Rutgers Biomedical Engineering Graduate Student Defends Thesis Developed in Collaboration with Matheny

Madara Dias of Bridgewater has successfully defended her Master’s thesis, “Development of a Dynamic Lateral Support for Wheelchair Users”. Dias is currently a student in Rutgers University’s Biomedical Engineering graduate program.

The Rutgers Biomedical Engineering program has collaborated with Matheny for the past four years. In a typical year, students enrolled in Rutgers University’s biomedical engineering major and working on their capstone senior project participate in a week-long immersion program at Matheny, a special hospital and school for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities. Rutgers students explore physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, wheelchair fabrication and customization, the wheelchair clinic, classes at both the Matheny School and the adult services program, and assistive technology. Access and exposure to Matheny services and programs enable the Rutgers students to better conceptualize and develop a plan for an innovative device designed to improve the lives of those with disabilities.

During their fall semester, student teams work on conceptualizing their idea and designing it. The spring semester is devoted to creating a prototype, testing it, refining it, and delivering a finished product. The Rutgers students are guided by Dr. Kristen S. Labazzo, an assistant professor of practice in biomedical engineering and the executive director of the Medical Device Development Center at Rutgers University. Labazzo also serves as Chair of the Matheny School Board.

Dias’ project built upon the work of a previous group of students who had conceptualized a different kind of lateral support for wheelchair users. A lateral support is used for patients who require additional support in order to maintain balance and stability while seated in their wheelchair. Their idea was to develop a lateral support that would not only hold the patient securely but allow them to move and bend from side to side, all while being affordable, adjustable, and dynamic.

According to Dr. Kristen Labazzo, “Madara was the ideal BME student who took advantage, not only of the variety of opportunities that crossed her path during her education (research, internships, co-ops), but she also diversified her skill set. BMEs can be trained in a variety of skills for multiple career paths, and Madara explored different areas of the field to get a better understanding of her interests.”

Dr. Labazzo added, “The collaboration with Matheny has been so rewarding, not just for me but for all of the students who have been involved. Interacting directly with the caregivers, clients and students at Matheny has been eye-opening, and puts our work in a different perspective. So far, the projects have been the focus of our senior design program, but Madara was inspired and wanted to further develop one for her Master’s thesis. We went through all the projects and determined that the dynamic lateral support had the best potential for advancement. It was also great that the student from the original group, Chris Evans, offered to be a resource, despite having graduated and working on his own Master’s degree.”

Adding to the challenge, the pandemic forced Dias to develop her project without being able to visit Matheny for in person consultations. However, Dias received support and encouragement from Matheny’s director of assistive technology, John Reck. According to Reck, “It was a pleasure working with Madara. She is an excellent learner and I am so happy to see where she has taken this project. This innovation and the many others that come out of the partnership with Rutgers will certainly help my colleagues and me better serve our patients.” Dias also worked closely with Rutgers University professors Dr. Kristen Labazzo, Dr. Noshir Langrana, and Dr. Natalie Macon.

Dias received her B.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Math from Rutgers University. She was awarded the NASA NJ Space Grant Consortium Fellowship which helped support her graduate education. Dias anticipates receiving a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering, as well as a Certificate in Medical Device Design and Development, in May 2021. “This project was a great reminder of why I chose Biomedical Engineering – and that was to help people! I’m really grateful for the Rutgers-Matheny collaboration for giving me the chance to work on a project that could potentially make an impact on patient lives!” says Dias.

New Matheny President & CEO Visits Group Homes

Since becoming Matheny’s new President & CEO, Bill Kent has been keeping busy getting to know the Matheny community! He recently visited our five group homes in Basking Ridge, Frelinghysun, Lakeside, and Franklin to start getting more familiar with the staff and residents.

We’re grateful to Bill for his careful and intentional efforts to learn about Matheny in his first few weeks. We’re excited to see where his leadership will take us!

The Matheny Community Welcomes New President and CEO, Bill Kent

March 30, 2021, Peapack, NJ —William (Bill) M. Kent, MHA, officially began working as President and CEO of Matheny School and Hospital on March 29, 2021.

