In the academic year 1940-1941, there were three faculty in the Central State Teacher’s College’s, now Central Michigan University (CMU), Speech and Reading Department, Wilbur Moore, Fred Bush, and Mayme Smith. The department announced three fields of study that year, one of which was Fundamentals of Speech Correction. As a result, a Department of Speech Correction, or Speech Therapy, was established in the early 1940s. This was a timely event considering the many soldiers who returned from war with communication issues. In the 1940s the Department was located in Warriner Hall.
The Department of Speech Correction was then under the aegis of the Department of Speech and Dramatic Arts (DSDA) which was located in Moore Hall, DSDA also included well as Theatre and Interpretation, Broadcasting, and Public Speaking. In the 1970s, the DSDA was part of the College of Arts and Sciences. Later, this became the College of Education, Health and Human Services. The Department of Communication Disorders (CDO) as such was established in 1985.
By 1990 there were more than 20 people in the department, with four specialized clinics (Speech and language, audiology, SRC, and another clinic whose name is now unknown) serving more than 4,000 people annually. CDO was then a department within the College of Education, Health, and Human Services. The department’s clinicians provided services to people with various communication disorders. Students received extensive clinical experiences. CDO’s M.A. in audiology and speech-language pathology, and clinical service programs were accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association beginning in the early 1970s. CMU was the first university in the state of Michigan to be accredited both in Speech Language and Audiology. In the 1970s, CDO was then housed in Moore Hall. The Moore facilities were specifically designed for speech-language pathology and audiology in 1970 and included a Hearing Science Laboratory and extensive audiology facilities.
In 1945 the department sponsored its first annual, six-week, residential camp-clinic for children with speech, language and hearing disorders. Initially, this summer speech camp was limited to boys who stuttered. The camps later expanded to include girl campers and to treat additional communication disorders. They were later called the Summer Remedial Clinic (SRC), probably by the late 1970s. CMU students served as most of the staff, with paid swim and recreation personnel, and live-in counselors. Currently, a direct descendant of the SRC exists, the Summer Specialty Clinics, which are not residential. Swimming, recreation and counseling is no longer offered. About 100 children are currently served for 5-6 weeks daily for either a half or full day of therapy programs.
In September 1990 the department celebrated its 50th anniversary. To discuss its history and ongoing accomplishments, a special newsletter was published during 1990-1991 academic year called Hear, Hear. A conference, “Beyond the First Fifty,” was also held during April 12-13, 1991 in Mount Pleasant. Many program alums attended.
In 1997 CDO moved under the aegis of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions. Since 2004 CDO is housed in the Health Professions Building. CDO was one of the founding units of the College of Health Professions. Currently, CDO offers both a minor and major in Communication Disorders, a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology, and an Au.D., or Clinical Doctorate in Audiology, which is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education and the Council on Academic Accreditation of American Speech-Language Hearing Association. The Audiology Program, a division of CDO, is recognized as the first and oldest in the nation. The 4-year post-baccalaureate program was begun in 1994 and graduated its first seven graduates in May 1998. (This information is from the CMU website, Academic programs and Audiology Program pages, viewed March 23, 2012.)
While there have been many wonderful, dedicated faculty and staff in CDO over time, three notables deserve special recognition within a discussion of the department’s history. These three notables are Dr. Wilbur Moore, Dr. Fred Bess, and Dr. May Ellen Brandell.
Dr. Wilbur Moore came to CMU in 1939 and began the academic program in speech correction in 1940. He was appointed head of the Speech and Drama Department in Warriner Hall. Space was limited so he held therapy sessions in a hall closet. In the 1940s, staff in the audiology booth could not conduct audiometric testing when water was run in the adjacent janitor’s room. Moore established many courses which, while modified, continue to be used today. Degrees established then were rigorous to meet future accreditation standards. He established the summer program, probably then called summer speech camp, in 1946 with 28 pupils. Moore also planned suitable facilities for CDO which led to the construction of Moore Hall in 1971, the year he retired, at a cost of $5.25 million. The building was dedicated in his honor. Moore also served as Vice-President of the University. (This information is from the collection.) A collection of Moore’s papers are separately cataloged and housed in the Clarke Historical Library.
Dr. Fred Bess began the audiology program at CMU. His academic career began at CMU as an Assistant Professor, 1969 – 1971, served as Director of Audiology, 1969-1976, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1971 and Professor in 1974. In 1978 he left CMU for Vanderbilt University, where he became the Director, and later president of the Bill Wilkerson Center. In 1997 he became president of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Hearing and Speech. Dr. Bess is internationally known. Now he is retired. (This information is from Dr. Bess’ online resume, viewed on March 23, 2012.)
Dr. Mary Ellen Brandell served as director of the clinical services in speech pathology in CDO until 1990 when she moved in administrative positions. In 1990 she was named associate dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services. Extremely active in community organizations and fund-raising from 1972 organized the Mary Ellen Brandell Access to Recreation Fund which raised funds to establish the Access Adventure Trail for the handicapped and established the Dick and Mary Ellen Brandell Family Hospice House Fund, which she chaired, helping raise about $1 million for the fund. She died in 2010. The Volunteer Center in the CMU University Center was dedicated in her honor in 2012. (This information is from CMLife article “Former CMU Professor was a constant fundraiser and community member,” September 27, 2010.)
The Archivist wishes to thank professor Gerald Church and Bradford Swartz, for reviewing and amending the above history of the department. Brad was a student in CDO in the 1970s, directed summer clinics, and taught within the department. By 2012 he had been involved with CDO for 32 years. Professor Church also had a long career in the department.