Celebrating a lifetime of achievement and a career well-served

Mary Lou Gelfer overseeing student research.

Ahead of her retirement from the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Professor Marylou Pausewang Gelfer, PhD, CCC-SLP, has been honored with the Wisconsin Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Association (WSHA) Lifetime Achievement Award.

Gelfer’s scholarly accomplishments, research and advocacy, and her extensive service to the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) and her discipline, are reflective of her exemplary career, for which she is considered an admirable leader in the field of Speech-Language Pathology.

Scholarly success

Gelfer has gained national and international prominence as a researcher in the field of voice and voice disorders. Her written works have been referenced and cited by authors all over the world. She literally wrote the book on communication disorders as sole author of the textbook, entitled, Survey of Communication Disorders: A Social and Behavioral Perspective.

Her specific expertise in transgender voice placed her on the cutting edge of the field. She conducted investigations at a time when virtually no other prior studies existed in this difficult-to-study and often controversial area. Gelfer’s groundbreaking work has been hailed as a benchmark for more recently developed clinician-rated assessments of transgender voice and voice therapy. Her influence is, no doubt, felt in the countless lives that are being improved because this area of evidence-based practice exists.

Excellence in education

During her time at CHS, Gelfer has taken on the roles of course lecturer, clinical supervisor, thesis advisor and research experience mentor. For her instructional excellence across the span of her career, she has received multiple teaching awards, including the Exceptional Child Educator Award (1978/79), Golden Apple Teaching Award (2003) and the Byoung Kim Teaching Excellence Award (2014).

Gelfer is a well-liked and highly respected instructor, consistently receiving positive comments from students. Her teaching has been described by students as passionate, creative, thorough and well-planned. Outside of the classroom, she has taken the lead in mentoring student research within the department and across the past 25 years has overseen more than one third of all the graduate student research thesis projects.

She has also invested in the future success of the department’s graduate program and currently serves as the graduate program coordinator. Prior to the graduate program reaccreditation process in 2002, she led the way in department redesign of program requirements that produced a set of more than 200 knowledge and skill-based learning outcomes that each graduate student must demonstrate proficiently to succeed in the program.

Superb service

Over the past 20 years, Gelfer has taken on an active leadership role in service to her department, college and university. She has served on numerous university-wide and college-wide committees, addressing such issues as student services, the college pay plan and faculty productivity. She was awarded the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Service (2008) and the Dean’s Award for Leadership in both 2015 and 2016.

Perhaps most meaningfully for those who work closest with her, Gelfer has offered valuable mentorship to junior faculty in the department. Having served for 15 years as department chair, Gelfer was instrumental in fostering the success of her colleagues through professional development. Her colleagues have described her as an excellent, forward-thinking communicator who values creativity and problem-solving among faculty and staff.

Celebrating a career well-served

Gelfer’s expertise in her field, evidenced by her many accomplishments are internationally recognized. She is well-respected by her peers and students for her scholarship, collegiality and active citizenship.

As a researcher, she developed groundbreaking therapy for transgender voice. Throughout her career, Gelfer has touched the lives of hundreds of students who still revere her knowledge, passion, gift for teaching and example of professionalism and selflessness. Her colleagues value her as a hard-working, vision-minded and people-minded leader in the university.

The college is proud to celebrate Dr. Marylou Pausewang Gelfer’s many accomplishments as she receives the WSHA Lifetime Achievement Award, an accolade earned for a most outstanding career. She is a true embodiment of our motto: Where Science Enriches Lives.