Frank R. Kleffner, 1970 ASHA president and 1981–1985 president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation, died at age 89 on June 12, 2015.
Kleffner’s career centered on helping children with communication disorders. After serving in World War II, he received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in speech-language pathology from the University of Wisconsin. He served as the Central Institute for the Deaf’s director of clinics at Washington University in St. Louis for 26 years and was head of the Institute of Logopedics (now Heartspring) in Wichita, Kansas, for nearly two decades.
In 1957, Kleffner and neurologist William M. Landau identified a childhood disorder subsequently known as Landau-Kleffner syndrome and published their findings. Kleffner often commented that: “I am proud of my professional involvement and contributions, which are among the most important in my life’s work.”
His tenure as ASHA president reflected social and political issues that challenged ASHA as well as the nation. Through his leadership, Kleffner took unpopular stands at times for the ultimate good of the organization. He also helped establish a team in the national office that eventually became ASHA’s governmental affairs group. Kleffner received ASHA Honors in 1985.
Kleffner also championed the American Speech-Language Hearing Foundation, which created the annual Frank R. Kleffner Lifetime Clinical Career Award in 1986.
Kleffner’s work transformed the ASHFoundation from a semi-dormant state into the successful and active group it remains today. As president he strove to increase resources, grow programs and create relationships with the corporate sector. In addition, he guided the ASHFoundation toward independence while strengthening ties with ASHA.
Kleffner also launched the Founders Club to elevate donor recognition, started a corporate advisory group, convinced the ASHFoundation trustees to award seed grants to new researchers with the hope of stimulating more giving, and used his marketing savvy to grow visibility and awareness.
Beyond Kleffner’s professional contributions, he was a true Renaissance man. He won many awards for his sculpture and other artwork, he continued to learn throughout his life, and he sustained an adventurous travel spirit. All of his activities and talents included a dose of his well-known humor.
He is survived by his wife, Charlotte; sons Gregory and Douglas Kleffner; daughter Kristine Devine; and six grandchildren.
Memorial donations may be sent to the ASHFoundation, 2200 Research Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20850. A Celebration of Life will be held at Heartspring Conference Center in Wichita, Kansas, on Saturday, July 11, at 1 p.m.
Nancy J. Minghetti is executive director of ASHFoundation. firstname.lastname@example.org.