2017 Inspiration Award Finalist

Cheryl Kilmer Biography

Founder & CEO
TERi Campus of Life

Since the age of 17, Cheryl has committed herself to making a positive difference in the lives of those with developmental disabilities, thus beginning a lifelong journey that has benefited thousands of individuals and their families. Thinking she would do psychological counseling for a high-potential population, fate intervened: in her first psychology class, she was placed in the children’s ward of a state hospital, and met the 5-year-old who set Cheryl on her trailblazing career path. Cheryl knew that the state hospital system wasn’t providing the kind of care or behavioral support these children needed, and was up for the challenge of changing the system.  Cheryl graduated from the University of Michigan and holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. After starting her own group home with standards at a new level for the field, at just 25, Cheryl was hired as the Executive Director of an organization in San Diego that was planning a new village where their clients with developmental disabilities could live. In the three years she spent with this organization, Cheryl’s vision and values for running an organization were cemented. In 1980, she founded TERI Inc. (Training, Education, Research and Innovation) from her living room with two passionate teammates. Today, TERI has grown to serve over 650 individuals and their families, with 450 staff and 18 service sites.

Cheryl’s goal in establishing TERI was to raise the quality of life and supports available to individuals with significant disabilities. She has met this goal in many ways, including having TERI cited as a model program in the state of California for the quality of services it provides. Cheryl’s and TERI’s mission to truly change the way the world sees and empowers individuals with developmental and learning disabilities is fully expressed through the vision for the TERI Campus of Life: a university-like campus that will expand on TERI’s innovative and effective model programs and services on a global scale. With Phase 1 of construction finished, a working therapeutic equestrian program on site, and a recent catalyzing gift of $1 Million from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, the TERI Campus of Life vision is closer than ever to realization.  Twice nominated for Maria Shriver’s prestigious Minerva Award, and a Finalist for San Diego Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO Awards, Cheryl has been repeatedly recognized and honored for her considerable contributions to the field. In August of 2017, Cheryl was chosen as a finalist for the Inspiration Award™ by the The Center for Wealth & Legacy.