Home Academia & Research New ASHA Virtual Exhibit Features Early Pioneers

New ASHA Virtual Exhibit Features Early Pioneers

by Mona Heath
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The University of Iowa, formerly known as the State University of Iowa, produced a steady stream of graduates in the 1930s and 1940s who emerged as movers and shakers in the fledgling field of speech pathology.

What was it about Iowa that attracted so many students from across the country during a time of extreme economic hardship due to the Great Depression? A new exhibit in ASHA’s online archives has the answer.

Most of the credit is given to one man—Lee Edward Travis.

Many were drawn to the Iowa program after hearing Travis speak or reading about the program he developed based on a scientific foundation of the study of speech disorders. Some of his students, such as Charles Van Riper and Wendell Johnson, stuttered. Others developed an interest in the subject due to early encounters with someone they knew who experienced a speech disorder.

Not only did the University of Iowa help spawn a new profession under the direction of Travis, it’s also where founding members of this burgeoning profession gathered and created ASHA.

Travis hosted a dinner at his home after a university-sponsored conference on speech in the summer of 1925. He worked with attendees to form a society for the scientific study of speech disorders. Many of the students who studied with Travis became leaders in this emerging profession, as well as leaders in ASHA, contributing much to its growth and development.

In honor of American Archives Month in October, the ASHA Archives created a new online exhibit featuring four early pioneers of the professions: Charles Van Riper, Mack Steer, Herbert Koepp-Baker, and Wendell Johnson.

This exhibit looks at their significance and contributions to the profession of communication sciences and disorders and ASHA. Three of these men were classmates, and all were students of Lee E. Travis and graduates of the University of Iowa.

Some other interesting facts about the pioneers in the exhibit:
  • Three of the four pioneers served as ASHA president.
  • Mack Steer led the drive to establish ASHA’s first National Office in 1958.
  • Wendell Johnson helped establish the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation.
  • Herbert Koepp-Baker was the first SLP appointed to a full professorship in a major medical school.
  • Charles Van Riper enjoyed a second career as a successful book author, writing under the pseudonym “Cully Gage.”

“Early Pioneers of the Professions,” ASHA’s fourth online exhibit, joins exhibits on the founding of ASHA, the five national offices, and the ASHA journals. The ASHA Archives will build up to ASHA’s centennial celebration in 2025.

Do you have artifacts or materials related to the professions or ASHA memorabilia relevant to the archive project? Contact Mona Heath, mheath@asha.org.

Happy American Archives Month!

Mona Heath is ASHA’s information resources manager. mheath@asha.org 



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Harold Weber October 3, 2019 - 4:43 pm

Hopefully there will be a similar remembrance for the profession that soon followed SPEECH PATHOLOGY called AUDIOLOGY.

Mona Heath October 4, 2019 - 3:17 pm

Indeed, there are definitely plans in the works for this in the near future.

Leo M October 11, 2019 - 5:11 am

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