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Arnold School of Public Health


Apel earns the highest honor awarded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

November 15, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) leads the field of communication sciences and disorders (COMD) by serving as the national professional, scientific and credentialing association for its 182,000 members who assist the 40 million Americans with communication disorders. Kenn Apel, professor and chair of the Arnold School’s COMD department, has received the highest honor that this immensely impactful organization awards.

ASHA leaders recognized Apel with the Honors of the Association award at the organization’s annual conference in Denver on November 13 (see ASHA video on the honoree). The Association describes this honor as being reserved for “individuals whose contributions have been of such excellence that they have enhanced or altered the course of the professions.” Recipients, like Apel, are well-known throughout the nation and the world for their “lifetime of innovative clinical practice, insightful and rigorous research, creative administration, effective legislative activity, outstanding teaching or other distinguished professional contributions.”

Apel clearly exceeds these criteria as he has been previously recognized for his work in the field of COMD with other national awards. Across his approximately thirty years in academia, he has held numerous service and leadership roles, served as the principal investigator or co-investigator on 18 funded grants, authored three books and published close to 100 scholarly papers. Apel’s colleagues and supporters are numerous, varied and widespread, with each echoing one another’s admiration of his research, scholarship, editorship, mentorship, service and leadership attributes.

“Dr. Apel has expanded the knowledge and skills of hundreds of speech-language pathologists throughout this country and others related to assessment and intervention for students who struggle with spelling and reading. He has also made a significant impact on our field by his emphasis on the speech-language pathologist as a clinical scientist and has mentored numerous doctoral students who are carrying on his legacy of facilitating deep thinking and problem solving in future and present speech language pathologists.”

-Julie Masterson, Missouri State University

“His passion for language, literacy and learning is simply contagious, and his commitment to excellence in research and clinical practice sets him apart from many of his distinguished colleagues. He illuminates the practical connection of research and practice, and he models how to design assessments and interventions through an evidence-based lens, in turn paving the way for practicing clinicians to do the same.” ~Bonnie Singer, Architects for Learning

“Dr. Apel is one of the most unique, positive, bright, considerate and supportive individuals I have ever met. In the ASHA world, he is a light. He never takes himself too seriously, he goes above and beyond to mentor others, he is highly knowledgeable but makes learning fun, he is delightful to be around and he has integrity beyond compare.”

-Laura Green, Texas Woman’s University

“Through his many workshops and conference presentations, delivered in his inimitable, engaging style, he has convinced most practitioners that evidence-based practice is the only way to approach this work, and more importantly, has shown them how to do so. Most notable is his work in the area of spelling. He and colleague Julie Masterson have changed the way practitioners assess and intervene with children and adolescents in this heretofore neglected language area; first with research in this area and then with a research to practice focus.” ~Barbara Ehren, University of Central Florida

“His motivation is to serve, to improve communication sciences and disorders students’ education, and as he has frequently said, to have fun while doing it all. I once asked him how he accomplished so much within a short period of time. He stated, 'I just do it.' And that is true. He gets it done and all the while he is kind, unpretentious and forthright.”

-Judith Vander Woude, Calvin College

“Dr. Apel has been a leader in expanding the area of child language into more focused attention to literacy and literacy-related skills. In this way he has impacted the discipline, the professional roles of speech-language pathologists and the children they serve, and members of related professions such as teachers and reading specialists. Such far-reaching impact is certainly the hallmark of an exceptional career.” ~Kathy Coufal, Wichita State University

“I think it is safe to say that not only has Dr. Apel been hugely generous in his contributions to our discipline, he has risen to offices that only those with the utmost confidence of others (editorships, chairs and presidents) ever achieve. I believe (as do others) that his record of service reflects his own willingness to make himself generously available to the needs of the field, but also reflects the confidence of those asking him to seek these roles, and the repeated quality, transformative quality, of his contributions.”

-Alex Johnson, MGH Institute for Health Professions

Always humble, Apel returns his accolades back to his proponents, generously sharing the credit for his accomplishments in a manner that clearly exemplifies the many praises they have made about his character. In reflecting on how he started on this journey, Apel identifies one of his first mentors, Marilyn Newhoff. “When I was a master’s student at San Diego State University, Dr. Newhoff came up to me in the hallway and asked me if I wanted to help her with a research project,” he says. “I said yes, and I was hooked on research. She encouraged me to go on for my Ph.D., which I did and the rest is history.”

Apel also points to his decades-long research partner, Julie Masterson, as a key contributor to his success. “I have accomplished much of what I have done because of my research partnership with my colleague and friend, Dr. Julie Masterson,” he says. “Even though we haven’t worked at the same institution, we have accomplished a great deal—conduct multiple studies, write chapters and books, present at national and international conferences, etc.—since we began working together in the early 90s. We work well together because she is the analytical part of the partnership, and I’m the gestalt part.”

Finally, he credits the colleagues he has worked with, and continues to work with, as department chair at the Arnold School, Florida State University and Wichita State University. “All of the faculty I have worked with have been incredibly supportive and helped me as I formed and honed my leadership skills,” Apel says. “Their support and friendship is invaluable.”

Speaking of his leadership, despite all that he has accomplished Apel believes there is still more to do. “My goal here within COMD is to ensure our department is recognized as the outstanding program that we are,” he says. “This faculty is truly one of the best faculties in the nation. They are outstanding in research, in teaching and in service. And beyond that, they are a superb group of people who care about each other and are the first to reach out to help each other. That’s rare, and I am so proud to be a part of them. I will continue to strive do what I can to support them and let others know how wonderful they are.”