Joan McMahon, professor emerita, passes away
Author: Victor C. Dahl
Posted: August 20, 2013

Joan McMahon, associate professor emerita of Communication, died July 26, 2013, in Portland. She was 81 years old.

As an undergraduate student, Prof. McMahon attended Baylor University, 1948-1949, but withdrew to marry and start a family. She resumed her academic preparation by enrolling at Portland State in 1964 where she earned a bachelor’s (1969) degree in Elementary Education and Speech & Hearing Sciences (SPHR) and master’s (1970) degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She enrolled in the PSU Speech & Hearing Sciences Program’s first class. She later obtained a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Prior to joining PSU’s Department of Speech Communication in 1972 as an instructor, Prof. McMahon accumulated wide-ranging professional experience. She served as a speech clinician in the Division of Continuing Education’s Headstart program at Bush Elementary School in Salem; held a part-time instructorship at Chemeketa Community College; and, concurrently worked as a speech-language pathologist for Portland Public Schools.

Prof. McMahon advanced to assistant professor in 1977, reached the associate level in 1981, and retired as emerita in 1995. During her career, she established (1973), coordinated, and supervised SPHR’s Urban Language Clinic, which provided three-day-a-week assistance for minority preschool children who exhibited language delay or disorder symptoms. The program afforded specially designed graduate and undergraduate training for clinicians planning to engage in a diverse urban environment teaching assignments.

In 1984 the U.S. Office of Education’s Special Education and Rehabilitative Service selected Prof. McMahon to review grant proposals for sponsored programs in several related educational and speech-language areas. With a departmental colleague in 1985, she submitted a successful Personnel Preparation grant application to the U.S. Office of Education, which was subsequently renewed three times for a total of $205,000. The same federal agency approved a similar grant proposal in 1991.

Prof. McMahon was also known for her dedication to students, and she prepared many well-qualified practitioners in speech and hearing. She gained recognition as an outstanding advisor for student participants in PSU’s chapter of the National Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association (NSHLA) and initiated the organization’s newsletter. She was an outstanding instructor, supervisor, advisor, and student advocate, and often involved students in professional activities. In 1992 she made a well-received presentation on student supervision at the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics World Congress held in Hanover, Germany. She co-authored several articles in state and national publications.

Upon retirement in 1995, the local NSHLA chapter honored her by establishing the Joan McMahon Endowed Scholarship for Student Travel to support attendance at conferences. Memorial contributions in her name may be sent to the Portland University Foundation, P.O. Box 243, Portland OR 9720-0243 or made online.

Prof. McMahon leaves a legacy of highly regarded achievement and accomplishment in the field of speech and hearing sciences. Colleagues in various departments with shared interests in remedial education appreciated her productivity and dedication to the institutional mission of serving instructional needs in the Portland metropolitan community. The University as a whole owes her a lasting debt of gratitude for her selfless contributions.

Prof. McMahon is survived by her daughter, Sue Hopper (John) Portland; grandson, Sean Dasso, San Diego; and a sister, Virginia (Gingy) Dixon, Albuquerque, NM. She was predeceased by her brother, Burney, and sister, Jean.

— Victor C. Dahl, Emeritus Professor of History, with assistance from Mary Gordon Brannan, Emerita of Communication, August 15, 2013.