Autism Expert Selected as University’s First Endowed Chair

Autism Expert Selected as University’s First Endowed Chair

For the first time in its 122-year history, Southern has an endowed chair.

Ruth Eren – the director of SCSU’s Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders and a noted expert in this field on program development for children – has been selected as the Goodwin Endowed Chair in Special Education. She was chosen after a national search.

Eren, along with the late former interim dean of the School of Education James Granfield, co-created the Center in 2010 to help provide the state with a distinctive resource to improve the experiences of children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

She has spent many years consulting with public schools in Connecticut regarding program development for children with ASD and has been a member of several state committees related to this subject, including Connecticut’s Task Force for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Eren is a former special education teacher and administrator, and currently serves as chairwoman of the SCSU Special Education Department.

“Ruth stands out in her field as an educator, researcher and resource who has been tapped many times by Connecticut legislators and education officials for her insight and advice,” said Stephen Hegedus, SCSU dean of the School of Education. “We are delighted to have someone with Ruth’s commitment and vision to become our very first endowed chair at Southern.”

Louise Spear-Swerling, chairwoman of the search committee for the endowed chair, agreed.

“She has an extensive knowledge base about autism spectrum disorders, years of practical experience working with individuals with autism, and a longstanding involvement in state, regional and national autism initiatives. She combines an exceptional level of applied expertise with strong leadership skills and a deep personal commitment to helping this population of students and their families.”

The endowed chair is being funded through a gift left by the late Dorothy Weisbauer Goodwin, who graduated from Southern in 1939, when it was named the New Haven State Teachers College. She died in 2009 at the age of 91.

Upon her death, $1 million of the $1.2 million gift to the SCSU Foundation was earmarked for an endowed chair. Today, that endowment is worth nearly $1.6 million. About $180,000 is available initially, with additional allocations each year that are determined by SCSU Foundation policy and market conditions.

The intent of the gift is to provide financial support for the position, including a reimbursement to the university of salary and benefit costs associated with the position; the hiring of research assistants working for the chair; and covering conference, travel, publication, research and other customary expenditures associated with an endowed chair.

“I would like to use the endowment to support more SCSU student engagement in the Center and its activities, bring outstanding leaders in the field of education regarding ASD to our campus to share their knowledge with our students and community, and support efforts to increase our visibility and influence at state, national and international conferences,” Eren said.

“Most important, the endowed chair will allow SCSU and the Center to enhance the lives of individuals with ASD by giving their teachers, related service providers and families, the evidenced-based tools that will help them all to achieve the goal of successful participation in society as adults,” she added.

Hegedus said the chair is a major boost for SCSU.

“We are confident that this will enhance the reputation and prestige of the Center and the university as a whole,” he said.