Board President, William A. Krais, Esq., said, “The Board of Trustees conducted a national search for a candidate to replace our esteemed former president, Dr. Kendell Sprott.”  He added, “We are delighted to welcome Bill Kent to the Matheny family.  Bill is an accomplished leader whose depth and breadth of experience will serve the Matheny community well, and create an environment in which those we serve will thrive.”

Prior to joining Matheny, Bill Kent was President of the Lehigh Valley Hospital where, among many other responsibilities, he successfully led hospital management and operations for more than five years. His prestigious career experience includes more than 14 years as Senior Vice President at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and 13 years at the Johns Hopkins Health System.

He discussed his special connection to Matheny as a proud dad of two children – a daughter and his son, who has special needs.  When asked why he decided to apply for the position, Mr. Kent said, “Matheny was a personal calling for me given we are parents of a special needs son.  My wife and I have personally experienced the challenges of navigating and advocating for his needs throughout his life so he can achieve his full potential.  The mission of Matheny to support families with children and adults that have these unique challenges in their lives completely resonates with us.” Kent added, “The opportunity to join an organization that is uniquely providing excellent care to these wonderful people in need is something really compelling and exciting, especially at this point in my career.  To be able to make a difference in this community will be a wonderful capstone to my career. My colleagues at Matheny are uniquely special heroes – their commitment and their sense of passion to care for and support patients and families is extraordinary.”

Kent brings extensive strategic planning, operations, and facilities management experience to his new position. “Matheny is a very special place and a hidden gem.  My vision is to enable Matheny to become more widely known to this region and even throughout the country for the exceptional quality of its care and comprehensiveness of its services and programs. Part of what I will be working on is to develop a strategic plan that will help Matheny grow and reach its fullest potential as a leader in this part of the healthcare industry.”

At the start of his career, Kent says he served on the frontline in healthcare which shaped his philosophy of leadership. “I exist to serve the frontline. As President I want to make sure that my colleagues have what they need to provide the utmost high quality, safe, and compassionate care. It touches my heart to think about what my Matheny colleagues have accomplished throughout the years, but especially over this past year during the pandemic.”

Kent has published and presented on more than 35 topics ranging from patient satisfaction and quality improvement to organizational transformation and diversity. He has also served on numerous volunteer community boards including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lehigh Valley, the Greater Cincinnati Health Council, the Life Center Organ Donation Network and the March of Dimes.  As an Eagle Scout, he also served as district chairman for the Boy Scouts in Baltimore.

Please Welcome Bill Kent

Please join us in welcoming William M. (Bill) Kent, Matheny’s new President & CEO! We are so excited to have him join us!

Before joining Matheny, Bill Kent was the President of the Lehigh Valley Hospital, based in Allentown, PA. Mr. Kent joined Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) in December 2015. In his role as President, he was responsible for overall hospital management and operations for LVHN’s Lehigh Valley-Cedar Crest Hospital, 17th Street Hospital, and Tilghman Orthopedics Hospital. His responsibilities also included oversight of the Lehigh Valley Children’s Hospital, service lines including burn, neurosciences, orthopedics, trauma and perioperative services, support services and supply chain management.

Prior to joining LVHN, Mr. Kent served as Senior Vice President for Infrastructure and Operations over 14 years at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Additionally, Mr. Kent was employed for 13 years with the Johns Hopkins Health System. While at Johns Hopkins, he held several senior leadership positions including President of Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, a subsidiary operating primary care practices throughout Maryland.

Mr. Kent graduated from Wittenberg University with a biology major and earned a master’s degree in health administration from the Washington University School of Medicine. Upon earning his master’s degree, Mr. Kent completed a two-year administrative fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Mr. Kent has served on numerous community boards including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lehigh Valley, the Greater Cincinnati Health Council, the Life Center Organ Donation Network and the March of Dimes. Mr. Kent is an Eagle Scout and served as district chairman for the Boy Scouts in Baltimore. While at Cincinnati Children’s, he developed a health careers exploring program for high school students. Additionally, he participated on the Cincinnati Mayor’s task force (including the United Way) to develop a plan for increasing economic inclusion and supplier diversity in the greater Cincinnati region. Mr. Kent is married and has two children.

