Dean Williams

In Remembrance of Dean E. Williams

by: Edward G. Conture, Ph.D.

It is with great sadness we report the recent death of Dr. Dean E. Williams while at the same time note our tremendous admiration, gratitude and respect for the many accomplishments he achieved and acts of personal kindness he performed during his long and extremely active life.

A Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association from which he had also received its highest award, Honors of the Association, Dr. Williams, Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa, and Vice President for Professional Affairs of the Stuttering Foundation of America, died on July 31, 1994, in Iowa City, Iowa.

His funeral took place on August 4, l 994, and on that day, the University of Iowa, in honor of his long service to the University, its students and the citizens of Iowa, flew the flag at half mast over the Old Capitol Building in the center of Iowa's campus.

A widely-known, highly regarded master clinician, teacher, and researcher in the area of stuttering, Dr. Williams is survived by his daughter Devon of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and two sons, Gordon of Coralville, Iowa, and Koudy of Clemmons, N.C .

Dr. Williams was born and raised in Iowa City, Iowa, receiving his Bachelor's degree at the University of Iowa, his Master's degree at Florida State University, and his Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. He had a distinguished career in the Army Air Corps during World War II where he was a B-29 bomber pilot. He was in the Air Force Reserves in Indiana in the mid-fifties and flew troop transport planes.

After working several years at Indiana University, Dean returned to the University of Iowa in the 1950's where he worked as a professor until his retirement in 1987. During that time, he and his many students - he was major professor to 25 Ph.D. students - were prolific contributors on the topic of stuttering to many professional and scholarly conferences, journals, monographs, reports, and books.

A participant at every SFA conference from 1959 until the week before his death in July, 1994, Dean's contributions were many and substantial both in terms of conference discussions and resulting publications. One cannot truly know the clinical literature in the field of stuttering without knowing Dr. Williams' work; his clear, careful, and thoughtful style of writing and reporting of findings will serve as a model for some of the best the field has to offer.

It is also safe to say, however, that people who stutter and their families served as the wellspring from which many of Dr. Williams' papers flowed. With regard to helping people who stutter, Dean had few peers. A tireless preceptor for generations of students at Iowa, Dean adroitly balanced the sometimes opposing goals of delivering quality service to people who stutter while providing first-rate clinical instruction to student clinicians.

As supervisor, clinician, and himself a stutterer, Dean exemplified and modeled for student clinicians three of the most basic clinical competencies described by Van Riper as warmth, empathy, and genuineness. Simply put, when Dean talked about clinical matters, clinicians of all levels of experience and from all perspectives listened.

His achievements in clinical service, supervision, teaching, and research exemplified a career marked by excellence. He encouraged and supported those around him to be all that they could be, to strive for their personal best. He sometimes saw in others what they could not see in themselves and thus was often able to help them realize their true but hidden potential. He was never one to build himself up by tearing others down; moreover, his clear, direct, and truthful insights into the actions, beliefs and thoughts of others frequently was the difference that made a difference in their lives.

Thus, on the occasion of Dr. Dean Williams' death, we are very sad we have lost a friend and colleague and that the field of stuttering has lost such a significant contributor. However, at the same time, we can also celebrate the life and accomplishments of an individual who has provided so much to so many in the form of advice, counsel, role model service, teaching, and research.

He fully understood the difference between being famous and being consequential and lived his life accordingly. And as such, there is small chance that many of us will see his like pass our way again, but we are all better off for having had him do so.

Written by Edward G. Conture, Ph.D.
for the SFA Newsletter, Fall 1994