MU Thompson Center welcomes former researcher's return as executive director

Friday, October 19, 2012 | 5:03 p.m. CDT
Stephen Kanne, the executive director of the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, thanks his wife at his speech at MU Thompson Center Celebration and Recognition Program on Oct. 19. Kanne was a psychologist and researcher at the center for six years and left a year and a half ago to become the director at Texas Children's Hospital Autism Center. He went to Baylor University, where he continued his studies on ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) and other specific genetic disorders relating to autism before coming back as the new executive director in September.

COLUMBIA — Stephen Kanne has been with the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders since its start. 

As a researcher and a psychologist there for six years, Kanne watched it work through growing pains at its former location at 300 Portland St. He left in 2011 to become the director of the Texas Children's Hospital Autism Center.

This year, Kanne returned.

The MU Thompson Center, now down the street at 205 Portland St., held a ceremony Friday to celebrate his new position as executive director.

"I was one of the people that helped form the center," Kanne said. "It was a no-brainer. I imagined someone else in this job and it felt wrong. This is kind of like home to me."

Kanne assumed the role in September. His appointment was announced in July;  the previous director, Joel Bregman, resigned in April to move closer to family.

At the ceremony, Kanne said he envisions a center with a greater reach beyond mid-Missouri. 

"We want to impact everything we can, especially the kids," he said. "At the end of the day, we ask what is best for them."

Harold Williamson Jr., vice chancellor for the MU Health Sciences Center, said Kanne will meet with a board on Nov. 1 to present ideas. 

"There are no radical changes, but with any new leader, there will be change," Williamson said. "He has been here since the beginning. He has an excellent sense of history of the place."

William Thompson of the Thompson Foundation for Autism, a major donor for the center, said the transition was positive.

"We are thrilled to have Kanne return," he said. "When you get the right leader, who has a clear focus, a loyal and deep affection for the staff, and a passion for, in our case, the child and family, that is a winning combination."

Kanne also presented medallions to distinguished donors. The groups included Ella's Hope Foundation for Autism, Holiday Inn Executive Center of Columbia, Project Change-Team Awaken KC, John and Marjory Gaberio family and the Doug and Courtney Mertens family. 

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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