Effective today, Jessica Sassi, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA, begins her new position as Chief Executive Officer of The New England Center for Children (NECC), a global leader in autism education and research. Dr. Sassi succeeds L. Vincent Strully, Jr., the organization’s founder, who served as CEO for all of NECC’s 48 years. Mr. Strully will continue to serve as an executive advisor and on the Board of Directors.
Dr. Sassi has more than 20 years of autism education and applied behavior analysis experience. In her 16-year tenure with the Center, Dr. Sassi has served in several roles including program specialist, residential program director, and clinical director, and has served as a member of the clinical adjunct faculty in behavior analysis at Western New England University and special education at Simmons University. She was named executive advisor in 2020 and executive director of NECC’s Southborough campus in 2021. Her research has been widely published in academic journals including the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and Behavioral Interventions.
“For nearly two decades, through my work as both a clinician and an administrator, I have had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from some of the best researchers and teachers in the autism and behavior analysis fields,” shared Dr. Sassi. “I’m proud to be part of an organization that offers premier educational services to children with autism, and I’m committed to holding us to the highest standards. Our commitment to staff professional development and forming the next generation of educators is key to achieving our vision of a world where autism is not a barrier.”
“Helping children with autism has been my life’s work for more than 48 years, and I feel confident that NECC will continue to grow in its excellence under Dr. Sassi’s leadership,” said Mr. Strully. “I am proud of the accomplishments NECC has achieved, and the thousands of children and families whose lives we have transformed. I have worked closely with Dr. Sassi for many years and know she has the skills and experience to steer NECC to a bright future. Her background in research enables her to lead from a unique perspective, and it is something from which our NECC students and staff will benefit.”
NECC announced its succession plan in November 2020, allowing the NECC community to prepare for Mr. Strully’s departure. Over the last three years, he has worked with Dr. Sassi and the executive team to ensure a seamless transition in leadership.
Prior to working at NECC, Dr. Sassi served as a clinical specialist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. She received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida.
Mr. Strully founded NECC 48 years ago, and in that time has grown the organization into a global leader in autism education, research, and technology. Under Mr. Strully’s leadership, NECC experienced remarkable growth since its founding in 1975 with a $30,000 state grant and six staff. Today, NECC employs 1,200 people, operates with a $119 million budget, and serves over 12,000 students and teachers across the United States and in 13 countries.