Long-time Champion and Advocate for Children Retires as Matheny President and CEO

After six successful years at the helm, Kendell R. Sprott, MD, JD, is retiring as President and CEO of Matheny School and Hospital effective March 26, 2021. Matheny is a special hospital and educational facility for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities.

He announced his plan to retire to the Board of Trustees and Matheny’s employees toward the end of 2020. Dr. Sprott ends his career at Matheny during one of the most challenging times any organization has ever faced – the COVID-19 pandemic.  Under his leadership, the organization survived the pandemic and most importantly, its vulnerable patients and students are doing well.  He credits those feats to the frontline healthcare workers at Matheny.

In a message to Matheny’s employees, Dr. Sprott said, “These past six years at Matheny have been some of the most rewarding and fulfilling of my career.  Matheny introduced me to you, some of the kindest and most selfless people I know.  I will especially miss our patients.  They put a smile on my face each time I walk the halls to say hello.  It brings me comfort to know that our patients will always be in good hands.  After 44 years as a pediatrician, I will now dedicate the upcoming years to my wife, my children, and especially my precious grandchildren.  I currently have two young grandchildren with one on the way!”

When Dr. Sprott started working at Matheny in 2014, he encountered many difficulties that he and his leadership team would eventually overcome.  Some of those accomplishments include: significantly improving Matheny’s financial health; two successful Joint Commission accreditations; a positive legal resolution with the town of Peapack after litigation that began many years prior to his arrival; the formation of a strategic alliance agreement with RWJ/Barnabas Health signed in August 2020 where both organizations share expertise and resources to expand care for people with Intellectual and Developmental disabilities; and the expansion of Matheny’s group homes with two new adult group homes to be built this year in Far Hills.

In a letter to the Board of Trustees, Dr. Sprott stated, “Thank you for all of the support you have given me to make changes and take certain risks in moving the organization forward.”

William A. Krais, Esq, President of the Board of Trustees said, “Dr. Sprott is a staunch advocate for children and people with disabilities. The innovative strategies and valuable partnerships Dr. Sprott established have positioned Matheny for a bright and prosperous future.” Mr. Krais added, “On behalf of the board of trustees, we wish him and his family the very best and know they will thoroughly enjoy this new chapter in their lives.”

Matheny’s new President and CEO, Bill Kent, will officially begin his post on March 29, 2021. Mr. Kent was President of Lehigh Valley Hospital for five years.  Dr. Sprott communicated the news to Matheny’s employees in February and said, “Your new President and CEO will be Bill Kent…He is a stellar leader who is compassionate and kind. He has extensive experience in the healthcare field working in large, prestigious hospital systems. I am confident that Matheny will grow and thrive under his leadership. Please join me in welcoming Mr. Kent to the Matheny family.”


Statement of Solidarity with the AAPI Community

Dear Matheny Family:

We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from the Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander communities. The horrifying incident in Georgia brings to light the discrimination that, unfortunately, has always existed against Asian people. At Matheny, we cherish everyone’s different abilities. We show love and respect to all people no matter their abilities or physical appearance. Discrimination, violence, and hate against any group of people must be condemned and we must work together to combat these racial biases. At Matheny, we will continue to work together and educate ourselves and each other to be anti-racist and always treat others with dignity and respect.

Kendell R. Sprott, MD, JD                                                                                                   President and CEO


Matheny Executive Earns Top Healthcare Management Credential

March 9, 2021, Peapack, NJ — Vincent Barba, MD, FACHE, Vice President of Patient Care & Safety and Chief Medical Officer of Matheny Medical and Educational Center, recently earned Board Certification in Healthcare Management and was named Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), the nation’s leading professional society for healthcare leaders.

