Stephen Baker becomes first Hendricken Options grad to join Villanova’s new VUnited Program

Faith based focus on students with different learning abilities helps to prepare individuals for successful life


EAST GREENWICH —The Tom and Terri Murphy Foundation has announced the enrollment of Stephen Baker into the VUnited Scholars Program at Villanova University. Baker is the first graduate of the Bishop Hendricken’s Options Program, which offers a faith-based high school experience to young men with differing learning abilities, to join the first-of-its kind program at Villanova.
“Stephen Baker is the first of many. The Foundation is thrilled to have established and funded the VUnited Scholars program at Villanova University, supporting deserving students like Stephen,” said Martha Murray, national director of the Tom and Terri Murphy Foundation and former director of development at Bishop Hendricken.
Because of the advocacy and financial backing of the Foundation, Villanova’s fast-growing program, a first at a Catholic institution of higher education, utilizes academic and life skills curricula to foster independence in motivated students with mild to moderate intellectual differences. Baker’s acceptance and enrollment after his successful completion of the Options Program further reinforces the idea that students of diverse abilities can grow and learn through all levels of Catholic education.
“When Stephen first started his academic career at Bishop Hendricken in 2016, we were elated,” said his mom Kerry Baker. “The growth he experienced was astonishing. We never imagined that he would have an opportunity to attend one of the most prestigious, private Catholic Universities in the country…We are forever grateful to all those who have donated their time talent and treasure to establish a program for young adults in a Catholic setting.”
VUnited program merges the following four elements: academic knowledge, social and psychological development, independent living skills, and career and vocational skills. Pursuing this program in an Augustinian, Catholic, valued-centered, residential environment provides students a meaningful and unique college experience. The program allows students to explore and realize both their learning potential and maximize their personal growth, while preparing students for future, meaningful employment.
Targeted to highly motivated young adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, the program consists of a combination of academic coursework and supervised employment and career development opportunities. The focus of the program is to prepare students for careers in Business and Human Services.
“Stephen’s acceptance into Villanova’s program answers a question posed to me eight years ago,” Tom Murphy, founder of the Tom and Terri Murphy foundation, explained. “Where do I go from here? Students like him are the reason our Foundation exists.”
“I am super excited to go to Villanova,” said Stephen Baker. “I am a ‘Friar Fanatic’ so it will take me a little bit to transition, but while I am at Nova I will be a great Wildcat Fan.”
The Tom and Terri Murphy Foundation began with Martha Murray, seeking an inclusive Catholic high school for her son Philip in 2007, found that there were none in Rhode Island. Martha’s passion led to an anonymous donor and the establishment of the Options Program at Bishop Hendricken. The Murphy’s were profoundly inspired by the mission, students and graduates of the Options Program and they recognized the need to spread the gospel of inclusion to Catholic high schools and Catholic colleges nationally. The Tom and Terri Foundation, Pathways to Independence soon followed. The Foundation was instrumental in helping to establish the VUnited Scholars program which opened at Villanova in August 2021.

To learn more about The Tom and Terri Murphy Foundation, visit
To learn more about the Options Program, visit
To learn more about the VUnited Program, visit