December 04, 2012
Donna Geffner, Ph.D., Professor and Program Director in the
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, has earned
many accolades during her 42-year teaching career. The most recent
of these was the American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Honors of the
Association Award, presented to her on November 16 at ASHA’s annual
convention in Atlanta, GA.
ASHA’s highest achievement, the Honors of the Association Award,
is reserved for members who have produced an outstanding body of
work that has contributed to improving the quality of life of the
hearing and/or speech impaired. “I am so thankful to receive this
award,” said Dr. Geffner. “I appreciate being recognized by my
Dr. Geffner was acknowledged by ASHA for her many contributions,
including creating St. John’s University’s undergraduate and
graduate Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology programs and
launching the pioneering
Speech and Hearing Center on the Queens, NY, campus.
The Center, designed to diagnose and treat speech, language and
hearing disorders in children and adults, offers students
invaluable on-site experience. “We are one of very few colleges
nationwide,” said Dr. Geffner, “to give undergraduates this unique
opportunity.” She also recently developed the
Long Island Au.D. Consortium Doctoral Audiology Program. This
marked the first time that St. John’s, Adelphi and Hofstra
Universities have jointly offered a degree program.
Ewa Dynda ’05C, ’07G, who was Dr. Geffner’s student worker
during her junior year, and later her Graduate Assistant,
discovered that she loved working with the hearing and speech
impaired. “Dr. Geffner is an amazing teacher and mentor,” she said,
“who continues to inspire me.” Today, Dynda is a full-time
speech-language pathologist, specializing in autism and
developmental disabilities, while she pursues a Ph.D.
Throughout her career, Dr. Geffner has motivated thousands
of students like Dynda, and has written three textbooks and more
than 300 papers — many delivered worldwide. She has also found time
to serve as president of ASHA and the NYS Speech-Language-Hearing
Association. In 2003, she was awarded an honorary doctoral degree
from Providence College.
Majoring in speech and theater in college, Dr. Geffner initially
wanted to become an actress. But after graduating from college, she
decided that she wanted to make a difference by helping people with
speech and hearing problems. “I wanted to improve lives,” she said,
“by productively combining my interests in speech, medicine and
Joining St. John’s in 1970, Dr. Geffner was attracted by the
University’s commitment to developing a first-rate program in
speech and language. “I saw a lot of potential here for turning my
vision into a reality,” she said. Her assessment was accurate.
“Every proposal I submitted to add academic programs and resources
In her early years at St. John’s, encouraged by the Director of
the University’s TV Center, Dr. Geffner wrote, produced and hosted
a TV series for NBC. “We were trying to educate the public about
the nature and variety of hearing and speech disorders,” she said.
“I was thrilled when my program on stuttering was nominated for an
Emmy.” The program, a 10-part series, was televised multiple times
She went on to create a 27-part series for CBS on people with
disabilities, which received the U.S. President’s Medal for
Outstanding Achievements in Films about Rehabilitation.
Looking back, Dr. Geffner said, “The work I do here is always
stimulating and satisfying. I plan to continue teaching until the
day I no longer can. I consider myself very lucky and very happy to
be part of the St. John’s community.”