are helping professionals and families pursue that goal,” said Hilferty, a 2017 Saint Joseph’s Shield of Loyola recipient and a former vice chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “It is no exaggeration to say that my career and the service I have strived to provide to the community are directly rooted in the Jesuit principles I learned on Hawk Hill, and the work of the Kinney Center falls squarely in that tradition.”

“Generations of our family have attended, cheered for, and loved Saint Joseph’s, and it is a privilege to support the incredible service the University provides through the Kinney Center,” said Joan Hilferty.

Now in its 10th year, the Kinney Center’s many firsts in the autism field have earned it a reputation as a trailblazer and incubator of pilot initiatives that turn into scalable advancements. Saint Joseph’s was the first university in the country to offer a major and minor in autism studies, the ASPIRE support program for college students on the spectrum, and an autism break room in an NCAA Division I athletic arena. 

It is no exaggeration to say that my career and the service I have strived to provide to the community are directly rooted in the Jesuit principles I learned on Hawk Hill."

Daniel J. Hilferty ’78

As the Kinney Center enters its second decade, the Center is actively piloting and researching transitional programs that facilitate meaningful employment and entrepreneurial careers for those on the spectrum. As part of this work, the University is partnering with employers to recognize and cultivate the talents of employees with autism, while training companies to develop a more neurodiverse workforce and best serve customers with autism.

“Independence shares the Kinney Center’s commitment to advancing the cause of neurodiverse individuals and their families – from promoting integrated care for physical and behavioral health to building a neurodiverse workforce,” said Gregory E. Deavens, president and chief executive officer of Independence Health Group. “Our support is also a tribute to Dan and Joan’s deep love of Saint Joseph’s University, as Dan ends his transformative tenure leading Independence.”

“While our last 10 years have been about getting our clients with autism ready for the world, our next 10 years will be about getting the world ready for individuals with autism,” said Angus Murray, executive director of the Kinney Center. “Advancing our mission is largely contingent on the support of our donors, and this gift enables us to have a game-changing impact on classrooms, college campuses and communities. Our education of future autism professionals is a force multiplier of all of our programmatic initiatives.”

The important contribution from Mr. and Mrs. Hilferty and Independence Health Group is one way that the Kinney Center is advancing the next chapter of its work. Other forward-thinking collaborations have included an innovative research partnership with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; a first-of-its kind program with Thomas Jefferson University to train autism specialty physicians; a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enhance transitional youth services for individuals with autism; and a variety of business-academic partnerships.