June 7, 2023

The New England Center for Children (NECC) Founder and CEO Vinnie Strully, Jr., was recognized for his decades-long leadership during the Massachusetts Association of Approved Special Education Schools (MAAPS) spring awards celebration. Awards were presented to teachers, clinicians, and school leaders of MAAPS member schools serving the special education community across the Commonwealth.

Strully received the Leadership Award, honoring his 48 years of experience working with children and adults with autism and related disorders, during which he has been a pre-eminent statewide and national leader. Under his guidance, NECC educators have served tens of thousands of students with disabilities, researchers have published more than 300 studies in peer-reviewed academic journals, and leaders established on-site graduate degree programs in partnership with Simmons University and Western New England University.

In honor of his dedicated career in special education and the MAAPS community, the award will going forward be known as the L. Vincent Strully Jr. Leadership Award. MAAPS named the award for Strully as a way of recognizing his innovative leadership not only on behalf of NECC, but on behalf of the field. According to Elizabeth Becker, executive director of MAAPS, “Future honorees of the Strully Leadership Award will be innovative, emerging leaders who, like Vinnie, are committed to making a difference for the entire field of special education.”

“Vinnie Strully is an innovator, a founder, and a change agent,” Becker added. “He set out to make a difference for kids, adults, those with autism, and those who work and dedicate their time, skills, and passion to our field. Vinnie played a critical part in MAAPS’s founding and growing through times of challenge, including over the last four years working with the Association weekly to drive policy responses at the state level for all of our schools as we faced the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts. Vinnie did not work with me seeking acknowledgement or recognition–he did his work quietly, simply to make a positive and powerful difference.”

During the ceremony, MAAPS also recognized Amy Houghton, an occupational therapist at the Cotting School in Lexington, with the Albert E. Treischman Memorial Award, which acknowledges superior contributions to special needs children by a clinician, specialist, or childcare worker whose performance and achievement reflect the high principles of the profession; Lola Piscopo, a special education teacher at the Cotting School, with the Excellence in Teaching Award for reflecting the high standards and principals of the profession and works tirelessly to help students with special needs make progress and achieve success; and Rita M. Gardner, president and CEO of Melmark, with the James V. Major Award for her 14 years of service and leadership on the Board of MAAPS.

The MAAPS Spring Awards celebration held last month drew more than 300 participants from approved private day, and residential schools and public schools in Massachusetts and New England. Attendees represent the varied professional disciplines that provide services to special education students. The awards are determined by two independent selection committees.