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In Memoriam: Jerry Shestack

August 22, 2011

All of us at Autism Speaks mourn the loss of Jerome J. Shestack, father of Cure Autism Now co-founder Jonathan Shestack. He was a well-known human rights lawyer from Philadelphia, who also served as president of the American Bar Association in 1997-98. In 1979, Jerry was appointed Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights by President Jimmy Carter. He is credited with helping to create the first human rights bloc in U.N. History.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also mourned his death, issuing a statement saying, "He was a committed public servant and a dogged defender of human rights. Countless women and men are better off because of Jerry."

On the autism front, Jerry and his wife Marciarose were prominent in helping to raise awareness and funding for autism after their son Jonathan and his wife Portia Iversen founded Cure Autism Now in 1995. "I can remember sitting in the Shestack's dining room overlooking the Philadelphia Art Museum in January 1999 talking about how we were going to change the paradigm for autism research and policy development," recalls Peter Bell, executive vice president of Autism Speaks and former CEO of Cure Autism Now. "Jerry and Marciarose were gracious hosts, provocative thinkers and inspired a group of parents to be the change we wanted to see in the world. They touched many families."

Jerry died last Thursday at home surrounded by his family. He was 88. He is survived by Marciarose, his wife of 60 years and a prominent Philadelphia anchor woman and newspaper columnist. In addition to Jonathan, he is also survived by a daughter Jennifer Doss of Philadelphia, and five grandchildren, including Dov who has autism. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Descartes Institute, for furthering communications for people with autism.