Dr. Barba joined Matheny in 2015 and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. He leads all clinical services for Matheny including the Special Hospital and Outpatient Center for Medicine and Dentistry. He also holds an academic appointment at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School as Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine.

“The healthcare management field plays a vital role in providing high-quality care to the people in our communities, which makes having a standard of excellence promoted by a professional organization critically important,” says Deborah J. Bowen, FACHE, CAE, president and CEO of ACHE. Ms. Bowen continued, “By becoming an ACHE Fellow and earning the distinction of board certification from ACHE, healthcare leaders demonstrate a commitment to excellence in serving their patients and the community.”

According to the ACHE, Fellow status represents achievement of the highest standard of professional development. In fact, only 8,866 healthcare executives hold this distinction. To obtain Fellow status, candidates must fulfill multiple requirements, including meeting academic and experiential criteria, earning continuing education hours, demonstrating professional/community involvement and passing a comprehensive examination. Fellows also are committed to ongoing professional development and undergo recertification every three years. The ACHE is an international professional society of more than 48,000 healthcare executives who lead hospitals, healthcare systems and other healthcare organizations. ACHE’s mission is to advance our members and healthcare management excellence. ACHE offers its prestigious FACHE® credential, signifying board certification in healthcare management.

Dr. Kendell Sprott, President and CEO of Matheny said, “I congratulate Dr. Barba for this significant accomplishment. I’ve worked with Dr. Barba for many years and he is an excellent physician and an exemplary leader. Matheny is lucky to have him as part of the Matheny family.”


About Matheny – Matheny’s mission is to provide exceptional care and an optimal quality of life for children and adults with special needs and medically complex developmental disabilities. Matheny is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and is headquartered in Somerset County.  It was founded in 1946 after Walter and Marguerite Matheny’s son, Chuck, was born with cerebral palsy (CP) into a world ill-equipped to care for children with special needs. Matheny patients have a diverse range of medical conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Lesch-Nyhan Disease (LND) and a wide range of rare diseases. Matheny is comprised of a fully accredited special hospital, five community group homes, an adult day center, a non-profit private special school, and outpatient clinics serving the community. To learn more about Matheny, visit us at or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram: @mathenymedical.

Governor Murphy visits Matheny to celebrate COVID-19 vaccinations

On Tuesday, February 9th, 2021, Matheny was honored to be visited by Governor Phil Murphy, Commissioner Persichelli, Commissioner Adelman, Congressman Malinowski, IDD Ombudsman Paul Aronsohn, and Mayor Greg Skinner!

Since the start of the pandemic, Governor Murphy has worked tirelessly to protect public health across the state of New Jersey. We are especially grateful for his efforts to ensure that vulnerable groups – including individuals with disabilities and front line healthcare workers – have access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

You can find the live video of the Governor’s visit here:

Matheny received doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday, January 11th. As you can see from the photo gallery below, our community members are eager and enthusiastic to take this step to protect themselves, the Matheny community, their loved ones, their neighbors, and more.

If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine and are interested in learning more, we highly recommend registering for these events from the New Jersey Department of Health:


Matheny’s Memorable Moments & Bright Spots of 2020

When we wrote our “Best of 2019” post around this time last year, we had no idea what we were in for in the coming months. Needless to say, this year at Matheny has been very different from years past – plans changed, events were adapted or cancelled, social distancing and other safety precautions became our new normal.

However, thanks to our stellar community of patients, residents, staff, families, and supporters, Matheny still accomplished a lot in 2020. Some of the highlights are below.

Thank you for facing this unusual year with us. If we can achieve so much under these unique circumstances, we cannot wait to see what awaits us in 2021! The challenges of the pandemic may continue for some time, but we are prepared. No matter what happens, the safety, care, and happiness of our patients and residents will always come first.

All of us at Matheny wish you and your loved ones a new year filled with good health, peace and joy.

