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Dr. Karen 'Cande' Steckol
University of Alabama Professor, Former Faculty Senate President Karen Steckol Dies
November 4, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Karen Steckol, professor of communicative disorders
at The University of Alabama and a former UA Faculty Senate president,
died today after a three-year struggle with cancer.
She was 61.
Steckol, a native of Memphis, Tenn., joined The University of Alabama in 2003 to head UA’s department of communicative disorders in the College of Arts and Sciences. She served as both department chair and clinical director of UA’s Speech and Hearing Center.
She was recognized as an influential faculty leader when she served as president of the UA Faculty Senate for three terms from 2009 to 2011 and was known for developing a strong and productive working relationship with UA’s senior administration.
“Karen was dearly loved by all UA faculty and was a dedicated and effective officer in the Faculty Senate,” said Dr. Clark Midkiff, president of UA’s Faculty Senate and professor of mechanical engineering in UA’s College of Engineering.
“As president, she was polite but tough, deliberate and gracious. She forged good relationships with UA’s senior administration and developed effective avenues of communication. As a result, the Faculty Senate and the administration made great progress on matters of mutual interest during her terms,” Midkiff said.
Steckol was serving as dean of Cleveland State University’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2003 when she was recruited to UA to lead advancements in UA’s department of communicative disorders, which includes the Speech and Hearing Center, Alabama’s oldest audiology clinic that serves more than 9,000 Alabamians annually.
While chair of that department, she began new clinical services including an autism clinic for babies and a neonatal hearing screening program. She expanded speech and hearing services for adult clients and increased the size of the department’s faculty and clinical staff.
She is best known for successfully obtaining a building for the department and its clinic, moving the department from basement facilities in Rowand-Johnson Hall to newly renovated facilities in the former Medical Center building on the UA campus in 2004. This greatly expanded public access to services at the Speech and Hearing Center.
“The idea of obtaining such expanded academic and clinical space seemed so remote to our faculty that they bet Karen $25 it would not happen,” said Dr. Marcia Hay-McCutcheon, associate professor and chair of the department of communicative disorders. “Today we have a one dollar bill from that $25 payment on the ceiling of our faculty kitchen as a tribute to Karen’s success.”
“Karen, simply stated, was a huge advocate for, and of, our department,” Hay-McCutcheon said. ”She was instrumental in helping our department grow, and her dedication to her profession was reflected in her interactions with our students. Her door was always open to them and their individual needs, and she helped them develop into responsible and effective speech-language pathologists.”
“The College of Arts and Sciences and The University of Alabama has lost one of our most respected and beloved colleagues,” said Dr. Robert Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Karen led and inspired others with her intelligence, refined common sense, refreshing personality, and, finally, her perseverance and immense courage as she faced a life-threatening disease. This institution is much better in many important ways because of Karen, and we are diminished by losing her.”
A semi-professional poker player and hobbyist woodworker during her leisure hours, Steckol was also an accomplished researcher and clinician, obtaining numerous support grants for speech and hearing facilities and publishing articles in major audiology and academic journals. She held professional membership in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the Society for Research in Child Development, the Jean Piaget Society, and the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences.
Prior to coming to UA, she also served as dean of the School of Applied Science and Education at Buffalo State College; professor, clinical director and interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Saint Louis University; and held other academic and clinical positions at Spalding University, and the University Louisville and University Surgical Associates, Louisville, Ky.
Steckol was recognized with the DiCarlo Award for Outstanding Clinical Achievement from the American Speech-Hearing Association Foundation of Kentucky, the 1979 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award in Audiology and Speech Pathology from Memphis State University, appointed a fellow with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and received a Fulbright Award for Academic Administrators by the Germany Fulbright Commission. She also served on the editorial boards of referred journals.
Steckol received her Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Memphis State University, all in speech pathology and audiology.
Survivors include sister Susan Cohen, niece Penne Cohen King and nephew Hal Cohen of Memphis, Tenn.; and four great nieces and two great nephews.
Graveside funeral services will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 11 a.m. at Memorial Park Cemetery, 5668 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, Tenn. The family will receive visitors following the service at 8394 Bridge Creek Drive, Cordova, Tenn.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn. 38105; the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 26 Broadway, 14th Floor, New York, N.Y., 10004; or the Steckol Foundation at the Kentucky Speech-Language-Hearing Association at 833 East High Street, Suite 263, Lexington, Ky., 40502.