Nancy Lurie Marks Family Makes $5 Million Gift to Brandeis for Disability Policy Institute at Heller

September 28, 2007

A quarter-century after establishing an endowed faculty chair at Brandeis to study the neurological basis for autism and related disorders, Nancy Lurie Marks, P ’77, P ’87, G ’01, has made a gift of $5 million to Brandeis to help improve the lives of the increasing number of people living with the condition and other disabilities.

The gift, from the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, will create the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy and endow a professorship at The Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

Through research, policy development, education, and public engagement, the Lurie Institute will help people with disabilities, particularly autism, successfully integrate into the mainstream of society. The University’s ongoing scientific research into developmental disabilities, including autism, will inform the Lurie Institute’s activities, providing a comprehensive approach to addressing disability issues across the lifespan.

“My family is dedicated to helping people with disabilities, particularly autism, lead fulfilling and rewarding lives,” said Mrs. Lurie Marks, who established her foundation 30 years ago. “With our mutual commitment to progressive policies for people with disabilities, the Heller School at Brandeis is a natural home for the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, which will be able to draw on Heller’s renowned faculty and expertise.”

The number of people diagnosed with autism in the United States has grown exponentially in recent years. While about one in 2,500 people were diagnosed with the condition in the 1960s, now one in 166 Americans are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

“We are thrilled about this partnership and anticipate that the Lurie Institute will fuel the development of innovative social policies at this critical time for people with disabilities, especially as they and their families seek a greater voice in decision-making related to their life-long needs,” said Marty Wyngaarden Krauss, PhD'81, Brandeis’s provost, senior vice president for academic affairs and the John Stein Professor of Disability Research.

Since Mrs. Lurie Marks established her pioneering foundation in 1977, it has been a leader in promoting research into autism. The Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation is dedicated to helping individuals and families whose lives are affected by autism and to increasing both the public awareness of autism and the free exchange of information about it.

Mrs. Lurie Marks and her family are longtime supporters of Brandeis. Her daughter, Cathy Lurie, graduated in 1977 and her son Jeffrey Lurie received a PhD from the Heller School in 1987. Her granddaughter Nicole Adams graduated in 2001.

In 2004, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation sponsored a symposium on autism and behavioral genomics to celebrate the grand opening of the National Center for Behavioral Genomics at Brandeis and the 10th anniversary of the Volen National Center for Complex Systems. At the same time, the Foundation supported an innovative neuroscience course for undergraduates focusing on autism and Professor Susan Birren’s autism research program. In addition, the family has made generous gifts to support other autism research and The Rose Art Museum.

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