"He was the first speech-language pathologist to be appointed to a full professorship in a major American medical school."
- Asha, November 1994
Herbert Koepp-Baker became a well-known expert on maxillofacial disorders. Born in 1904 in Marquette, Michigan, he received his B.A. in 1926 from the University of Michigan, his M.A. in 1932 from the Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1938 in clinical psychology. He was drawn to Iowa for his Ph.D. after reading Wendell Johnson’s, Because I Stutter and the references to his mentor, Dr. Lee E. Travis. Like his peers and fellow classmates at Iowa, he was interested in the science of speech disorders and the program was one of the few at the time that stressed that approach. He worked as a research assistant to Wendell Johnson in the Department of Psychology where the program in speech disorders was housed. Wendell Johnson was working as an assistant professor alongside Dr. Lee E. Travis after receiving his Ph.D. from Iowa in 1931.
After receiving his Ph.D. in 1938, Koepp-Baker returned to Penn State University to resume teaching speech which he had done prior to coming to Iowa. There he created the first speech and hearing clinic and was instrumental in fostering the interprofessional technique to habilitation and rehabilitation programs. In 1943, while a professor at Penn State University, he co-founded the American Academy of Cleft Palate Prosthesis, now known as the American Cleft Palate Association. He served as the group’s president in 1953 and editor of its first publication.
During World War II he enlisted in the military to help soldiers returning with communication disorders as did some of his peers. He was given the position of Director of Speech and Hearing Rehabilitation at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. After the war, he was offered a full professorship as Professor of Clinical Speech Pathology in the College of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Illinois. He was the first speech-language pathologist to hold such a post in a major medical school.
His association with ASHA began while a graduate student at Penn State University. He joined the Association in 1931 and attended annual conventions every year becoming the first person to teach a short course at convention. He was a member and chairman of numerous Association committees over the years. During World War II he edited the “War Notes” section of the Journal of Speech Disorders. He was elected ASHA President in 1947 and received the Honors of the Association in 1965.
In addition to his association with ASHA, Dr. Koepp-Baker was also a member of numerous national and state medical and dental societies and well as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. Like Mack Steer, a fellow Iowa classmate, he was also a consultant to many Federal agencies during his career including the National Society for Crippled Children, National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
During one of his last interviews, Dr. Koepp-Baker mentioned that he belonged to that group that had become known as the “young Turks” that wanted to expand the focus of the Association beyond stuttering to encompass all speech communication.
Retiring to the mountains of North Carolina, Dr. Koepp-Baker passed away in 1994 at the age of 90.