In Memoriam: Mack Steer Leader and Visionary In Appreciation
In Appreciation  |   August 01, 2003
In Memoriam: Mack Steer
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Hearing Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / In Appreciation
In Appreciation   |   August 01, 2003
In Memoriam: Mack Steer
The ASHA Leader, August 2003, Vol. 8, 1-13. doi:10.1044/leader.IA.08142003.1
The ASHA Leader, August 2003, Vol. 8, 1-13. doi:10.1044/leader.IA.08142003.1
Max David (Mack) Steer, 93, ASHA Fellow, Honoree, and 1951 president, died at his home in West Lafayette, IN, on June 24 after a long illness. He belonged to that generation of students trained by Lee Edward Travis and Wendell Johnson at the University of Iowa in the 1930s—including Charles Van Riper, Herbert Koepp-Baker, and Charles Strother—who were to become leaders and legends in the field of communication sciences and disorders.
Steer’s intellectual progeny are today’s leaders. “If you built a ‘family tree’ with Mack at the root,” says Robert L. Ringel, a former student of Steer’s and currently professor of audiology and speech sciences and the Donald S. Powers Distinguished University Administrator at Purdue University, “you probably can trace a significant number of our current leaders to second and third and perhaps even fourth generation from Steer.”
Steer was born June 14, 1910, in New York City. He was educated at Long Island University (BS, 1932; OD, 1957) and the University of Iowa (MA, 1933; PhD, 1938). In 1935, when the field of communication sciences and disorders was barely in its toddlerhood, he joined the faculty of Purdue University and became founder of its department of audiology and speech sciences.
When Steer joined the Purdue faculty, its program in speech pathology functioned primarily to provide remedial services to university students. Under his new leadership, things were about to change.
For the field to grow and prosper, Steer believed in the necessity of conducting basic science research to understand the mechanisms of speech production and reception. Guided by that philosophy, by 1940, Steer had put Purdue’s undergraduate and graduate programs firmly in place. In 1963 Steer was head of the department; in 1970 he became Hanley distinguished professor of audiology and speech sciences.
Steer retired from Purdue in 1976 as distinguished professor emeritus. And in 1986 the M.D. Steer Audiology and Speech-Language Clinic in Purdue’s Heavilon Hall was named in his honor.
“His program at Purdue was always the cutting-edge program of our profession, incorporating scientific inquiry as an integral part of the clinical process,” remembers Daniel R. Boone, professor emeritus of the University of Arizona. He adds, “Steer was viewed as a legend in his own time by many of the members of ASHA in the 1950s and 60s.”
Steer was active in ASHA at a time of great change. He chaired the 1953 Committee on Association Planning that decided the American Speech and Hearing Association needed a national office to allow it to expand and centralize its activities. He then served on the 1954 Committee to Study the Establishment of a National Office. It took a few more years, but in 1958 ASHA, with a membership of 4,000, opened its first National Office on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC.
Steer also served as the president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation from 1961–1964. He was a recipient of the honors of the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics.
Steer is survived by his wife, Ruth.
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August 2003
Volume 8, Issue 14