Thomas Parissidi’s Estate Gift Supports Autism Research

Photo of Bernadette Gabrielsen
Bernadette Gabrielsen

As the mother of a child with an autism spectrum disorder, Bernadette Gabrielsen learned very quickly the challenges that children on the spectrum face.

“The world doesn’t accept a lot of our children,” Gabrielsen said, “so I created a world in my own home for him.”

And, as she built that world for her son Nathaniel, Bernadette had no greater ally than her uncle, Thomas Parissidi, who had no children of his own but delighted in the children of his nieces and nephews as surrogate grandchildren.

“My uncle embraced all the grandchildren,” Gabrielsen said, “but, especially, realizing that Nathaniel was having a difficult time in life, he wanted to make a difference.”

That meant bringing a chef to the house when going to a restaurant wasn’t possible. It meant a standing ovation for Nathaniel’s rendition of “Chopsticks” when his cousins were playing Beethoven. And, as Thomas made estate plans, it meant supporting research and treatment at Stony Brook, where Nathaniel enjoyed a transformative experience in the lab of Professor of Psychology Matthew Lerner.

“After Nathaniel went into the program,” Bernadette said, “he was able to foster a few relationships. The dynamic of putting Nathaniel and his peers in a group with trained staff is what helped to foster these new relationships. That was the difference that the Lerner Lab made.”

Parissidi’s gift has facilitated a holistic approach to autism, encompassing the Lerner Lab, the research of Stony Brook Medicine’s Chair of Psychiatry Dr. Ramin Parsey, and special inclusive programming at Staller Center for the Arts. As a dedicated philanthropist herself, Gabrielsen hopes that the gift’s impact will extend further still.

“It is my hope that my children will see his generosity,” Gabrielsen said, “and that they will follow his dedication to service.”


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