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OSU scholars earn awards at speech and hearing convention

Two Ohio State scholars received honors at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s 2010 convention in Philadelphia.

Representing OSU’s Department of Speech and Hearing Science, Wayne Secord, a senior research scientist, and Michelle Bourgeois, a professor, gained recognition for their contributions to speech-language pathology, audiology, and speech and hearing science from Nov. 18 to Nov. 20, according to the association’s website.

The website indicates that the association awarded Secord and nine others the Honors of Association, the most prestigious of honors for contributions that have enhanced or altered the field of communication sciences and disorders.

“I found out about a month ago, and the person who put me up, imagine this, is a person who has won an Honors of Association and found six other people who also had Honors of Association to write letters of support,” Secord said. “Now that is a big, big deal.”

He said he thinks his ability to reach children across the U.S., Canada and Europe with disabilities and help them through language-literacy development and instruction is the main reason for his inclusion in this year’s award.

“My real passion over the years was to develop systems assessments and interventions for students struggling to read, write and listen in their schools,” Secord said. “It’s amazing because you never think you will end up spending 36 years of work helping millions of people learn how to communicate.”

He said that although it is hard to say why he ultimately pursued his career, he initially found an interest in speech and hearing science after seeing the improvement of a critically stuttering student in his high school cafeteria line.

“Five weeks later, low and behold, I was standing next to this same guy,” Secord said. “He looked at me and his speech was smooth and clear as anything. And you know what? That stuck in my brain because you can’t imagine how good that must have felt for the person who helped him do that.”

He said other highlights of his career include receiving a two-and-a-half page fan letter from the founding father of speech pathology, Charles Van Riper; initially meeting with John Black, one of his mentors at OSU with a major presence in the field; and joining thousands to watch a short video and commentary on his life at the recent convention.

Secord, who has received numerous awards throughout his career, earned a Bachelor of Science degree (1971) and master’s degree (1977) from OSU in speech and hearing science, followed by a doctorate degree in communication sciences and disorders from the University of Cincinnati (1980) before his position at OSU.

Bourgeois, one of 19 to receive a Fellow of Association, another high honor for contributions to communication sciences, said three colleagues recommended her as a recipient.

She said all awards required a colleague that had not worked with the possible recipient to nominate them for recognition, enlist other supporters and submit the nomination to a review board for the final decision.

“It is really very nice, but it wasn’t expected and was very much a surprise to me because I don’t do what I do to get honors like that,” Bourgeois said. “I do what I do because I want to help the clients I’m developing these treatments for, help the families and teach my students how to do the same.”

With a career spanning more than 20 years, Bourgeois said although she initially became interested in speech and hearing science while doing undergraduate research with non-native English-speaking children, she found a passion for creating memory books for dementia patients during her doctoral work.

“My work is designed to really help the ones that are here and now struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia to deal with side effects, like loss of memory, repetitive behavior and other things that can be very stressful for caregivers,” Bourgeois said.

She said her other notable accomplishments include receiving the Barry Reisberg Award from the Hearthstone Foundation, completing two books geared toward assisting families affected by Alzheimer’s and her recent recognition by Parade Magazine, which is distributed to more than 70 million people.

Bourgeois earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistics and French from Georgetown University (1976), a master’s degree in speech and hearing science from the University of Washington (1978) and a doctorate degree in communication disorders from the University of Pittsburgh (1988).

Robert Fox, department chair for speech and hearing sciences, said he thinks the scholars’ recent accomplishments will be beneficial for students, faculty and the future of OSU’s speech and hearing program.

“In terms of recognition, it really increases our visibility in the field,” Fox said. “It will also help us attract new faculty members when we have openings because it is very much a competition to get the best faculty in our field. We are really quite proud of both of them.”

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