Charles Van Riper
"Perhaps Dr. Van Riper's greatest contribution to the handicapped, the student and the reader rests in his unique combination of the scientist, the artist, and the humanitarian who has experienced so much of what he teaches."
- Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, March 1957
Charles Van Riper, who developed an interest in the scientific basis of stuttering because of his own stuttering, became a foremost authority on the subject earning worldwide recognition. Born in 1905 in Champion, Michigan, Van Riper received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1926 and 1930. He traveled to the University of Iowa in 1930 to study under the direction of Dr. Lee Edward Travis who was the Director of the University’s Speech and Psychology Clinic and a founder of ASHA. While working as a personal research assistant to Dr. Travis, Van Riper received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University in 1934 and in 1936 founded the Western Michigan University Speech Clinic and its Speech Pathology and Audiology Department. He spent his entire career at the University retiring in 1974.
Most notable among his many contributions to the field of communication sciences and disorders was the publication of one of the first textbooks written in the field, Speech Correction: Principles and Methods published in 1939. During his lifetime he would publish nine more editions. In 1953, he published Speech Therapy – A Book of Readings which was intended to serve as a collection of supplementary readings for courses in speech correction and contained contributions by other leading pioneers in the field such as Robert West, Lee Edward Travis, Samuel Robbins and Sara Stinchfield Hawk. His future publications, The Nature of Stuttering and The Treatment of Stuttering published in the early 1970s were upheld for many years as the final word on the topic. In addition to these books, he published eighteen other books on stuttering in addition to numerous articles on the subject in academic journals.
Van Riper was a life- long member of ASHA attending his first convention in 1930, he was an assistant editor of the Journal of Speech Disorders in 1943, an ASHA Councilor 1950-1952, an Honors recipient in 1956, and a recipient of the 1985 NSSLHA Honors.
After Van Riper retired from Western Michigan University, he took up a second career as a successful writer of narrative non-fiction. As a lover of the outdoors and all things in nature, he wrote a series of books about his beloved Upper Peninsula in Michigan titled, The Northwoods Reader under the pseudonym Cully Gage. Pinning thirteen titles before his death in 1994, the books were a semi-autobiographical rendering of childhood experiences in Michigan’s U.P.
Van Riper wrote his own obituary which in part read – “What shall you say about me when I’m gone? Say: …that through my works and texts, I helped pioneer a new helping profession.”