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Chairman of the Board, Michael Alessandri, Ph.D.

Els for Autism Foundation® appoints new Chairman of the Board: Michael Alessandri, Ph.D.

Jupiter, Florida – March 08, 2023 – Els for Autism Foundation today announced the appointment of visionary autism expert, Dr. Michael Alessandri, Ph.D. as Chairman of the Board. Alessandri, who joined the Els for Autism board in 2019, succeeds Marvin R. Shanken, Co-Founder, Els for Autism Foundation and Publisher and Founder of M.Shanken Communications.

“We are so proud to have available to us, a leading expert in autism with vast academic credentials and experience for our entire program.” Honorary Chair, Marvin Shanken

Dr. Michael Alessandri is the Executive Director of the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD). Dr. Alessandri has been a professor at UM since 1996 and has worked with individuals with autism and their families since 1981 in various capacities.

“I am honored to assume the role of Chairman of the Board of the Els for Autism Foundation, a one-of-a-kind autism center of excellence that is transforming lives through its innovation in research and educational and therapeutic programming for clients across the lifespan and the globe.  I’m especially humbled that the baton has been passed to me by a man I deeply admire, Marvin Shanken, who has led the Foundation with passion and determination.  Together, with our first-rate board, leadership team, and staff, the next phase for the Els for Autism Foundation will be one of breathtaking and impactful growth and expansion.” states Dr. Alessandri.

Dr. Alessandri has presented, consulted and published internationally on developing appropriate and effective educational programs for students with autism. In addition, he has received numerous research and service grants and several notable awards within the field including being named Visionary Leader of the Year Award by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, David Lawrence Jr. Champion for Children by The Children’s Trust, and Wendy F. Miller Autism Professional of the Year by the Autism Society of America.

“We are grateful to Marvin for all that he has done for the foundation from inception and look forward to what’s to come under the direction of Dr. Michael Alessandri.” Ernie and Liezl Els, co-founders of Els for Autism.

For additional information on Els for Autism Foundation®, please visit:

Els for Autism Foundation was established in 2009 by World of Golf Hall of Famer, Ernie Els, his wife, Liezl, and Marvin R. Shanken. The Els’ son, Ben, is impacted by the disorder. The founders have devoted their efforts to an inspirational, philanthropic project — The Els Center of Excellence®.

The Foundation’s overarching global mission is to transform the lives of people with autism and those who care for them through lifetime services and collaborative partnerships. The Foundation’s Programs & Services staff delivers a suite of services for clients from the earliest years across the lifespan in the areas of, Adult Services, Education, Global Outreach, Recreation Services, Research, and Therapy Services. The Foundation has locations in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, and the U.K.

The Els Center of Excellence is a 26-acre campus located in Jupiter, FL. Through telehealth services, conferences, virtual programs and resources, shared programs (such as Ernie Els #GameON Autism® Golf), multi-language webinars, and peer-reviewed scientific journals, the Foundation’s staff has a national and global reach.

On the campus:

  • Administration Building hosts the Foundation staff offices, a 305-seat auditorium, meeting rooms, and spaces to conduct therapy sessions.
  • The Rupert Education Wing hosts The Learning Center, a Palm Beach County public charter school, serving students with autism ages 3-14. This building also hosts the Foundation’s early intervention program and therapeutic services (speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and mental health counseling).
  • The Shanken Education Wing hosts The Learning Academy, a Palm Beach County public charter school, serving students with autism ages 14-21, one classroom for the Adult Day Training program, job coaches offices, and shared spaces for vocational and independent living skills training.
  • The Golf Course Facility is a practice golf course facility featuring 3 greens and 9 holes and is perfect for delivering the Ernie Els#GameON Autism® Golf program.
  • The O’Donnell Pavilion is a multipurpose classroom/studio for art shows, and other gatherings featuring art created by individuals with autism.
  • The Sensory Arts Garden is a therapeutic and educational destination for children and adults of all abilities. Students and clients also enjoy the covered play courts and multiple playgrounds.
  • Opening in 2023, will be the 21,000-square-foot Stoops Family Foundation Adult Services building, providing a dedicated space for the Foundation’s adult programs that are expanding and in high demand.