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Arnold School of Public Health

Robert L. Frank establishes The Elaine M. Frank Endowed Fellowship Fund to support COMD doctoral students

February 6, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, 

Robert L. Frank has gifted the Arnold School $100,000 to establish an endowment in memory of his wife, Elaine M. Frank. Commemorating the life and contributions of Elaine Frank, Ph.D., who retired from the Arnold School’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2013, The Elaine M. Frank Fellowship Fund will support COMD doctoral students with annual fellowship awards. Robert Frank has donated an additional gift of $2,000, which will be distributed to an outstanding COMD doctoral student in the fall and allows his generosity to have an immediate impact.

First as a student and then as a faculty member, Elaine Frank had a strong connection to USC for nearly four decades. The three-time USC-COMD alumna earned dual master’s degrees in audiology and speech pathology in 1976 and a doctorate in communication sciences and disorders in 1988. After a decade in the field of speech pathology, she joined the COMD department as an assistant professor in 1991.

Her research expertise focused on neurological disorders, such as stroke, dementia and brain injury in children and adults. Elaine Frank served as COMD chair from 1999-2012, and her leadership was instrumental to the department’s growth and success. She received Professor Emerita status when she retired in 2013 and maintained her steadfast support of the COMD department. 

“I wanted to set up a lasting memory for what Elaine has meant to many people—her many contributions to her patients, colleagues, and family and friends,” says Robert Frank. “She was the type of person who walks into a room and has that magnetic personality. People wanted to talk with her because she had not only the knowledge, but she was very encouraging and motivating to help people reach their goals. She could see their potential and then help them reach that potential.”

With this gift, Robert Frank hopes to extend Elaine Frank’s unique impact—on both students and the clients they serve—indefinitely. “With this endowed scholarship for doctoral students, we are striving for what Elaine always wanted for her students—helping them do the very best they can do,” says Robert Frank. “Whether as a clinician, researcher, or administrator in the field, I know she would want to support the pathway the doctoral student would want to pursue.”

Among the many overlaps in their life together, Robert and Elaine Frank shared a passion for the health sciences in both their professional and personal lives. With five USC degrees between them, establishing The Elaine M. Frank Fellowship Fund at their alma mater was a natural fit. As the nexus of Elaine Frank’s many years of leadership, service, and friendship, the COMD department was another easy decision.

“This gift will have an immediate and long-lasting effect on the doctoral program that Elaine Frank so dearly loved,” says COMD Chair Kenn Apel. “Funding for doctoral students does not come easily, and so this Fellowship, in her name, will support our students to become the type of researchers that Elaine so highly encouraged: scholars who always have individuals with speech and language impairments first and foremost in their minds. The department is so appreciative of Robert Frank for establishing this fund.”


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