Billy T. Ogletree, head of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Western Carolina University, has been named the university’s Catherine Brewer Smith Distinguished Professor of Communication Disorders.
Unanimous approval of Ogletree’s appointment to the professorship by the WCU Board of Trustees came Friday, March 2, as part of the board’s quarterly meeting. The appointment is effective July 1.
A member of the WCU communication sciences and disorders faculty for 26 years, Ogletree is perfectly suited to meet the goals of the professorship, which include delivering high-quality educational programs to students in the field of communication sciences and disorders and helping meet the speech-language-pathology needs of the people of the Western North Carolina region, said Doug Keskula, dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.
“Dr. Ogletree is extremely well respected in the communication sciences and disorders profession,” Keskula said. “With his focus on the communication abilities and needs of people with severe disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum, he has made significant contributions to the field and has mentored hundreds of students who have gone on to successful careers delivering much-needed treatment services to adults and children.”
Ogletree has procured nearly $2.5 million in external support, including two U.S. Department of Education grants totaling approximately $2 million to improve services to people with severe disabilities. He currently chairs the National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities and, for the past three years, has been one of two committee representatives to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, an organization in which he also is a Fellow.
He has published in excess of 70 works over his career, including more than 25 articles and book chapters since 2007, and has held editorial board positions with nine journals in communication sciences and disorders, and special education. He also has served as associate editor for the journal Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Intervention in School and Clinic.
In his role as Brewer Smith Distinguished Professor of Communication Disorders, Ogletree said he plans to expand the educational and outreach activities of the department, in which he will continue serving as department head.
“It is my intention to pursue additional external funding opportunities and work to establish a severe disabilities clinic through our existing Speech and Hearing Clinic in the Health and Human Sciences Building,” he said. “I also want to create video learning modules in severe disabilities to help educate our students, including those who will work in the new clinic once it is operational, and I hope to launch the Brewer Smith Lecture Series, bringing in nationally known speakers to share their expertise with our students, faculty and community.”
The distinguished professorship was created in 2003 through a $300,000 gift from the estate of Catherine Brewer Smith, a Franklin resident who died in 2001 and whose father attended WCU during the 1920s. Of that gift, $250,000 was used, along with state matching funds, to establish the professorship at the $500,000 level. The remaining $50,000 of the Brewer Smith gift endowed a scholarship fund for students majoring in communication sciences and disorders.
Smith’s desire to play a role in the advancement of knowledge and services in the field stemmed from personal experiences in which service professionals in the field of communication disorders assisted members of her family, especially in the area of hearing disorders. Her late father, Albert D. Brewer, had a hearing impairment.