  1. The year started off strong with our receipt of the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval®for Hospital Accreditation in January. Matheny is proud of our focus on patient safety and careful compliance with performance standards.
  2. In February, we were thrilled to receive a generous grant from the Delta Dental Foundation, which will help ensure that our Dental Clinic continues to have the equipment, resources, and expertise to provide comprehensive, high-quality dental care to individuals with complex developmental disabilities. We are committed to providing each patient with a comfortable and enjoyable experience!
  3. Later in February, before the COVID-19 restrictions began, our Arts Access program was proud to participate in the Access-ABILITY Exhibit at Morris Museum for the third time. Work from 15 talented Matheny artists was shown alongside work from Center for Enhancing Abilities in a pop-up exhibit at the museum. This ended up being the only in-person event for the Arts Access program in 2020, making it all the more meaningful.
  4. At the beginning of March, our Adults Services program got a visit from the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities. We were honored to receive a proclamation from the Governor in honor of Developmental Disabilities Awareness month!
  5. Throughout the most difficult months of spring and summer, we learned just how supportive and enthusiastic our community members can be. Led by the Friends of Matheny, our local community (including neighborhood police and firefighters) organized multiple “hero salutes” where they would circle Matheny’s driveway in their cars, honking horns and waving homemade signs with encouraging and uplifting messages. These were true moments of unity and happiness during a difficult time for our staff.
  6. When we needed them most, our community of supporters was there for us! We were gifted numerous donations of food and personal protective equipment (PPE) from individuals, families, and business in the wider community. We can’t thank them enough!
  7. We are always blown away by the talent of our Arts Access artists, and they didn’t let quarantine or social distancing disrupt their creativity! During late spring, Arts Access was able to adapt the facilitation process in order to continue serving artists from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
  8. We successfully launched a Virtual Miles for Matheny! While staff and participants did a Wheelchair Walk and posed for photos on the Peapack campus, supporters participated and raised money from a distance, riding their bikes or running near their homes and at their own convenience. While we missed seeing one another in person, we proved that nothing can stop us from celebrating the abilities of Matheny’s students and residents!
  9. Arts Access participated in the highly-anticipated Annual NJMS Collaborative ARTS Exhibit – the 10th anniversary of this special collaboration. With hard work, imagination, and flexibility, the Arts Access program found ways to adapt the exhibition for a virtual space. Over the summer, they showcased the redesigned virtual exhibit and held a virtual artists reception over Zoom. Our talented artists were thrilled to show off their creativity!
  10. August 2020 marked the start of an exciting new collaboration between Matheny and Children’s Specialized Hospital! This strategic partnership will allow two organizations with shared missions and values to expand their expertise, experience, and resources in order to provide the highest possible quality clinical care and education for individuals with disabilities throughout the state.
  11. On Tuesday, August 11th, Matheny was visited by the wonderful folks at Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes, who distributed 6,500 pieces of free personal protective equipment to Matheny’s hardworking employees. CRT4H distributes essential equipment directly to NYC organizations, communities, and individuals most in need – hospital, homeless shelter and nursing home workers, veterans, and public housing residents. At that point, Matheny was the second hospital in NJ to benefit from their generosity.
  12. In early October, we were able to host our annual Golf Outing for the Matheny School! Our golfers adapted to additional safety measures, including masks and distancing, and generously contributed over $25,000 to benefit our wonderful students!
  13. After several months of closure, our Adult Day Program in Hillsborough reopened in October – and the event was made all the better by a visit from John Elliot of CBS 2 NY! John interviewed several Matheny patients and staff, all of whom were thrilled to be back. What a great way to return!
  14. We have spent the last several months in awe of the compassion, determination of professionalism of our frontline healthcare heroes. Matheny’s doctors, nurses, therapists, personal care and community resident assistants, and all other clinical staff are simply the best. We’re so lucky to have them on our team and cannot thank them enough.

And finally, we ask everyone to take a moment to remember the precious lives we lost this year.  Matheny’s residents, students, and employees who are now resting in peace – their memories will remain alive in our hearts and minds forever.

In the end, we learned to cherish and appreciate family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors more. We are grateful for the experiences had and the lessons learned. We look forward to a happier and healthier 2021.

