There are countless friends and supporters in the history of the American Institute for Stuttering, but AIS exists because of, more than anyone else, Catherine Otto Montgomery. It was her vision and tireless work that built AIS into a dynamic organization that has helped people who stutter worldwide.
After earning her bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut and master's from Southern Connecticut State University, Catherine trained at the Hollins Communications Research Institute to specialize in the treatment of stuttering. Expanding upon her training, she founded her own practice, Total Immersion Fluency Training, in New York City in the mid-1980s. Her legacy of powerful and healing work had begun.
"Catherine did nothing short than save my life - if not literally, then certainly figuratively. I will think of her every time I have a little victory, because she taught me it was possible in the first place."
In 1997, Catherine transformed her practice into the American Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Professional Training. She made AIS a non-profit organization to accept donations and provide scholarships to those in financial need. She expanded her reach by offering pediatric services and training both emerging and seasoned clinicians in the treatment of stuttering. She led and inspired the AIS staff to grow as human beings and to do their very best work in the field of fluency.
Catherine served as the Chair of the Specialty Board for Fluency Disorders and was active in the project of creating guidelines for training specialists in the area of stuttering treatment. She was involved in the stuttering community worldwide, presenting workshops and seminars throughout the U.S. and Europe.
"Mostly, I think, she put the cause of stuttering treatment on the map. She brought her crusade before the public like no one else before. We all are better off having known her and some will continue to grow because of her legacy."
In 2005, Catherine, through the American Institute for Stuttering, lobbied in Washington D.C. for increased federal funding for stuttering research and clinical treatment. This was the first time any advocacy for stuttering had been done. As a result, language regarding stuttering was inserted into a bill, another first. In 2006, she published a chapter titled "From the Hub to the Spoke" sharing her approach to the treatment of stuttering in the book Current Issues in Stuttering Research and Practice.
Catherine dedicated over thirty years of her life to transforming the lives of people who stutter. She was a master clinician, a generous colleague, a wise mentor and teacher, and a leader and innovator in the field of fluency disorders.
"Catherine was the personification of the word hope. Not the pie-in-the-sky if I wait for it will miraculously happen variety of hope that fills the pages of bad novels; but rather the kind of hope that comes from working tirelessly to transform lives - and actually succeeding in doing so for many hundreds of people."
AIS Founder and Executive Director Catherine Otto Montgomery passed away in May of 2010 at the age of 58. Sadly, future clients and friends of AIS will not have the opportunity to know her. But through AIS and our work, they can certainly know the person that she was, how she cared for not only people who stutter, but just people.
This place is a testament to her hopeful spirit that could not be suppressed, which was ultimately embodied in the brave and graceful way that she faced cancer. She loved life and hope and peace and taught so many others to do the same.
Thank you, Catherine, for everything. You are loved and missed.