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UM Alumnus Honored by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

By Sarah Sapp

University of Mississippi

Tommie Robinson Jr.

The Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., is set to honor University of Mississippi alumnus Tommie L. Robinson Jr. with the Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association award on Friday (Nov. 19.

Honors of the Association is the highest award bestowed by the ASHA. Individuals receiving this honor demonstrate distinguished contributions to the field of communication sciences and disorders. Typically, the contributions are marked by such excellence that they have enhanced or altered the course of the profession.

“I was truly overcome with emotions when I received the news,” Robinson said. “While I supplied the information for the application, I had no idea I would feel such a strong sense of gratitude and joy upon receiving a call from the ASHA president. 

“I am so grateful to Sue Hale, who nominated me, and Alex Johnson and Dolores Battle, who supported the nomination.”

Hale was a clinical instructor in the UM Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders while Robinson was in graduate school. She was also ASHA president in 2009 before Robinson’s term in 2010. 

“It was evident from his time in graduate school at Ole Miss that Dr. Robinson was destined for significant impact on our profession,” Hale said. “This award recognizes his very distinguished career and contributions in research, leadership and mentoring. 

“It has been a joy to watch his achievements over the years and know that Ole Miss is where his journey started.”

Gloria Kellum, who helped grow a small speech pathology and audiology program at Ole Miss into a nationally accredited educational and clinical program, served as Robinson’s teacher, academic adviser and mentor.

“Tommie Robinson is one of the most likeable people I know and was a joy to teach and mentor,” said Kellum, who was awarded the Honors of the Association herself in 2011. 

“He distinguished himself in his undergraduate and graduate program at Ole Miss, and he has continued distinguishing himself in caring for his patients with speech and languages disorders, in his research contributions, in his administrative position and in his devotion to our profession association. I am very proud of him and thankful he is being recognized by ASHA for his extraordinary contributions to our profession.”

Robinson is director of the Scottish Rite Center for Childhood Language Disorders in the Children’s Hearing and Speech Center at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and an associate professor of pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. 

He specializes in communication disorders in children, with a specific focus on children who stutter. Robinson’s research and writings have focused on normal fluency behaviors in children and adults, as well as service delivery to children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. 

Robinson found his career path very early – in seventh grade – when he decided to become a speech-language pathologist. His choice was rooted in his love of family and his awareness of the fluency disorders that had affected four generations of his family, including his sister, brother, uncle and great-aunt. 

Robinson’s path led him from his home in Mississippi, where he earned an associate degree at Coahoma Community College and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication sciences and disorders at UM, to earn his Ph.D. at Howard University. 

At every step of his professional journey, he has been motivated by a love for clinical service and a passion for leadership. 

“The most rewarding part of my job is rooted in the results of the evaluation and therapy processes,” Robinson said. “Because of this, I think the rewards come from creating an individual who is able to communicate effectively.

“The most important part of my job is I get to interact with people. I chose to be in a human services profession. This gives me an opportunity to understand the lives of the patients that I see. As a speech-language pathologist, I get to change lives and make individuals feel that they are conveying a message in the communication process.”

Robinson encourages prospective students to consider a path in communication sciences and disorders.

“I think the most important thing is finding your passion,” he said. “When you are doing something you enjoy, it is not work, but rather a way of living. Surely, there will be obstacles, but it is easy to find a way around them when you are having a good time. 

“Better yet, if you figure out how to incorporate the obstacles, they become change agents.” 

Beyond his professional roles, Robinson also sings tenor and is a master baker, a talent he shares with his nephews, nieces and godchildren.

To learn more about the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, visit https://csd.olemiss.edu/.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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