Charles “Chuck” Matheny – Model of Possibility

Charles H. Matheny, age 76, died on December 14, 2017 – three years ago today. A native of Minnesota, he lived most of his life in his home on the campus of the Matheny Medical and Educational Center in Peapack, NJ.

“Chuck,” who was born in 1941 with cerebral palsy, became the inspiration and the motivating force behind the founding of the Matheny School in 1946, and its decades-long development into a highly sophisticated and renowned specialized school and hospital. The Center currently educates and provides a wide spectrum of services for children and adults with cerebral palsy and other medically complex developmental disabilities.

Chuck was the older child of Marguerite and Walter Matheny, educators who left their home in the Midwest when Chuck was very young.  They moved around the country due to Walter’s position as an Air Force Civilian Consultant and to search for the kind of therapeutic and educational programs that would support the development of their son. They settled in New Jersey when Walter became the manager of a newly established school in the state. Just a few months later, Walter left that job when he and Marguerite decided to establish their own school–for Chuck and for all children with cerebral palsy.

While the first years of the school were fraught with significant financial and operational challenges, the determination of Chuck’s parents drove them to fashion their vision into reality. From its start as the Burnt Mills School for Paralysis Correction with just three students and a $3,000 operating budget provided through a GI loan, the school took a major step forward when it moved in 1949 into larger quarters in Far Hills. The need for a school like this was huge, and students and families came from across the country and the world to access its services. In 1954, the school moved again, this time to its current location, where it has grown and flourished. The Center is currently comprised of a hospital; a school for students ages 3 to 21, providing academics as well as training in functional life skills; specialized outpatient clinics for individuals with all kinds of disabilities; a notable fine arts program; adult day services, and five adult group homes.

Chuck was a pivotal force in the development of the Center that bears the Matheny name. Not only was he well educated there, and supported to reach his full potential, but he helped to create the “personality” of this compassionate and cohesive community that has served so many so well.

Chuck grew up to be a warm, kind, positive person, a “storyteller,” a man with a wonderful sense of humor, someone who greatly valued friendship and whose friendship was greatly valued, a person who loved life and loved his particular life, according to those who knew him. He became “the face” of Matheny, but beyond that he became the model of possibility for all those growing up, or newly afflicted, with limitations. He graduated from high school, learned to drive, mowed the lawns of Matheny’s main campus, and actively participated in all of Matheny’s events and fundraisers.

Chuck Matheny is remembered as the catalyst for the founding of the Matheny Medical and Educational Center, and as a beacon of achievement and a caring friend to so many. His “story” and that of the Center that bears his name are positively and permanently entwined in New Jersey’s educational landscape and history.

About Matheny

Matheny’s mission is to provide exceptional care and an optimal quality of life for children and adults with special needs and medically complex developmental disabilities. Matheny is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization and is headquartered in Somerset County. It was founded in 1946 after Walter and Marguerite Matheny’s son, Chuck, was born with cerebral palsy (CP) into a world ill-equipped to care for children with special needs. Matheny patients have a diverse range of medical conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Lesch-Nyhan Disease (LND) and a wide range of rare diseases including Rett syndrome, Angelman syndrome, Cornelia De Lange syndrome, Wolf-Hirshorn syndrome and 4Q Deletion syndrome. To learn more about Matheny, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram: @mathenymedical.

A special Trunk or Treat

Matheny has had to make many changes to keep our staff, patients, and residents safe over the last few months. We’ve had to make significant adjustments to many of our usual events. But Fall is always a busy time at Matheny, and we’re determined to have fun, even as we take precautions.

Check out photos from our special Trunk or Treat event on Red Zone! Things may be different this year, but we’re keeping up the Halloween spirit!





VIDEO: You Are the Sunshine of Our Lives

It’s been a very difficult few months for all of us. So Lynn Coyle and her students from the Matheny Music Therapy Department decided to put something together to cheer everyone up and express how much they miss the parents, staff, volunteers, and friends in the wider Matheny community.

Check out the video below – we hope you enjoy it!

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