Ed Asner Receives Highest Honor from Exceptional Minds Digital Arts Academy for Young Adults with Autism

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For  Immediate  Release  

June  21,  2013  




Ed  Asner  Receives  Highest  Honor  from  Exceptional  Minds  Digital  Arts  

Academy  for  Young  Adults  with  Autism    


Sherman  Oaks,  Calif.  –  

Calling  him  an  inspiration  and  a  

“tireless  champion”  of  the  autism  cause,  the  staff  and  

students  of  

Exceptional  Minds

 digital  arts  academy  for  

young  adults  with  autism  bestowed  their  highest  

honor  –  the  first-­‐ever  'Ed  Asner  Exceptional  Minds  

Award’  –  to  actor  Ed  Asner  himself  during  the  June  21  

grand  opening  of  Exceptional  Minds’  new,  spacious  

educational  studios  in  Sherman  Oaks,  California.    

“Undeserved  as  it  is,  I  am  honored  to  receive  this  and  

to  be  a  part  of  Exceptional  Minds,”  Asner  said  to  the  

crowd  during  the  open  house,  but  not  before  

entertaining  them  with  jokes.  “What  kind  of  

introduction  is  this?”  he  called  out  earlier  to  Exceptional  Minds’  Program  Director  Ernie  Merlan  

from  his  seat  amid  the  large  gathering  of  friends  and  supporters  there  to  celebrate  a  major  

milestone  in  the  Exceptional  Minds  phenomenon.    

Asner  joined  the  Exceptional  Minds  advisory  board  early  in  the  school’s  inception  to  help  young  

people  on  the  spectrum  bridge  the  gap  between  high  school  and  meaningful  careers.  Started  in  

a  small  office  space  with  a  handful  of  students  two  years  ago,  Exceptional  Minds  digital  arts  

academy  opened  the  doors  on  Friday  to  a  new,  high-­‐tech  facility  for  preparing  young  adults  on  

the  autism  spectrum  for  careers  in  movie  post-­‐production,  animation  and  digital  graphics.  

Exceptional  Minds  offers  a  full-­‐time,  three-­‐year  vocational  program  as  well  as  private  tutoring  


Contact:  Dee  McVicker  

Grassroots  Communications  

Gilbert,  Arizona    




Ed  Asner  banters  with  Exceptional  Minds  

Program  Director  Ernie  Merlan,  left,  during  the  

digital  arts  academy’s  grand  opening  to  a  new  

high-­‐tech  school  and  studio  in  Sherman  Oaks.  


and  summer  workshops  for  young  people  with  autism.  Its  new  facility  marks  the  start  of  an  

ambitious,  three-­‐phase  expansion  that  includes  larger  classrooms  and  a  new  working  studio  for  

Exceptional  Minds  graduates.  The  new  3,700  square-­‐foot  facility  doubles  the  school’s  previous  

student  population  with  three  new  classrooms,  each  with  new  computer  workstations  for  10  

students;  a  blue-­‐screen  room  for  Chroma  keying;  a  theatrical  lighting  and  staging  room;  a  

personal  project  studio  plus  web-­‐design  room;  and  a  new  working  studio  for  Exceptional  Minds  

graduates  to  begin  contract  work  for  companies  and  movie  studios.    


Asner,  who  has  a  son  and  grandson  with  autism,  has  helped  raise  autism  awareness  and  has  

been  involved  in  Exceptional  Minds  since  the  school  was  formed  in  2011.  “Ed  is  a  friend  and  

inspiration  to  all  of  us  at  Exceptional  Minds,  not  only  because  of  all  that  he  has  done  in  his  

career,  but  because  he  is  tireless  when  it  comes  to  his  commitment  to  Exceptional  Minds.  He  is  

our  hero,  our  friend,  our  inspiration,”  said  Merlan,  adding  that  he  hopes  to  be  able  to  one  day  

earn  the  Ed  Asner  Exceptional  Minds  award,  which  will  become  an  annual  Exceptional  Minds  


The  Exceptional  Minds  students  prepared  an  animated  tribute  to  Asner  and  presented  it  to  him  

during  the  open  house.      

About  Exceptional  Minds  (http://www.exceptionalmindsstudio.org):  

Exceptional  Minds  is  a  non-­‐profit  vocational  center  and  working  production  studio  for  young  

adults  on  the  autism  spectrum.  Chartered  in  2011  to  provide  the  training  necessary  for  

creatively-­‐gifted  individuals  with  Autism  Spectrum  Disorders  (ASD)  who  may  not  otherwise  be  

able  to  make  the  transition  from  high  school  to  careers,  Exceptional  Minds  offers  technical  

proficiency  and  work  readiness  training  that  prepares  students  for  careers  in  graphic  arts,  

animation,  web  design,  visual  effects  and  rotoscoping.  Located  in  Sherman  Oaks,  California,  

Exceptional  Minds  is  both  an  instructional  learning  facility  and  a  working  studio  with  hands-­‐on  

student  involvement  in  production  projects,  many  for  the  film  industry.  






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