Huff Hall

SHS Alum Threats Earns ASHA Honor

SHS E-News October 2022


Travis Threats had a clear inspiration for what he wanted to study: his brother.

Threats, who earned his master’s degree from the Dept. of Speech and Hearing Science in 1984, said he first observed speech therapy when he was eight years old.

“My younger brother, three years younger than me, is autistic,” Threats said. “Autism directly affects communication. Now, some people think, when they hear this, that it's some beautiful inspirational story, and all of the speech therapists were great, and that's why I wanted to be like them. Well, it's the opposite. All the speech therapy in its early years was bad. The social work was bad. The teachers were bad. Even though [my brother] didn't have any overt behavior issues, my parents would go to the doctor's office, fill out the information, and the [pediatrician’s] nurse would come out to the waiting room, saying ‘He doesn't see autistic children.’”

That interaction led Threats to the conclusion that “there was a need. All of my work has been with people in their actual lives because I realized there's been a disconnect between therapists, and what goals they achieved, and what people with disabilities actual lives are like. For me, it's a clear-cut [reason to study speech pathology].”

For his work and dedication to the profession, Threats—now professor and department chair of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at Saint Louis University—recently earned Honors of Association from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). It is the national organization’s highest honor.

Threats got his undergraduate degree at Kansas State University before coming to the University of Illinois for his master’s. At Illinois, he met a man who would have a profound effect on his career.

“I did decide I wanted to work with adults with acquired disorders,” Threats said. “And the person who taught that wasn't a researcher: Dr. Robert Simpson. He was a very humane man, and he did talk about aphasia and strokes and all that from that broader viewpoint of what they do to people's lives.”

Simpson, who died in 2019 at 93, was a professor of speech and hearing science at the University of Illinois and also served as director of the department’s speech and hearing clinic. He served on the facial deformity team at Carle Foundation Hospital and eventually was employed by Carle as a speech pathologist after retiring from the university.

“He wasn't a researcher in a traditional sense,” Threats said. “But his teachings were very much a positive influence on me.”

The ASHA award Threats received recognizes exceptional contributors whose work has enhanced or altered the course of research in the field of speech, language and hearing sciences. In an association of more than 218,000 professionals, only a select number of individuals each year receive this prestigious award.

He understands its significance.

“Three of my professors at U of I have honors from the association. I do remember—as a Ph.D. student (at) Northwestern—going to the first ASHA conference and going to the awards ceremony. And these were the people who wrote the books that I was studying from. These were some of my alums at Northwestern—three or so of those people eventually got honors, too. My own advisor got honors the year I graduated. … I certainly didn't at the time think that I would be one of those people.”


Megan-Brette Hamilton, PhD, CCC-SLP, and SHS alumna is now the Chief Staff Officer for Multicultural Affairs at The American-Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

For more stories like this, look for AHS' annual magazine, Moving Forward, in your mailbox in early 2023. If you're not on the mailing list but would like to be, email Kathy Saathoff.