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Commitment to high-quality care, safety inspires $3.5 million naming gift toward new child care and community education center

December 16, 2010

Michele Barrett
(315) 443-6172

Continuing their unwavering commitment to the safety and well-being of children in child care settings and strong advocacy for training early childhood professionals, Syracuse University alumnus John D. Reilly III ’69, G’70 and his wife, Patricia M. Reilly, have pledged a $3.5 million naming gift to the College of Human Ecology toward construction of a new campus child care and educational center at Syracuse University.

childcareThe Jack Reilly Learning Campus for Child Care Excellence will improve school readiness of more children up to five years old, and allow SU to expand training and research opportunities in early childhood education for students and child care providers. As the new physical home for the Jack Reilly Institute for Early Childhood and Provider Education established by the Reillys in 2007, the center will provide students and professionals in this field locally and nationally with educational programming, new model practices and the development and dissemination of evidence-based child care research globally.

A tragic fire at a licensed child care facility in California in 1989 took the life of 13-month-old John David Reilly IV—known as Jack—the Reilly’s only child, for whom the facility will be named. Over the last two decades, the Reillys have transformed this tragedy into powerful advocacy for children on a national level, including their roles as significant change agents in child care practices and regulations in their home state of California.

reillys“We are honored to partner with the College of Human Ecology in developing a world-renowned learning institute where the Syracuse community, international and domestic students and parents, educators and providers can observe and collaborate, practice and learn, and then return to their homes and entities with a cutting-edge experience in teaching methods and research in infant and child care studies,” say John and Patricia Reilly. “The Jack Reilly Learning Campus for Child Care Excellence will further escalate Syracuse University’s reputation as a nationally recognized research and resource center for leaders in infant and early child care education throughout the world.”

Supporting the University’s current $1 billion capital campaign, the Reilly’s naming gift will serve as the lead gift for the facility, to be located on the University’s South Campus, and will be complemented by other external and University support. The new center will physically and programmatically connect the two existing facilities operated under the College of Human Ecology—the Bernice M. Wright Child Development Laboratory School and the Early Education and Child Care Center. The two facilities have a long tradition of providing innovative, highly-regarded, developmentally appropriate programming for University families and the children they serve.

The new center is expected to total 35,000 square-feet when combined with the two existing facilities. A specific construction timetable is to be determined.

“The Reilly’s incredible generosity will increase capacity to meet the child care needs of SU families and the community,” says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “It also will give us an extraordinary opportunity to build on our longstanding, interdisciplinary strengths and connect them powerfully to professional practice. Perhaps even more powerful is the example that John and Patty, themselves, set for us all by showing vividly how we can channel our passion to make a sustained, positive impact on the world.”

A 2009 report prepared by SU confirmed the need for more campus child care—especially in the infant and toddler age groups—to serve faculty, staff and graduate assistants. The proposal for the Jack Reilly Learning Campus includes the addition of 16,000 square-feet that will triple the number of children and families served to more than 180.

“From federal Head Start of the Great Society years in the 1960s, to inclusive education, Syracuse University has been at the forefront of progressive development and inclusion of all children in education at the earliest stages of development,” says Diane Lyden Murphy, dean of the College of Human Ecology. “The Bernice M. Wright Children’s Laboratory was founded within the College of Human Development in 1960. Bettye Caldwell, professor emerita in the Department of Child and Family Studies, was an early architect of Head Start, developing it at the Children’s Center in Syracuse as one of the first national models of preschool enrichment programs.

“Through this visionary gift of the Reillys, we stand on a rich tradition of more than 60 years of quality child care and lab school programming to again launch a new phase of educating teachers and community childcare providers with the best of early childhood education programs, while simultaneously offering excellent service models of quality infant care and inclusive education to families of Syracuse University and our community. This is an excellent example of synergy between the University and partnership within the community in which we reside.”

Syracuse-based architect Munly Brown Studio is currently meeting with campus and community constituents, including child care teachers and administration, parents, faculty, graduate students, staff and child care providers to identify needs and opportunities to explore in the architectural design process.

One of the priorities envisioned in the facility’s new design is inclusive education for infants, which would make SU one of the first campus child care programs in the nation to extend a fully inclusive program for children in this age group. Dedicated occupational, physical and speech therapy rooms supporting fully integrated inclusive education for children with specific developmental needs will be included in the facility. Currently, inclusive education programming is available on campus for toddlers and pre-school children at the Bernice M. Wright Child Development Laboratory School. The College of Human Ecology partners with the School of Education in offering a joint undergraduate program in inclusive early childhood education, and a four-plus-one master’s program in early childhood special education.

The Reilly gift to the College of Human Ecology supports one of the five priorities of The Campaign for Syracuse University—building futures. This campaign priority provides funding for infrastructure improvements—critical in today’s ever-changing world—that will enhance SU’s teaching and learning facilities. With a goal of $1 billion, The Campaign for Syracuse University is the most ambitious fundraising effort in SU history. More information about the campaign is available online at

John and Patty Reilly’s commitment to early childhood education and child care safety has been very prominent and purposeful in the College of Human Ecology:

  • The Jack Reilly Institute for Early Childhood and Provider Education was launched to create a national center of excellence in child care studies research and best practices;
  • The annual Jack Reilly Distinguished Lecture Series brings international child development experts together with students and caregivers free of charge;
  • The Jack Reilly Professorship, which is held by Jaipaul L. Roopnarine, professor of child development and senior faculty member in the Department of Child and Family Studies, was created to provide vision and strategic leadership and develop curriculum for the institute; and
  • The Quality Infant/Toddler Caregiving Workshop, now in its 35th year and led by Alice Honig, professor emerita of child and family studies, helps people seeking an understanding of infant development and practical training in infant/toddler caregiving.

“The Reilly’s foresight in establishing a campus for child care excellence will address the pressing need for high-quality infant care, further enhance early childhood teacher and provider training in a world-class facility, and enhance multidisciplinary scholarship on childhood and family development processes in the near environment and globally,” says Roopnarine.

“Ultimately, enriching the lives of infants and toddlers adds to their own ability to grow and flourish and enhances their family’s joy with their optimal development,” says Honig.

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