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Giving Voice to the Future

Spring 2010 | By Eric Nelson. Photo by $photocredit.value.

In many ways, the work being done by faculty and students in the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences is ahead of its time. Currently contained within the College of Liberal Arts, the department’s programs are ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and Academic Analytics.

It also houses the M.D. Steer Audiology and Speech-Language Clinics, which provide more than 10 clinical programs to the public and log more than 2,200 patient-visits a year. In addition, the department is home to the Neural Systems for Language Processing Lab, where PhD candidate Amanda Hampton Wray and undergraduate Erin Coffey (above, left to right) help Professor Christine Weber-Fox conduct cutting-edge research in stuttering using electrode filled caps that record event-related brain potentials. Unfortunately, facilities haven’t kept pace with the work being done within them. “Today that fine teaching, brilliant research, and excellent and compassionate clinical care are in the lower floors of Heavilon Hall in a space that was built 52 years ago,” says professor and department head Robert Novak.

That will soon change thanks to a $10 million gift from 1959 alumna Marybeth Higuera to fund the Lyles-Porter Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences facility, which will bear the name of the donor’s families. “My parents, my brothers, and one of my sons were Purdue graduates, and my grandfather was a professor here,” says Higuera, a former speech pathologist. “This university is a rich part of our lives.”

Extending that legacy sounds especially good to Weber-Fox, who is also an alumna of the program. “Mrs. Higuera’s generous gift is an incredible investment in our department’s future,” she says. “It’s a huge boost and will help us to advance the highest standards in research, teaching, and service.”

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