The Institute Mourns the Passing of Autimn Nelson

July 2014

PHOTO: Autimn Nelson
Autimn Nelson

The Institute mourned the passing of Autimn Nelson, a graduate of both the Academy for Adult Learning and Competence and Confidence: Partners in Policymaking - Emerging and Established Leaders. Since his graduation, Autimn remained active with the Academy as a guest lecturer, contributor and leader.

Autimn is remembered fondly by the entire Institute staff as well as Academy students and mentors from his graduation year (2011) and in the years since.

During his introduction of Autimn as the "Spirit of Pride Award," winner at the 2011 Academy graduation ceremony, Autimn's mentor Ian expressed both his appreciation for the Academy program and his deep abiding friendship with, respect for and pride in Autimn. Ian's introduction follows:

I joined the Academy to help individuals with disabilities, but little did I know that the Academy would transform me into a much different person than I was before I joined.

The Academy has introduced me to one of my best pals and someone who I know I will have the privilege to call my friend for the rest of my life; Autimn.

PHOTO: Autimn Nelson laughs with Temple U mentor Ian
Autimn Nelson laughs with Temple U. mentor Ian

As Autimn came across some difficulties in his life, so did I, and we worked together as a team to move past them. I can't possibly express in words how excited and proud I am to see Autimn graduate from the Academy, but I am also very sad. When I transferred to Temple University as a sophomore, Autimn was entering as a freshman. For the past two years of my life Autimn and I have talked nearly every day on the phone and have hung out several times a week. Going to school at Temple has always meant hanging out with Autimn, and now that he is graduating from the Academy and I have one more year to go, suddenly there will be a major piece of me missing from my senior year here.

But it is hard to stay sad when I know how bright Autimn's future is bound to be and when I know that we will still remain best friends far beyond his graduation. I have never been more proud of an individual than I am of Autimn. He has struggled through so many challenges, but each time he has had the ability to overcome them and remain positive through it all.

I was asked to mentor Autimn and to teach him what I knew, but unbeknownst to me, Autimn has been my mentor for the past two years and has taught me things I never dreamed of learning.

Brief biography of Autimn

Autimn was born March 6, 1981 in Philadelphia, PA. Autimn's family included his mother Carla and her husband George Wiley and younger sisters Amatise, Mariah and the late Emily.

Autimn graduated from the Elwyn Institute's Davidson School in June 2002. A Special Olympian throughout high school, Autimn won numerous medals and awards. He went on to graduate from the Academy for Adult Learning, a program of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University in 2011. During his time at the Academy, Autimn's was awarded the Spirit of Pride award.

Autimn returned to the Academy to teach a workshop on anti-bullying to all incoming Academy students, demonstrating his commitment to life-long learning and to the special education community.

Autimn worked at WaWa in Brookhaven from the age of 14 to 22. He had a variety of office-work responsibilities at the Elwyn Institute Office, until his illness precluded him from doing this work for the past few years.

An avid student of music, Atuim possessed an impressive knowledge of many genres and could memorize and repeat all kinds of music. Near and dear to his heart was hip-hop, which he embraced and into which he poured his heart and soul – he was known as rapper "Philly Q."

Autimn also volunteered for several organizations including the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Special Olympics of the Delaware Valley.

Autimn was a loving, compassionate person who enjoyed a close relationship with his father, sister and brother-in-law as well as countless family and friends. He shared an especially close bond with his mother and grandmother.

During Autimn's memorial service on Saturday, July 26, 2014, friends and family gathered to share stories about how Autimn touched their lives.

More Top Stories

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service