Estabrooks Named Smith Distinguished Professor at WCU

One of the nation’s top experts in the area of adult neurological communication disorders, Nancy Helm-Estabrooks, has been appointed the first Catherine Brewer Smith Distinguished Professor of Communication Disorders at Western Carolina University.

Helm-Estabrooks moves into the professorship from an adjunct professor position she had held since May in WCU’s department of communication sciences and disorders. She previously was a research professor in the division of speech and hearing sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she continues to hold an adjunct position.

Prior to coming to North Carolina in 2004, Helm-Estabrooks was associated with the world-renowned Harold Goodglass Aphasia Research Center at the Boston University School of Medicine, where, at various times, she held the titles of research investigator, co-director and director of aphasia rehabilitation research programs. Helm-Estabrooks has published over 90 peer-reviewed journal papers, six standardized tests and seven books, with her most recent work being the “Manual of Aphasia and Aphasia Therapy.”
Bill Ogletree, head of WCU’s department of communication sciences and disorders, said Helm-Estabrooks’ professional achievements have resulted in her being a recipient of honors from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association and the Academy of Neurologic Communication Disorders and Sciences.

“It’s a distinct honor to have Dr. Helm-Estabrooks with us as the Catherine Brewer Smith Professor,” Ogletree said. “Her international reputation in the area of adult neurogenic communication disorders is simply second to none. Her scholarly and clinical impact has laid the groundwork for future generations of researchers and practitioners. Dr. Helm-Estabrooks will be a wonderful model for faculty and students alike.”

Helm-Estabrooks earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Massachusetts in speech and hearing therapy, and psychology. She received a master’s degree in speech/language pathology education at Northeastern University, and earned her doctorate in communication disorders at Boston University.

Helm-Estabrooks called the professorship at WCU a great honor and the capstone of a long and very interesting career.

“The opportunities this position affords me are probably more numerous than I can imagine, given the growth and newly emerging programs of both the department and the College of Health and Human Sciences,” she said. “I look forward to working with an excellent roster of senior and junior faculty and support staff, to teaching graduate students about adult aphasia and cognitive-communicative disorders, and to continuing and expanding my professional writing and research projects in this vibrant and beautiful WCU setting.”

Helm-Estabrooks’ appointment began July 15 and will run through next May.

The professorship at WCU was made possible by a $300,000 gift from the estate of Catherine Brewer Smith, a Franklin resident who died in 2001. WCU combined $250,000 of Brewer’s gift with matching state funds to establish the $500,000 professorship, while the remaining $50,000 was used to create an endowed fund that supports activities of the department of communication sciences and disorders – in particular, an annual program for area educators who work with students who have communication disorders.

Smith’s estate gift to WCU was just one gift in a series of family contributions made to honor the memory of her father, Albert Dudley Brewer, who attended the university. A native of Marion, Ind., Smith owned and managed a motel in Madeira Beach, Fla., for 26 years. She maintained residences in Franklin and Yankeetown, Fla.