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In Memoriam: Associate Professor Emerita Joan McMahon 1931-2013

      Joan McMahon, Associate Professor Emerita of Communication, born August 29, 1931, in Waco, Texas and died July 26, 2013 in Portland. She 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 Martin (Mac)McMahon, husband; Burney, brother; and Jean, sister.  As an undergraduate student, Joan McMahon attended Baylor University, 1948-1949, and withdrew to marry and start a family. She subsequently worked in the oil industry. She resumed her academic preparation by enrolling at Portland State in 1964 where she earned her bachelor’s (1969) degree in Elementary Education and Speech & Hearing Sciences (SPHR) and master’s (1970) degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She was in the first class in the Speech & Hearing Sciences Program at Portland State with fellow students Daryl Anderson, Steve MacFarlane, and Rod Pelson under the tutelage of Robert English, Robert Casteel, and James Maurer, among others.  Prior to joining PSU’s Speech & Hearing Sciences Program in 1972 as an instructor, Joan 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.

      Joan began her career at Portland State as an instructor, became an assistant professor in 1977, reached the associate level in 1981, and retired as emerita in 1995.  A highlight of her innovative PSU career includes establishment (1973), coordination, and supervision of SPHR’s “Urban Language Clinic” which provided three day-a-week assistance for minority preschool children who exhibited language delay or disorder symptoms.  This program afforded specially designed graduate and undergraduate clinical experience in a diverse urban environment. This specialty clinic evolved throughout the years and is now serving public school homeless children. Joan was an excellent instructor who was demanding, innovative, yet fun in her teaching. She challenged students to phonetically transcribe her Texas accent, developed an audiotutorial lab for phonetics, and gave unique assignments to teach behavior modification principles.



    In 1984 the U.S. Office of Education’s Special Education and Rehabilitative Service selected her to review grant proposals for sponsored programs in several related educational and speech-language areas.  Joan was an excellent candidate for this due to her experience as an assistant and then the lead on the many federal grants which were the backbone of the funding for the Speech and Hearing Sciences Program at Portland.  Starting in 1964 with a federal grant of $20,000 and continuing for 15 years, the program was sustained by grants written by Robert English. In 1979 Robert Casteel was primary lead on the grant work with Joan’s assistance; and in 1985 Joan became the primary lead on the grants. During this time, they 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 submitted in 1991. Over the years, these grants totaled over one million Professor McMahon especially dedicated her energies to serving students, and thereby helped prepare a large number of well-qualified practitioners in speech and hearing careers.  She gained recognition as an outstanding advisor for student participants in PSU’s chapter of the National Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association and initiated the organization’s newsletter.  She was an outstanding instructor, supervisor, advisor, and student advocate, often involving students in professional activities. She instilled excitement in students, encouraging them to attend and present at the Oregon Speech-Language and Hearing Association (OSHA) and ASHA.

     Joan made several presentations at OSHA, ASHA, and the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics as well as conducted workshops and seminars locally. She co-authored several articles in state and national publications. She served as president of OSHA twice and received the OSHA Honors of the Association in 1985.  One of her former students wrote a letter of commendation to the “Golden Apple: which appeared in the ASHA Bulletin.  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.

  Joan McMahon leaves a highly regarded legacy of achievements and accomplishments in the field of speech and hearing sciences.  Colleagues in various PSU departments and professional organizations highly respected her productivity, problem solving abilities, and dedication to the mission of preparing future speech-languagepathologists and audiologists.


 Written by Vic Dahl (PSU-HIST), Mary Brannan (PSU-SPHR), and Robert  Casteel (PSU-SPHR).