WMU News

Hillenbrand named Distinguished Faculty Scholar

Jan. 21, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- A Western Michigan University scientist whose career has focused on unlocking the secrets of human speech and how it is heard will receive the University's highest faculty honor next month.

Dr. James M. Hillenbrand, professor of speech pathology and audiology, has been named the University's 1999 Distinguished Faculty Scholar. He will receive the award at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, at the Dalton Center Recital Hall during the University's annual Academic Convocation.

The Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award, established in 1978, is made for those whose work constitutes a significant body of achievement, most of which has been accomplished while a faculty member at WMU. Nominations are sought campus-wide for recipients, who also must have a wide body of recognition beyond the University. The award includes a plaque and a $2,000 cash award. As an award recipient, Hillenbrand also will have $2,000 added to his base salary.

A faculty member since 1988, Hillenbrand enjoys an international reputation for his research on acoustics and speech perception in communication. His research examines how human speech is created and how the human ear and brain convert that sound into meaning. He has been the recipient of more than $4 million in federal funding for his research, with $3 million of that funding coming during his tenure at WMU.

He is the author of 34 peer-reviewed research articles and has provided editorial service for some 13 scientific journals. Currently, he serves as associate editor for the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. He also has made more than 47 juried research presentations at professional conferences and has accepted four multi-year assignments to federal grant panels.

Hillenbrand's role as a researcher whose work has served as the foundation for developments in the areas of speech perception, voice and speech synthesis was noted by professional colleagues, both inside and outside the University, who wrote in support of his nomination for the award.

"His work is very often cited to the foundation of and motivation for research of his colleagues," noted a WMU colleague. "He arrived (here) with a very strong record of scholarly performance and has since continued to develop wide acclaim and national and international respect for his work."

Hillenbrand's research in recent years has set the standards in his profession and charted new territory, noted many of his supporters.

"As a scientist in this field, I have observed first-hand, the excitement produced by the research stemming from his laboratory and believe that Dr. Hillenbrand is one of the most distinguished scholars of his generation," said a researcher at another university. That colleague noted that one of Hillenbrand's papers "has become the new standard against which everything is compared."

"Some of his papers seem to have achieved the status of classics already, judging from the frequency with which other scholars cite them," agreed another scholar from outside the University.

Another national colleague called Hillenbrand "a relentless pursuer of long-standing and different issues at the core of the field. He has made your campus a leading center for speech research in North America."

Hillenbrand also was lauded for his generosity with his time and service to the profession.

"Grant reviewing, editing and committee service are demanding, time-consuming activities," noted a supporter. "Not everyone is willing to accept these 'honors' when they are offered."

Hillenbrand earned a bachelor's degree in 1974 and a master's degree in 1975, both in speech and hearing science, from Indiana University. He earned a doctoral degree, also in speech and hearing science, from the University of Washington in 1980.

Prior to coming to WMU, he served as director of research for the Intelligent Systems Division of RIT Research Corp. in Rochester, N.Y. He held a concurrent adjunct appointment in the Graduate Computer Science Department at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He also taught for five years at Northwestern University, where he earned that school's 1983 Teaching Excellence Award.

As part of his award, Hillenbrand has been invited to give a presentation to the University community at a Distinguished Faculty Scholar Colloquium. The date, time and location of that event will be announced later.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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