Please join us for our 2023 Spelbring Conference on Saturday, September 23rd, 2023, on EMU's campus.

Endowed Lecturer: Dr. Ellen Cohn

Title: Listening In: What Matters to Families Matters

For more information about the conference, visit our website

We hope to see you there!

Lectureship History

Read about our past Lyla M. Spelbring Endowed Lecturers.

Keynote Speakers

  • 2017

    Winnie Dunn Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA, "When We Emphasize Strengths, Possibilities are Endless."

    There is an increasing focus on the power of considering people's strengths as we support them to live their best lives. We will explore the core concepts of a strengths-based approach to serving others. We will hear from people who have conditions about how they see their own lives, and then we will review the evidence that supports a strengths-based approach. We will practice talking and writing in a way that reflects our focus on strengths while still being responsive to payers and those we serve. Strengths have the power to transform all of us; it's more fun this way!

  • 2016

    Glen Gillen, EdD, OTR, FAOTA, "Cutting Edge Occupational Therapy: Connecting Philosophy, Evidence and Practice"

    Dr. Gillen is an associate director, professor of regenerative and rehabilitation medicine (occupational therapy) at Columbia University Medical Center Programs in Occupational Therapy, Columbia University. His lecture highlighted the progress that the occupational therapy profession has made in utilizing evidence to not only support our past and current professional philosophy but to inform practice as well. Barriers to using our philosophy and evidence to support practice were discussed. Finally, the reality of occupational therapy practice was described and critiqued.

  • 2015

    Dr. Charles Christiansen

    Dr. Charles Christiansen is currently founder and principal of a life transition company based in Rochester, Minnesota. Prior to this he served as CEO of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation for seven years before retiring in June 2015. He academic career has spanned over 30 years and included roles as provost, vice-provost, dean and department chair at several universities. He is a widely published author and editor of books as well as over 100 articles, chapters, editorials and abstracts.

  • 2014

    Dr. Betty Risteen Hasselkus,OTR, "Everyday Occupation: The Heart of Research and Practice"

    Abstract: Everyday occupation is increasingly being recognized as worthy of close attention, complex in its meanings, and of personal and social value in our own and our clients' lives. At the same time, occupational therapy and occupational science trends in the past decade have led to 1) enriched theories of occupation, 2) greater emphasis on globalization in the profession, 3) a gradual shift in our research, education and practice away from an almost exclusive focus on individuals to a more inclusive focus on family groups, communities and social systems, and 4) newly developing occupational concepts within the profession such as occupational deprivation and occupational injustice. Using examples from her own research and practice, Dr. Hasselkus will probe into the meanings of these four trends and their potential to generate research ideas and new understandings of occupation and our work in the world of health care and well-being. 

  • 2013

    Dr. Suzanne Peloquin, OTR, "The Occupational Therapy Genius: Affirmations of Our Transcendent Ethos"

    The guiding beliefs of the profession have led many occupational therapy practitioners to implement powerful examples of successful practice both across the world and over time. Stories drawn from those examples honor the profession’s ethos and showcase the genius of our practice. Hearing such stories can be an uplifting affirmation of our value and importance in the world. In the spirit of Lyla Mae Spelbring, this lecture offers such an affirmation.

  • 2012

    Dr. Anne Fisher, OTRL "Realizing Lyla Spelbring's Legacy: Being Occupation-Centered - Implementing Occupation-Based and Occupation-Focused Services"
  • 2011

    Dr. Carolyn Baum, "Discovering and Disseminating the Power of Occupation"


The lectureship was named in honor of the late Dr. Spelbring, Professor Emeritus and former director of the Occupational Therapy Program, and was made possible by the efforts of a dedicated committee composed of alumni, faculty, students and friends of the program.

  • Lyla Spelbring

    Lyla Spelbring, known as Spelly to her friends, was born and raised in Clinton, Illinois. At the age of 20, she knew she wanted to join the military. On her 21st birthday, November 10, 1943, Lyla joined the Marine Corps. As a member of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, she was stationed in Hawaii and was selected for advanced training in the motor transport school. After six years in the Marine Corps, Lyla decided to use her GI Bill. She completed her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy at Western Michigan University in 1951. Almost immediately after this, upon seeing a picture of a U.S. Army occupational therapist, she enlisted in the Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant implementing treatment programs for war veterans. Lyla served six years in the Marines and a total of 21 years in the Army during World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War. She retired from the Army in 1982 with the rank of colonel.

    She returned to Western Michigan University in 1959 to complete her master’s degree in education. While working as the director of the OT program in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Lyla began a Ph.D. program. She received her doctorate in medical care organization in 1981 from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation, “Loss and Resumption of Role Activities Following Stroke”, is still cited today. Lyla left U of M to begin a career in academia at Eastern Michigan University. From 1974–1984, she served as the director of the Occupational Therapy Program, the director of the Department of Associated Health Professions and interim dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

    Lyla was the consummate professional. She lent her expertise to committees on the local, state and national levels. Wherever she served, she made a difference. Her work was acknowledged through numerous awards. Dr. Spelbring was named a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association in 1973, and in 1971 she received the Award of Merit. In 2002, Western Michigan University’s Department of Occupational Therapy inducted her into the Outstanding Alumni Academy.

    In retirement, Lyla remained an active member of her community, engaging in meaningful occupations and spending time with friends and family. She loved genealogy and in 2010 she received the Lucy Mary Kellogg award from the Michigan Genealogical Council for her outstanding contributions. She also served as a volunteer driver for Livingston County Catholic Social Services. Until her death in 2011, Lyla pursued life with vigor and enthusiasm, and she remained true to her favorite saying: “Either lead, follow or get out of the way.”

Explore this Program

About the Program

Get to know the heart of the OT program by reading the mission, vision and philosophy.

Program Outcomes

See our graduation and National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy pass rates.


Find out advising information and admissions requirements.


Get practice before you practice with a required fieldwork placement.