Speech-Language Pathology Program celebrates 50th anniversary

Published February 25, 2011

The Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), now known as the Communication Sciences and Disorders Program Area in the Department of Special Education & Communication Sciences and Disorders has been preparing students to work as speech-language pathologists (formerly termed speech therapists) for over 50 years. In 1960 the first graduates from EMU with baccalaureate degrees assumed positions in schools and hospitals to serve persons of all ages with communication disorders. Around 1970 the master's degree program was established as the credential for practice, and EMU was one of the first universities in Michigan to require this. EMU graduates now enter the workforce to support children and adults who struggle to communicate due to a diverse array of conditions including but not limited to: stuttering, autism, aphasia, laryngectomy, developmental language delays, and swallowing disorders. Alumni of the program live in 42 of the 50 states and Canada.

On September 24 and 25, 2010, the SLP program celebrated its 50th Anniversary, drawing alumni and emeritus faculty from 12 different states including California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Michigan. It provided students, faculty, and administrators an opportunity to hear stories from the early years of the program. Friday evening featured a light reception at the University House with special guest, EMU President Susan Martin. On Saturday, guests returned to tour the campus and clinic followed by dinner in the EMU Student Center Ball Room where Provost Jack Kay welcomed guests. The program received tributes at the banquet from the president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Dr. Tommie Robinson, and from Dr. Rick Merson, president-Elect of the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association (MSHA). An inspiring keynote address was given by Dr. Robinson who recognized the founding fathers of the program, Dave Palmer and Wayne Fulton, and also recognized Thelma Albritton, who was the editor of the first issue of ASHA's publication in 1970, Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools. Emeritus faculty attending included: Thelma Albritton, Angelo Angelocci, Marge Chamberlain, Suzanne Palasek (for her husband Jim), and Ralph Rupp. Dr. Angelocci invited attendees to share stories in the "open mic" portion of the festivities. Distinguished alumni attending included Dr. Dorothy Grant and Shirley Soltman, graduates from 1960. Dr. Christine Marvin, researcher, associate professor, and the director of the early childhood program in special education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, spoke of the high quality preparation she received at EMU. Judy Lytwynec and Tim Weise, past presidents of MSHA and also EMU alumni, were also in attendance.