California State University, Long Beach
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Speech-Language Pathology Duo Honored

Published: December 1, 2015

CSULB Department of Speech-Language Pathology professor Geraldine P. Wallach and associate professor emerita Betty McMicken were honored at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) annual convention held in Denver, Nov. 12-14.

Wallach, who also serves as the department’s thesis coordinator, was awarded the Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, given to members for their distinguished contributions to the discipline of communication sciences and disorders. It’s the highest honor the association bestows upon its members in recognition of those who have enhanced or altered the course of the professions.

Wallach noted that any success she has had in her profession would not have been possible had she not been told early on by her theatre advisor at Long Island University to look into taking some of those “clinical” courses as a safety net, just in case the acting career didn’t work out.

“I knew my uncoordinated dancing would catch up with me eventually so I took his advice and the rest is history,” said Wallach.

Interacting with professionals on the ASHA Committee on the Role of the Speech-Language Pathologist in Learning Disabilities in 1976 solidified Wallach’s life-long commitment to children and adolescents with language learning disabilities and school-based issues.

“There are so many people to thank along the way,” said Wallach, who acknowledged Barbara Ehren for nominating her for the award and pulling the needed nomination materials together. “I want to thank my husband, Walter, and my immediate, extended and professional families, my colleagues and students at the university.

“Dr. Sylvia Richardson said it best when receiving many awards,” added Wallach. “‘I work with children and adolescents who have language and reading disabilities, so by honoring me, you honor them.’”

Past awards for Wallach include Fellow, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; Distinguished Service Award, Massachusetts Speech-Language-Hearing Association; Outstanding Achievement Award, California Speech-Language-Hearing Association; Most Valuable Professor, College of Health and Human Services, CSULB; and Distinguished Achievement Award, California Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

McMicken, who retired from CSULB last spring, received the Frank R. Kleffner Lifetime Clinical Career Award, given by the ASHA Foundation to an individual in recognition of outstanding contributions to clinical science and practice in communication science and disorders over a period of at least 20 years and who has altered or accelerated the course of quality of clinical care in audiology and/or speech-language pathology.

“This is an award which speaks to the heart of our profession—clinical service and the awardee must have impacted the direction and scope of the practice in a significant manner,” said McMicken. “One award is given a year from the ASHA Foundation. It is considered the pinnacle of achievement and recognition in our profession, and receiving it is truly a humbling experience. As always, my gratitude goes to the Greatest Generation and WWII veterans who were my parents, teachers, professors, mentors and eventually my patients. They never let me forget what characterized their lives of purpose, underpinned with integrity and expected the same of me.”

Betty McMicken (l) and Geraldine Wallach
Betty McMicken (l) and Geraldine Wallach

Among McMicken’s other awards include Honors and Fellow, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; Honors and Fellow, California Speech-Language-Hearing Association; Anne Douglas Legacy of Vision Award; University Community Service Award, CSULB; and Distinguished Scholarly Achievement Award, CSULB.

McMicken’s nearly five-decade-long career has included a speech and audiology internship at the West L.A. Veterans Administration Hospital in the 1960s, co-founding (with mentor Elizabeth Wallace) and co-directing the Orange County-based Newport Language and Speech Center from 1970-1981, and in 1971 founding and directing a volunteer weekly head and neck cancer speech practice group at the Orange County American Cancer Society. McMicken led that group for 22 years, also founding the Lost Cord Club of Orange County in 1973. In the 1980s McMicken was the director of the WestMed Speech and Hearing Center and began her clinical professorship at UCI Medical Center in the Department of Otolaryngology. She served as chair and full professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders at Cal State Los Angeles for seven years in the 1990s. In 1998, she became a part-time lecturer at CSULB, within a year was full-time, became an assistant professor in 2006 and retired last spring as an associate professor.

“Next year will be my 50th year in clinical practice and I’m not planning on stopping,” she said. “I am definitely learning addicted, and I need to continue to pursue my endless curiosity. The profession of speech-language pathology has always provided me with boundless opportunities for inquisitiveness.”

McMicken is an adjunct professor at Chapman University and continues her private practice, which has included working with legendary actor Kirk Douglas since 2007.