ASPIE Mourns the Passing of Dr. Marilyn Hays

Author, educator, board member and expert on cognitive disabilities was a vital voice in the fight to help adults with disabilities achieve greater independence

CONTACT: Jerry Buckwalter at [email protected].

March 13, 2019—The ASPIE community was sad to learn that Dr. Marilyn Hays, a board member since shortly after the organization’s founding in 2015, passed away on February 14.

“Marilyn was an important voice in her field and a key part of our organization,” said Jerry Buckwalter, the founder and CEO of ASPIE. “We miss her a great deal. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

Dr. Hays was an expert in cognitive disabilities. She worked in the field of autism since 1974, helping to create curricula and public school programs for autistic Americans of all ages. In recognition of her work as a leading voice in the treatment of autism, and an advocate for children and young adults on the autism spectrum, Dr. Hays was awarded the Christa McAuliffe Scholarship Award.

In 1997, Dr. Hays wrote the book, Working Together for a Brighter Future. In 2001, she founded STARS Club Inc., a non-profit organization for high functioning individuals with autism, Asperger Syndrome and other developmental disorders.

At ASPIE, which works to help disabled artists grow more self sufficient, Dr. Hays served on the board, advising on the clinical aspects of the mission. She was an active board member, offering counsel on everything from programming to website design.

“Marilyn’s advice was invaluable,” Buckwalter said. “She understood our mission and the population we serve extremely well, and her insight was a guiding light as we strive to make this organization a real benefit to those we serve. I will always be grateful for her contribution. Several of our ASPIE artists were among those Marilyn began helping many years ago in the Florida school system.”

ASPIE will continue to honor the memory of Dr. Hays as the board begins a search for a new board member who can continue her legacy and expand on the good work she began.

“She was passionate about her work with those who had challenges and will be remembered for all those she mentored and all of us whose lives she touched,” Buckwalter said. “I will always remember her bright smile and quick laugh. She has left a lasting impression on me. I was blessed to call her a friend and colleague.”

To find out more about ASPIE, visit the gallery at or contact [email protected].


About ASPIE. ASPIE is a nonprofit launched in 2015 to empower adults with cognitive disabilities to become more self-sufficient. We provide special-needs artists with an online gallery to display their work, which includes premium-quality forms of art and craft. ASPIE artists are disabled adults who have talent and skills and medium- to high-functioning capabilities, yet cannot operate well within a typical work environment. Donations to ASPIE provide artists with sustainable supplemental earnings that do not interfere with their government benefits. The ASPIE gallery is free to our artists.