Palm Beach Atlantic University will honor Eileen Burns and Suzanne Wright as Women of Distinction 2011 at a luncheon Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 at The Breakers, Palm Beach. A pre-luncheon reception begins at 11:15 a.m.; the luncheon follows at Noon. The event is in its 20th year.
Tickets, at $150 each or tables of 10 for $1,500, may be obtained from the Palm Beach Atlantic University Development Office by calling 561-803-2971. Proceeds from the luncheon benefit a scholarship fund for deserving female students at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
New York native Eileen Corroon Burns has lived in Palm Beach for more than 30 years. An ardent preservationist, Mrs. Burns was the first woman and third recipient of the prestigious Ballinger Award in 1990 for her masterful restoration of The Vicarage, the second oldest house in Palm Beach.
Mrs. Burns is a trustee of The Society of the Four Arts and serves on its Campus on the Lake Education Committee. She is also a longtime member of the special events committee at the Norton Museum of Art. A fervent and enduring supporter of Ambassador Nancy Brinker's "Race for the Cure," Mrs. Burns co-founded "Wake Up For the Cure," the annual breakfast event at Club Colette with Palm Beach residents Susan Keenan and daughter Samantha Fairchild Storkerson, to whom she has "passed the torch to help continue the cause."
Mrs. Burns also supports a host of Ireland-based causes and organizations including the National Gallery and its advisory board, where she has served as a patron member for 20 years, and is a longtime supporter of The American Ireland Fund. She is a special advisor to the "Brian P. Burns Collection" of Irish art, the largest collection of Irish art outside its home country. The collection spans works dating from 1840-1940, and aims to bring the work of contemporary Irish artists into the collection. Additionally, Mrs. Burns is a special advisor to the Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College.
Active in civic affairs, Mrs. Burns was one of the earliest members of the Palm Beach Crime Watch, a program that promotes citizen participation in crime prevention in the residential and business communities. Involvement in Crime Watch paved the way for her founding the annual sellout, The Policeman's Ball at Mar-a-Lago, the primary fundraising event for the Palm Beach Police Foundation of which Mrs. Burns is a board member. The foundation underwrites programs and manages tax deductible donations for the benefit of the Palm Beach Police Department.
Affectionately known to family and friends as "Gogo" for her boundless energy and tireless dedication, Mrs. Burns is the proud mother of four daughters. Together, she and her husband, Brian, have 15 grandchildren.
Suzanne Wright and her husband, Bob, are co-founders of Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism. Inspired by the challenges facing their grandson, who suffers from autism, they launched the foundation in February 2005, which also works to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $142.5 million to research through 2014 and developed innovative resources for families.
In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning "Learn the Signs" campaign with the Ad Council has received more than $249 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 23 states with bills pending in an additional 14 states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America.
Mrs. Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, directed primarily toward helping children. She is a trustee emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. She has received numerous awards, such as the CHILD Magazine Children's Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women's Divisionand The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science.
In 2008, the Wrights were named in Time 100's Heroes and Pioneers category for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They also have received numerous awards such as the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership, NYU Child Advocacy Award, Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and The American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In May of 2010 they received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from St. John's University in Queens and delivered the commencement address as the first married couple to be bestowed such an honor. They have three children and four grandchildren, with the fifth expected in December.