Dr. Robert W. West

Photograph of Dr. Robert W. West

Dr. Robert W. West, ASHA's first president, 1925-1928

"To those who work with disordered speech the leadership and influence of this man are so obvious as to need no description....A great researcher, writer, teacher, and person, his contributions to the rehabilitation of speech have found their way into every speech clinic and speech classroom in the world."

 - Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, March 1948

Dr. Robert W. West was born in 1892 in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. The son of academics, West was surrounded by an intellectual family. His older brother Allen, was a Rhodes Scholar and his sister Miriam, held a Ph.D. in economics. West’s father was a Professor of Mathematics at Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin where West received his B.A. in 1916. Afterwards, he enlisted in the military to serve two years during World War I. Upon his discharge he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin to work on his master’s degree which he received in 1920. There he was involved with debate, theater and taught public speaking.

West aspired to become a medical doctor but was influenced by Dr. Smiley Blanton, who was the head of the Department of Speech and founder of the doctoral program in speech at the university, to pursue a Ph.D. in speech which he received in 1925. This would only be the second Ph.D. awarded in speech up until this time. Dr. Sara Stinchfield Hawk, also a student of Dr. Blanton, and co-worker of Robert West had received the first doctoral degree in speech in 1922.

West continued at the University of Wisconsin as an Assistant Professor of Speech and in 1926 became Associate Professor of Speech and in 1928 Professor of Speech and Director of the Speech Clinic that his mentor, Dr. Smiley Blanton had founded and directed for many years prior. West would serve in this capacity until 1950 when he left to accept the Directorship of the Speech and Hearing Clinic at Brooklyn College in New York.

Dr. Robert W. West