The son of a Queens cab driver, Melvin Karmazin began his career in the communications industry as an entry-level employee at WCBS-AM in New York. Karmazin went on to have a storied career in the radio industry, serving in such high-ranking roles as president and CEO of CBS Corporation, as well as CEO of Sirius Radio/XM Radio. Karmazin also helped launch controversial figures like Howard Stern and Don Imus onto the national stage. For all his efforts, Karmazin was well compensated, earning some $34 million in one five year stretch.
Karmazin has put some his wealth towards philanthropy and in the late 1990s established the Mel Karmazin Foundation, through which he's given particularly strong support to Autism Speaks and antipoverty giant the Robin Hood Foundation. Let's talk a bit more about Karmazin's work with Autism Speaks, where he sits on the board. Karmazin has given the organization millions and his interest in the cause is at least partly personal as he has an autistic grandson.
Besides Autism Speaks, Karmazin is also involved with Rutgers University in New Jersey where he's helping spearhead the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services, which will provide "adults with autism a unique opportunity to live and work independently within a university setting." Karmazin recently spoke rather passionately on CNBC about the nascent center, which he hopes will serve as a nationwide model.
Currently, around 80 percent of adults with autism live with their aging parents. While there are organizations and alliances dedicated to making the search for housing and community living easier, Karmazin and others point out that as the demand for this housing increases, there's a need to figure out other spaces where adults with autism can live, work, and thrive. Karmazin believes a campus setting is particularly promising because it operates all year round, has a variety of facilities, and also has jobs available.
As Karmazin puts it, "The Rutgers center will offer adults with autism a one-of-a-kind support program that makes independent living and a fulfilling life possible. It will rise to the challenge of giving program participants the tools they need to achieve their potential – from earning a living to navigating social interactions to building meaningful relationships.”
Autism affects an estimated one and 68 children nationally, and one in 45 in New Jersey. The Karmazin family helped support an endowed chair in adult autism at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. The planned Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services will be led by the Rutgers psychology school.
As of Fall of 2015, 50 percent of the funds for the first building had been raised.
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