Dame Stephanie’s prolific work, especially in the fields of autism and IT, leaves an enduring legacy that will benefit many for years to come.


University of Kent Philanthropy Archive

The UK Philanthropy Archive was established at the University of Kent in 2019 to collect, preserve and provide access to archives relating to philanthropy in the UK. The aim is to build a collection that provides a better understanding of the motivation to give, the role of philanthropy alongside government and business, and how it impacts the wider subjects of economics, capitalism, social history and democracy.

Dame Stephanie has donated the papers of The Shirley Foundation as the founding collection of the archive. The Shirley Foundation made grants of nearly £70 million before it spent out in 2018 in favour of Autistica, the UK’s national autism research charity founded by Dame Stephanie. Materials relating to the strategic direction, governance and administration of the Foundation are being archived in paper and digital format, and include minutes of meetings, annual reports, speeches, press articles and a ten-year review.

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Art Collection

With a personal love of art, especially modern art, Dame Stephanie believes wholeheartedly in the power of art as a contributor to good mental and physical health. The scientific evidence bears this out: Chelsea and Westminster Hospital was one of the first to measure improved clinical outcomes through the use of artworks in hospital.


“Art addresses people’s inner, emotional lives. This non-material side of life is a basic human need and indeed a human right.”


As a patron of Paintings in Hospitals, Dame Stephanie has donated an art collection suitable for those with autism, informed by research conducted by Autism at Kingwood. It found that art provides an extra channel of communication for some autistic people, so can be therapeutic and decorative as well as educational. Prior’s Court also benefits from modern art and sculpture commissioned and donated by Dame Stephanie.

The works of art are characteristically inspirational, hopeful, developmental and serene rather than stimulating or challenging. They provide focal points that help vulnerable people find their way around, encourage reflection, reduce stress, enhance daily life and feed the spirit.

In addition, Dame Stephanie has commissioned many portraits including Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Stephen Hawking for The Royal Society, HRH Prince Philip for the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dame Jacqueline Wilson for the Foundling Museum and a double portrait of Derek Paravicini and Professor Adam Ockleford for Roehampton University.

“I decided to make mine a life worth saving… and then just got on with it.”

The Shirley Foundation

Founded in 1986 by Dame Stephanie, The Shirley Foundation was one of the top fifty grant-giving foundations in the UK and donated nearly £70 million to over one hundred projects. Its mission was to facilitate and support pioneering projects with strategic impact in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders, with particular emphasis on medical research.

Notable projects include Autism Cymru, an initiative to develop policies, strategies and bi-lingual services for autism in Wales; the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Autism at Westminster; and the National Autism Project which mapped existing research on autism and provided recommendations for further research.

Having achieved its aim of making a strategic impact on the autism sector, The Shirley Foundation spent out in 2018. Autistica, having developed a professional management, strong corporate governance and an impressive Scientific Advisory Board, clearly met all the foundation’s criteria and was the obvious candidate to receive its six-figure residual gift.

Key projects