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Gary Michael Sasso

Gary Michael Sasso passed through this world on 3/27/22. Born 4/13/50 to Agnes (née Covilli) and Charles Sasso, first generation Italian Americans, family was everything to Gary. He was held close throughout his life by his siblings, Steven (Dottie Sasso) and Lisa (Rick Schmidt), and many relatives on both the Covilli and Sasso sides.

Gary lived life on his own terms. He thrilled at the challenges of basketball in his high school years, playing with a broken nose and other injuries simply to go for the win. Those high school years and friendships always remained with him in the form of the infamous “All Male Trip”, which has occurred yearly with his closest friends.

Drafted into the Army during the Viet Nam war forced Gary to solidify who he was to become. He served as a medic during these years and that training also was carried forward throughout his life along with a deep commitment to protect, preserve, and elevate all those living, especially those in need.

After the Army, Gary pursued his education seriously. He completed an undergraduate degree from Central Missouri State, then went on to study Special Education at the University of Kansas under the direction of Dr Richard L Simpson. Rich and Gary shared a lifelong respect for research and service to those with autism and other challenging behaviors.

Equipped with his Ph.D., Gary entered the profession at University of Northern Colorado and established his career as a researcher and professor. The next move was to The University of Iowa, where he remained for over 20 years, gaining full professorship and joint appointment in Pediatrics, and serving as Chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning.

Still needing a challenge, he accepted the position of Dean of the College of Education at Lehigh University in Bethlehem PA, where he served the next 10 years. One of his most treasured accomplishments there was to establish the Autism Clinic, under Dr. Lee Kern’s direction, which provides services to families and training for Lehigh students.

Finally retiring in 2018, Gary devoted his free time to golf, manhattans with friends, and refining his music enjoyment (usually at least 2 carried out simultaneously). Among his many honors, one of his favorites was the Sasso Memorial Golf Tournament which allowed him to escape his other demands for 3 full days of golf every summer.

Gary’s quick wit, kindness, and integrity are seared into the memories of those who have known and loved him. And loved most by him, who survive him, are his wife Christine Novak and son, Spencer Charles Novak Sasso (aka Death Ray and Baby Chaos).

To honor Gary for all the many ways he made lives better, please consider making a gift in his memory to support Lehigh Autism Services at Lehigh University. Gifts may be sent to Lehigh University, Development and Alumni Relations, 306 S. New St. Suite 500, Bethlehem, PA 18055. Please indicate that your gift is in memory of Gary Sasso and will support the Lehigh Autism Clinic. Alternatively, you may make a donation online at

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