As AANE founder and Executive Director Dania Jekel announced recently, she has decided to retire at the end of October after 25 years of leadership. On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are thrilled to announce that Brenda Dater will be the organization’s next Executive Director. Brenda was selected after a comprehensive, year-long vetting process involving extensive input from a diverse cross-section of staff, partners, and community members.
Brenda has worked with the AANE community for almost 15 years, including more than a decade in positions of senior leadership. As our Associate Director since 2016, Brenda has strengthened the organization by facilitating systems-level change to enhance organizational infrastructure, overseeing the advancement of AANE’s Strategic Plan and providing clinical supervision and direction across the organization. Before that, Brenda was the Director of AANE’s Child and Teen Services, guiding her team to address parenting challenges and foster hope for individuals and families. Brenda holds dual Masters Degrees in Social Work and Public Health from the University of Michigan and is the author of Parenting without Panic: A Pocket Support Group for Parents of Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum.
As a parent, Brenda brings the lived experience of being a part of a neurodiverse family. “I connected with AANE in 2005, when I was searching for support for my nine-year-old autistic son,” Brenda recalls. “That phone call empowered me, connected me to a community, and made me hopeful for my family’s future. I finally found my home. I want everyone who comes to AANE to experience the potency of being heard and understood.”
Today’s world requires resilient and steady leaders to identify opportunities and establish stability in the midst of change. We trust that Brenda will provide clear direction in the years ahead, with a commitment to listen to the autism community and embrace AANE’s core values of compassion and respect.
Over the coming eight months, the Board and staff will collaboratively implement a systematic, multi-pronged plan to ensure a seamless leadership transition. We will keep you informed of opportunities to honor Dania’s unwavering and visionary service to our community. Today, please join us in congratulating Brenda, who will preserve the AANE we all treasure and wisely lead us as we navigate the future.
With gratitude for your continued commitment,
Carla Brigham, Chair, Board of Directors
Jayne Burke, Chair, Succession Planning Committee and Former Chair, Board of Directors