An American Catholic couple involved in philanthropic activities will receive the Path to Peace Foundation’s Servitor Pacis award for their charitable with autistic children and their families.
The Path to Peace Foundation, which collaborates with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, chose Bob and Suzanne Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, to be honored with the award.
Autism Speaks is the United States’ largest autism science and advocacy organization. The Wrights launched the foundation in February 2005 after being inspired by the challenges facing their grandson, who is autistic.
The organization aims to help find a cure for autism by raising funds for research, raising public awareness of autism, and giving hope to those who suffer from autism.
Autism Speaks aims to give a voice to every family that deals with the hardships of autism. Autism, a complex brain disorder inhibiting a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, is reportedly diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States.
It affects more than 67 million people worldwide and its rate of incidence is believed to be increasing.
Autism Speaks co-founder Bob Wright is a former executive and board member of the General Electric Company, he became chairman and CEO of NBC in June 2001. He held the same offices at NBC Universal from 2004 to 2007. He is also on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation and RAND Corporation.
Suzanne Wright has long been involved in community and philanthropic endeavors, generally directing her energies towards helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is also Trustee Emerita of her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College.
The Wrights have three children and four grandchildren and they will be married 42 years in August.
For their work in autism advocacy, in 2008 the Wrights were named to the Heroes and Pioneers Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people.
Writing in Time, former NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw praised the Wrights’ work, saying:
“For those of us who have known Bob and Suzanne for a long time, none of this [work] came as a surprise. The products of modest beginnings, they have never taken their good fortune for granted. In their devotion to family and their faith, they always ask, ‘How can we help?’ When it comes to autism, they won't quit until we have some answers.”
Other 2009 Servitor Pacis awardees include Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is a senior judicial analyst for Fox News, and Father John P. Foley, SJ, a co-founder of the Cristo Rey Network which provides college preparatory educations for economically challenged youth in urban areas.
According to the Path to Peace Foundation’s website, the Servitor Pacis Award is granted in recognition of an individual’s commitment to the development of peace in national and international arenas.