Autism Speaks Co-founders Speaking At Elmira College

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Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, will visit Elmira College for “21st Century Cures: Advances in Autism,” on Thursday, October 22 at 6:00 p.m. in Gibson Theatre.  The event is free and open to the public.

Autism Speaks, founded in 2005 by the Wrights, the grandparents of a child with autism, has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders –autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 1000 percent increase in the past 40 years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

Mr. Wright will discuss leadership in the field of autism with special focus on the Autism Speaks groundbreaking genome project MSSNG being done in collaboration with Google, in which gene research is being revolutionized in a truly global lab.

Starting Autism Speaks was just the beginning for the Wrights.  In 2008, Suzanne and Bob were named in Time 100’s Heroes and Pioneers category, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award, the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award and the Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy 2011 Leadership Award.  In the past few of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University, Fairfield University and UMass Medical School – they delivered respective commencement addresses at the first three of these schools. The Wrights are the first married couple to be bestowed such an honor in St. John’s and Fairfield University’s history.

Bob Wright served as Chairman and Chief Executive Office of NBC Universal and Vice Chairman and Executive Officer of General Electric.

About Autism Speaks
Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $180 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks’ Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light It Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $316 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a Grandparent’s Guide to Autism, and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 30 states thus far, with legislation continuing to advance in more states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 95 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit

About the Presidential Lecture Series
The Presidential Lecture Series focuses on distinguished speakers and topics relevant to the Elmira College mission as well as the global society in the fields of science, religion, media, technology, politics, business, culture, and the arts. The series aims to cultivate academic discourse outside of the classroom and foster a sense of community dedicated to academic excellence and social responsibility.  The 2015-2016 Presidential Lecture Series also will feature Garrison Keillor in May 2016.  Additional information can be found online at

About Elmira College
Elmira College is a private, coeducational, liberal arts college founded in 1855, located in Elmira, New York. Elmira College’s mission is to offer its students both liberal and professional education of sufficient breadth and depth to enable them to pursue successful, rewarding careers. The College blends academic rigor, distinctive programs, and theory and practice beyond the classroom to prepare students to be tomorrow’s leaders.

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