Home Audiology In Appreciation: Richard M. Flower

In Appreciation: Richard M. Flower

by Fred Minifie
written by
Richard Flower

Richard M. (Dick) Flower, 1985 ASHA president, died Aug. 8, at age 95 in Carmel, California.

Richard Flower was a giant of our discipline of speech and hearing sciences in a career spanning more than five decades. His commitment to providing excellent services to patients made him a model of what happens when strong clinical scholarship and applied research in speech-language pathology influence practice.

Dually certified as an audiologist and speech-language pathologist, Dick received his bachelor’s degree at San Jose State College, and his master’s and doctorate at Northwestern University. In 1957 he began a long professional career as professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco, where he became vice chairman of the department in l967.

Perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments was establishing a doctoral program in speech and hearing sciences at that medical school.

Dick’s late wife, Wilda Merritt Flower, also led a distinguished career as a speech-language pathologist. She served the American Red Cross during World War II and worked for many years on the faculty of San Jose State College, California, as well as the University of California, San Francisco, where she helped establish the audiology and speech clinic. Like her husband, she was president of the California Speech-Language Hearing Association. Wilda died in 2006.

In addition to serving as ASHA president, Dick also served in meaningful leadership roles with a variety of organizations, including 1963-1964 president of the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CASHA).

Dick seemed to understand the issues that were important to the development of an organization, particularly with regard to issues related to standards and ethics. He was a strength on ASHA executive boards as the association purchased a new building (Dick spoke at the dedication of the new building on Rockville Pike in 1981) and when ASHA went through a change in executive directors.

Dick was a quiet intellectual who provided thoughtful guidance on many boards and committees when he was most active with ASHA during the 1960s through the 90s. Moreover, a look at his curriculum vita shows lengthy involvement in many organizations.

The leaders of these organizations, upon interacting with him, immediately appointed him to their committees and boards. They wanted his thoughtful input on issues facing their organizations. His careful thinking and gentle style of leadership during his term as ASHA president set a marvelous precedent for later ASHA leaders.

Although we visited in each others’ homes, some of my fondest memories were formed during our many trips to Washington, D.C., for ASHA meetings and conferences. Dick and I often arranged to arrive a day early and visit Monticello, the National Gallery of Art or other sites around D.C. I enjoyed his ready wit and amazingly broad knowledge during these casual outings.

Even though he retired in 1987, he contributed a chapter for one of my books in 1994.  His scholarship never lagged.

Fred Minifie, PhD, CCC-SLP, a friend and colleague of Richard Flower, served on the ASHA Board with him.

Related Articles