Sallie Starr Hillard came to the Memphis Speech and Hearing Center as a clinical supervisor
in 1971 following her graduation from Vanderbilt. During her twenty-two years she
created innovative clinic programs for clients, taught classes, and procured funding
for services and student support. Specifically she created a new approach for speech
and language acquisition for the children and helped organize and coordinate the preschool
language program which currently exists at the Memphis Speech and Hearing Center-East
location. Sallie also coordinated the adult fluency program. The following is a colleague’s
observation of her skills when working with clients who stutter:
Watching her in therapy you were reminded why you chose this field. Sallie's view
of the person we were working with was always original. She had a consistent and passionate
belief in that person's potential. She enabled clients to do things they never imagined
possible. Her clients gave speeches at national conventions, passed oral national
medical board examinations, and entered beauty pageants. With her encouragement, one
of her clients started his own radio show. After one of her clients gave a presentation
at our national convention two years ago she turned to us and said that it was the
highlight of her clinical career.
With others at the University, she wrote and received several national grants for
recruiting and supporting the education of African-American students in this field.
Additionally she received funding for and developed a basic communication skills program
for refugees from Ethiopia, Laos, and Viet Nam. Sallie taught courses in communicative
interaction and conducted clinical research. She made many presentations both regionally
Sallie’s contributions to the program and the field are numerous, but the most important
gift was her ability to mentor people. Sallie mentored by giving of herself, her time,
her knowledge, her insight, and her love. Sallie believed in her students and gave
them the desire to learn new ways of thinking about themselves. She helped them to
see the possibilities in their clients. Sallie’s ability to truly listen to students,
colleagues and friends allowed each person seeking her counsel to feel that she was
there solely for them.
There were other parts of Sallie's world. She had a glorious sense of humor. No one
made us laugh any more than Sallie, many times, with stories about herself. And the
laughter is still there as we retell all those wonderful stories from and about her.
Sallie loved the garden she and Richard built together in their back yard. And every
week she brought flowers to us from that garden and placed them in the lobby of the
Sallie adopted a manatee while on a trip to Florida. It was the perfect expression
of Sallie's response to life in general and people in particular. That's what Sallie
did. She responded to the unique…unique creatures and uncommon people. She responded
to things that others might not notice or love. From a small section of land in her
neighborhood that no one noticed or cared about, to a huge, uniquely formed, goofy
looking sea mammal who needed to be adopted, to the student in trouble who would be
lost if she didn't do something.
And finally, Sallie was the most unassuming person you could meet. She could laugh
at herself. She was open and shining and wonderful. As you came to know her you realized
that Sallie had a remarkable spiritual quality. She had a sense of grace. And she
gave that grace to those around her.
Sallie died on September 30, 1993. In her memory her friends created The Sallie Starr
Hillard Mentoring Award to recognize individuals who have given of themselves for
others in a similar manner. Individuals who have been privileged to have had a mentor
are encouraged to nominate him/her for this annual award.
Recipients of the Sallie Starr Hillard Mentoring Award
- 2009: Marion Hammett, M.A.
- 2007: Nancy Helm-Estabrooks, Sc.D.
- 2006: Marilyn Dunham Wark, M.A.
- 2003: Marilyn Newhoff, Ph.D.
- 2001: Joel C. Kahane, Ph.D.
- 2000: John C. Rosenbek, Ph.D.
- 1999: John V. Irwin, Ph.D.
- 1998: Brenda Cole Antwine, M.A.
- 1997: Mary Pannbacker, Ph.D.
- 1996: Carol Rocconi, M.A.
- 1995: Louise Ward, M.A. & Elizabeth Webster, Ph.D.