An international autism leader, Denise is the Founder and President/CEO of First Place® AZ (established in 2012), Co-Founder of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) (established in 1997), and Founder and CEO of DRA Collective, and marketing/communications firm (established in 1986) that serves clients in a variety of fields including real estate, economic development, health care, education and hospitality.
Denise has raised community awareness and more than $60 million for the cause, primarily from in-state sources. The supportive community, facilitated by SARRC and First Place AZ along with dozens of partnering organizations, resulted in PBS NewsHour producing two nationally broadcasted features citing Phoenix as “the most autism friendly city in the world.”
Other leadership includes having served as a member of the Arizona Community Foundation board of directors and its Affordable Housing Committee, member of the Autism Speaks Family and Housing Committees, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA) Leadership Council, National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism (NARPAA) and the National Autism Transition Research Network Advisory Panel. Denise also served as a federally appointed member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) of the National Institutes of Health.
DRA Collective leads strategic planning, branding, marketing and story-telling for its local and national clients. Represented by a carefully curated team of journalists, marketers, researchers, artists and thinkers, DRA has donated significant resources to building the SARRC and First Place plans, strategies and brands.
Denise graduated from Arizona State University cum laude and received her bachelor’s degree in business. Her greatest accomplishment is her family—her husband Rob of 33 years, and adult children Matt, Ally and Whitney.