Faculty member and past chair supports speech-language pathology and audiology students


Dr. Norman Lass and his wife, Martha, donated $30,000 to establish an endowed scholarship at the West Virginia University College of Education and Human Services. The Norman and Martha Lass Scholarship will provide support for graduate students in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders studying to become speech-language pathologists and audiologists.

As a professor of speech and hearing sciences, co-director of the Speech and Hearing Laboratory, and past chair of the department, Lass credits his successful career to the wonderful working environment and support he received from the faculty, staff and students at WVU.

“We are lifelong learners and have such a respect for education and the pursuit of education,” said Lass. “We are grateful to be in a position to help others pursue higher education, especially within a field and subject I am personally passionate about.”

In 1969, after receiving his Ph.D. from Purdue University and completing his Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Bureau of Child Research at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Lass joined WVU, telling his wife they would be in Morgantown for three years. Forty-six years, multiple outstanding teaching awards, 22 books, over 100 publications and 300 professional presentations, two children and four grandchildren later, Lass continues to teach, publish, and learn here in Morgantown. Lass received the Benedum, WVU Foundation, CEHS, Golden Apple, and Exxon Education Foundation Outstanding Teacher awards.

“I have had a very fulfilling career at WVU. It really has been a wonderful fit. I am very grateful to WVU and our department which has a very supportive and productive faculty and staff, as well as an outstanding undergraduate and graduate student body. It has been rewarding to participate in many of their successes as well,” stated Lass. In fact, eight of his past students are currently serving as faculty members within the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. In addition, he has had at least 15 students whose parents were former speech pathology or audiology students.

“I was Dr. Lass’ first M.S. thesis student. He encouraged and mentored me through the pursuit of my Ph.D. degree. I will always be grateful for Dr. Lass’ guidance and inspiration during my graduate education and throughout my tenure at WVU as we continue to do collaborative research. Dr. Lass has been a wonderful friend and mentor to me for a lifetime”, said Dr. Mary Ellen Koay, past student and current Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Speech-Language Pathology at CEHS.

Lass’ impact goes far beyond his roles in the classroom and his publications. For example, his research led him to work with Dr. Emerson Foulke at the University of Louisville, where he studied time-altered speech for the blind, as braille was often to slow for blind students to keep up with their sighted peers. Lass’ research even became the catalyst for a question developed and used on a national television game show. His work on speaker identification has received extensive national attention from newspapers around the country, including an article in TIME magazine.

Lass’ wife, Martha, also served a long and successful career focused around education. She taught over 30 years in West Virginia, Indiana, and Kansas as an elementary and special education teacher. She also was involved in teacher training programs at WVU, and also taught courses in both curriculum and instruction and special education.

The first Norman and Martha Lass Scholarship recipient was selected this fall for the 2016-2017 academic year. “I am so grateful for this scholarship. This award is allowing me to concentrate on what is important to me, education. The Lass’ financial generosity has allowed me to be one step closer to my goal and has inspired me to give back to the community,” stated Chelsea Simpkins, a speech-language pathology graduate student.

It is the Lass’ hope that their scholarship will continue to grow, impacting more and more students over the years. “Our extended family has already been so generous in sending donations to support our scholarship. It is the opportunity to create a gift that just keeps giving,” shared Lass.

The WVU Foundation, in partnership with the University, is currently conducting A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University which runs through December 2017.

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