40 years under one roof

40 years under one roof

27 Apr 2016    

On the southeast edge of East Campus, the Barkley Memorial Center has stood for 40 years as the home for programs in audiology, speech-language pathology and special education. Earlier this month, the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders (SECD) hosted an open house and reunion to mark the Barkley Center’s 40th anniversary.

“We wanted to celebrate this milestone and recognize the historical accomplishments of our programs,” said Sherri Jones, chair of the department. “It was also a great opportunity to invite our alumni and supporters to campus and highlight some of the wonderful teaching, research and service we provide from the Barkley Center.”

More than 100 alumni and friends gathered for the special weekend April 8-9. A banquet was held Saturday evening at the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel in downtown Lincoln. Former department Chair John Bernthal presented a humorous history of the building, representatives from each student organization gave updates, and Jones reviewed building renovation plans and shared about new initiatives in SECD.

Barkley 40th Anniversary Graphic

A special booklet was prepared to feature the history of the department that reaches back to the 1920s. Special education and speech development classes were first formed at that time along with graduate training in educational psychology that focused on measurement and evaluation of K-12 student learning. Graduate courses in speech pathology were offered in 1933, and in the 1940s, the Division of Speech Pathology and Audiology was formed under the guidance of Dr. Leroy “Doc” Laase.

The 1950s ushered in training of special education teachers in the Department of Educational Psychology, and the 1960s saw the programs get stronger and add doctoral degrees in speech pathology and audiology.

A $3 million gift from William E. and Edna Barkley was announced in 1971 that greatly impacted the ability of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to serve the special needs community in Nebraska. The Barkley’s gift allowed construction of the Barkley Memorial Center. When it opened in 1976, all three programs—special education, audiology and speech-language pathology—were now consolidated in one building for the first time.

Angela Dietsch
Junior scientist Ellena Dietsch practices using an electrolarynx, on her mother, Assistant Professor Angela Dietsch. The device is an electronic sound source which enables speech communication for people who have lost their voiceboxes due to cancer.
(Photo by Loren Rye, Pixel Lab.)

It was another dozen years before the programs were joined together in the current department under the direction of John Bernthal. The department was part of Teachers College, then in 2003 Teachers College and the College of Human Resources and Family Sciences joined to form the College of Education and Human Sciences.

Today, SECD has an annual $3 million grant portfolio to fund research that helps expand our understanding of the brain, improve behavioral assessments and develop innovative interventions that impact learning, behavior, communication and sensory access through the lifespan. SECD enrolls nearly 600 students, and the Barkley Speech Language and Hearing Clinic sees more than 550 clients annually for speech and language services, and over 1,300 people for hearing and balance difficulties.

SECD Open House April 8, 2016
Graduate student Sharon Glaser explains how an iPad with the “Go Talk Now” app can help individuals communicate despite communication deficits. (Photo by Loren Rye, Pixel Lab.)

For more information about the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, download the 40th anniversary booklet (PDF) or visit the department website

Barkley Memorial Center
The Barkley Memorial Center upon its completion in 1976.
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