FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright died Friday, July 29, at her home in Fairfield after a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 69.
At the helm of Autism Speaks, Wright helped to create the iconic blue puzzle-piece logo that is now recognized around the world to represent autism.
“What Suzanne Wright has done to raise awareness of autism is immeasurable. Even during the past few difficult months, her determination never wavered," Autism Speaks Chairman of the Board of Directors Brian Kelly and President and CEO Angela Geiger said in a joint statement. "For more than a decade, she has been a tireless advocate on the national and international stage: at the United Nations, on Capitol Hill, at Autism Speaks Walks nationwide, and in personal letters of support to individuals and families affected by autism
"Suzanne sparked a global conversation with one question: How can we help people with autism live their best possible lives? Persuading the world to see the potential in each child and adult on the vast autism spectrum is her greatest legacy. As we look to the future, Autism Speaks remains committed to advancing the important mission she began.”
In 2005, Suzanne and her husband, Bob Wright, co-founded Autism Speaks after their grandson, Christian, was diagnosed with autism. Autism Speaks has since grown into a leading autism science and advocacy organization.
Working with the Ad Council and BBDO Worldwide, Suzanne and Bob Wright launched a 10-year public service announcement campaign that is credited with educating families about the early signs of autism.
Suzanne Wright also led Autism Speaks’ global awareness initiatives and persuaded the United Nations to establish April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day and launch the international Light It Up Blue campaign, which this year lit landmarks, buildings and homes in 157 countries.
As part of the United Nations’ World Autism Awareness Day, Wright addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly every year for eight consecutive years. In November 2014, Wright spoke at the Vatican’s first-ever conference on autism, where she called for all nations and faiths to “walk next to the 70 million children, teens and adults with autism around the world every day.”
Wright was born in the Bronx, N.Y., on Dec. 16, 1946. She was the daughter of James Werner, a lieutenant in the New York Police Department and combat veteran of World War II, and Ruth Tobin Werner, a homemaker. She was raised in West Hempstead, Long Island. As a high school senior, she met her future husband at a dance at the College of the Holy Cross, where Bob Wright was a student. He later served as president and CEO of NBC.
After several years of hard work, Suzanne Wright received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1998.
In addition to her work with Autism Speaks, she served on the board of directors for Make-A-Wish Metro New York, the Laura Pels Foundation, the Inner-City Foundation for Charity & Education, and Champions of Caring Project.
In 2008, Suzanne and Bob Wright were named in Time 100’s “Heroes and Pioneers” category for their commitment to global autism advocacy.
In addition to her husband of 48 years, she is survived by her sister Jayne Tobin; her brothers James and Dennis Werner; and her three children, Catherine Anne, Christopher James, and Maggie Suzanne. A fourth child, Sarah Suzanne, died in infancy. Suzanne is also survived by six grandchildren, Christian, Mattias, Morgan, Maise, Alex and Sloan.
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