ANCDS Honors Awarded to Anita Halper

Anita Halper honoree (second from left), with her nominators, Leora Cherney (left) and Stacie Raymer (right), and Mary Boyle, Chair of the ANCDS Committee on Honors.At the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Neurologic Communication Disorders and Sciences (ANCDS), Anita Halper, M.A., CCC-SLP BC-ANCDS, was awarded the 2015 Honors of the Association for outstanding contributions in research, teaching, treatment and service in the area of neurologic communication disorders. This is the highest honor that the association can bestow on any of its members. Recently, Leora Cherney had an opportunity to chat with Anita about her long-standing career in speech and language pathology. We are pleased to share with the membership some of Anita’s responses. 

What made you choose to be a speech language pathologist? How did you end up in medical speech and language pathology?

I took drama lessons between the ages of about 10 and 14 and appeared in plays, which I thoroughly enjoyed. From my drama experiences, I knew I wanted to major in some aspect of communication in college. I explored various areas and was intrigued by the options for a speech-language pathologist and the idea of helping others. I became interested in medical speech-language pathology in my undergraduate years at Northwestern. My advisor, Harold Westlake, a well-known professor in the area of cerebral palsy, found a job for me between undergraduate and graduate school at a residential state school for physically disabled children; that was the beginning. In graduate school, I took a course from Joseph Wepman, a well-known aphasiologist, who was a guest professor at Northwestern. That sparked my interest in aphasia. Finally, after graduate school, my husband, who was a medical student at the time, said he had just visited the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and thought I would be interested in working there. The rest is history.

You have been at the RIC for more than 55 years. What different jobs/types of work have you done over the years at RIC?

I started the Speech Therapy Department at RIC in 1960. The Department of Communication Disorders, as it was renamed later,  grew from just me to a total of about 30 staff (Assistant Director, Supervisors, Speech-Language Pathologists, one audiologists, two administrative staff) at its peak in the mid-to- late 1980s. With changes in reimbursement and health care, the size began to decrease and in 1996, RIC dissolved departments and developed what eventually evolved into the structure we have now. I was involved with the reengineering team which helped in the restructuring of RIC until 1998. After that, I transitioned to the Education and Training Department (now called the RIC Academy) and have   held the position of Senior Education Program Manager since 2004.    

During your career, you have been involved in many professional activities and have accomplished much. What do you consider to be your greatest successes?

My greatest successes are seeing all the students and staff I have mentored throughout the years become seasoned professionals and experts in the area of neurologic communication disorders. In addition, my involvement on ASHA and ANCDS boards and committees has been very important to me and I have developed many friendships and professional relationships because of it.  Another very special thing for me was becoming Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine; I only had a Master’s Degree and thought this was quite an accomplishment.

Not only do you still work full-time, but you are often one of the first to be at your desk in the morning. What motivates you to get up every morning and still go to work? To what do you attribute your continuing interest in the profession?

I literally grew up at RIC and I have always been motivated and challenged by the many changes I have seen at RIC through my many years there. I am also motivated by the opportunities and challenges I have currently in my position as Senior Education Program Manager, particularly with the changes in RIC’s external Academy and the novel way that we will be offering courses at this time.

If you weren’t a speech and language pathologist, is there any other profession that you would have chosen?

Yes, as my interest grew in neurologic communication disorders, I think I would have enjoyed being a neurologist.

At the ANCDS luncheon, how did you feel and what were you thinking when you realized that you were the person who was being honored?

As you know, it took me a while to figure out it was me. At the beginning of the presentation, I was really impressed with the accomplishments of this person and never gave it a thought that it could be me. It was not until Mary said “founding member of the Academy of Aphasia” that I thought it might be me as there was no one else in the room that I could tell fit that description. I was really shocked it was me. I didn’t think I would ever get the ANCDS Honors. I never put myself in the same “class” as the previous awardees. They were all so very special in the area of neurologic communication disorders.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Exercise, go to movies, plays and the symphony, read, travel to New York City to see my daughter, son-in-law, and four grandchildren; eat at ethnic restaurants.

What is a favorite TV show that you watch? A favorite book that you have read recently? A movie that you have liked?

Favorite TV show: The new Law and Order: SVU series

Movie:  Brooklyn

Book: “Hallucinations” by Oliver Sacks has stuck with me, although I read it more than a year ago.

Is there anything else you would like the ANCDS members to know about you?

I can’t think of anything else.