Melmark President and CEO Named Among Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts for a Fourth Consecutive Year

Melmark President and CEO Named Among Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts for a Fourth Consecutive Year

Rita M. Gardner, Melmark, Inc. President and CEO

Rita M. Gardner, President and CEO of Melmark, Inc. has recently been named number 33 on The Commonwealth Institute’s list of the Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts for 2021. This is the fourth consecutive year Gardner and Melmark have made the list, which includes elite business leaders from across the state of Massachusetts.

Rita M. Gardner, M.P.H., LABA, BCBA leads Melmark’s more than $100-million multi-state operations across all of its divisions. Melmark’s programs include premier private special education schools, professional development, and training and research centers. The organization’s clinically-sophisticated, evidence-based programs serve individuals with the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, acquired brain injuries, medical fragility and severe challenging behaviors.

Gardner, who is the co-founder of Melmark New England and Melmark Carolinas, is an accomplished legislative advocate, and her work has positively impacted services for individuals diagnosed with autism throughout the United States. One of her most notable accomplishments as an advocate is her involvement in the establishment of multiple public policy pieces that improve services to students and adults with autism and their families.


Gardner also serves on advisory committees with the Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC) and Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM). She is an Advisory Board member to Autism Speaks and a founding Board member of the National Council of Autism Providers (CASP) and is currently serving as vice chair. Ms. Gardner also serves on the Advisory Board of the Virginia Institute of Autism. She has served as an appointed member of the Governor’s Autism Commission in Massachusetts and is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Association of Approved Private School (MAAPS).

“To say it is an honor stand alongside such dedicated and brilliant female executives is an understatement,” said Gardner. “What I am most proud of is that the mission I have followed these past four decades and beyond, has brought me to where I am today. Individuals with autism and developmental disabilities need dedicated advocates to fight for their federal entitlement to be educated and live a life of quality, as every human deserves. I am grateful to be able to put the spotlight on them and our staff that works tirelessly to make their lives better.”

Gardner received her Master of Public Health degree from Boston University’s School of Public Health in the School of Medicine. Most important, she holds the heart of Melmark’s mission at the core of her professional standards. She is dedicated to every child, adult and family served at Melmark, as well as every member of Melmark’s professional staff.