Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright delivered the commencement address for graduate students and received honorary degrees at Fairfield University’s 2012 commencement ceremony, held Sunday, May 20, in Fairfield, Conn.
The Wrights, who are long-time Fairfield residents, were honored for their longstanding commitment to autism advocacy.
The Wrights used some of their time to speak about the many curveballs life can throw, and also addressed the possibility of the graduates having to confront autism head on in their own lives.
“Some of you here this afternoon are the next generation of parents,” Mrs. Wright told the graduates. “I can’t tell you how important it is to know the warning signs of autism. As future parents I hope you will help us in our fight against this heartbreaking, developmental disorder… creating social action and advocating for the public good are important legacies of a Fairfield education -- perhaps its most significant ones.”
“Right now, whether you know it or not, you are connected to autism,” said Mr. Wright. “It is a part of our community and we are linked to it through mentors, future employers, classmates, friends and family.” Added Mr. Wright, “The one thing you can count on is that challenges are a part of life. But it’s how you deal them that will determine your failure or success.”
Fairfield University has a history of supporting efforts to help those with autism spectrum disorders, including hosting conferences convening researchers and other key figures in the field trying to understand autism and advocating on behalf of families. In 2006, Mr. and Mrs. Wright opened one such conference, which was co-sponsored by Autism Speaks. Additionally, Fairfield University has participated the last two years in Autism Speaks’ global initiative, “Light It Up Blue” which aims to shine an international spotlight on autism on World Autism Awareness Day, each April 2.
Fairfield’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions has a program in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a three-course, nine-credit program providing in-depth training in behavioral strategies and ABA, now required by Connecticut law for those working with children with autism spectrum disorder.
The Wrights have ties to Fairfield University. Their son, Chris, is a graduate of Fairfield Prep, and there is a chair dedicated to Mr. Wright at the university’s Dolan School of Business.