David E. Yoder, age 90, died peacefully February 2, 2023. David was born July 16, 1932 in the small Amish and Mennonite community of Shipshewana, Indiana, the middle son of Glen and Beulah Yoder. A well-educated man, David graduated from Shipshewana High School (1950); Goshen College with a B.S. in Speech Communication (1954); Northwestern University with an M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology (1955); and the University of Kansas with a Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders (1965). As a pacifist, David elected to serve with the Delaware State Board of Health as an alternative to military service from 1956-1959.
David led a long and distinguished career as a servant leader in multiple fields including communication sciences and disorders, augmentative and alternative communication, allied health, and literacy. He began his professional career as an assistant professor at Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO) in the Hearing and Speech Sciences Department (1965-1968), serving also as acting chair of the department from 1967-1968.
From 1968-1986, he was affiliated with the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where, in addition to serving as a professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, he held many leadership positions. These included chair, Department of Communication Disorders (1973-1978); head, Communication Disorders, Waisman Retardation and Human Development Center (1970-1973); head, Communication Aids and Systems (1978-1984); director of clinics (1979-1981); head, Education, Rehabilitation and Augmentative Communication Unit, Waisman Center (1983-1986). For these and other contributions he was awarded an endowed chair, the Walker-Bascom Distinguished Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders (1980-1986).
In 1986, David became chair of the Department of Allied Health Sciences and professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC), where he served until his retirement in 2000. At UNC, he held additional leadership positions including head, Communication and Social Behavior, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center (1987-1990) and director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies (CLDS, 1990-1992). He co-founded the CLDS with funding from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust with one of his doctoral students, Dr. David Koppenhaver. Upon retirement he was awarded the titles of chair emeritus of the Department of Allied Health Sciences and professor emeritus of Speech and Hearing Sciences at UNC, and the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences established the biennial David E. Yoder Symposium in his honor. In 2006, the David E. and Dolores (Dee) Yoder Distinguished Professorship in Literacy and Disability Studies was established in the Department of Allied Health Sciences and is currently held by Dr. Karen Erickson, the director of the CLDS.
After retiring from UNC, David continued his work directing the Kate B. Reynolds Ability Programs I and II (1995-2002), and finished his professional career serving as executive director of the Council for Allied Health in North Carolina (2002-2007).
David was repeatedly recognized for his servant leadership throughout his career. For his service as a life member on committees and boards and as president of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (1984), he was named Fellow and given the organization’s highest award, Honors of the Association. He was also a Fellow and life member of both the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions. He served as the first president of the United States Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication and the first journal editor for the journal, Augmentative and Alternative Communication. He received the “Joe Award” for furthering the employment of people with high support needs by the SHOUT organization (Support Helps Others Use Technology) and the RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America) Award for Distinguished Contributions to Assistive Technology. The Triangle Business Journal named David a “Health Care Hero” in the category of Allied Health (2008), and he received honors of the North Carolina Speech and Hearing Association (2015).
Beyond his servant leadership at three universities and the agencies enumerated above, Dr. Yoder authored many professional articles and book chapters in the area of language disorders and literacy with special needs populations. He co-edited six books and presented more than 600 research papers, professional workshops and consultancies nationally and internationally (Central America, Canada, Great Britain, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, the Soviet Union and New Zealand). He held visiting professorships at the University of Redlands, the University of Vermont, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He led three professional delegations to Taiwan to conduct the “Sino-American Symposium in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology” and a delegation of speech language pathologists to the Soviet Union (1984). He was an Erskine teaching fellow at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, NZ (1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003).
David valued his family above all. He regularly shared stories, pictures, and videos of his wife, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren with friends and colleagues. One of his favorite stories, which he could never tell without laughing, concerned his son, Eric, who took him to kindergarten for career day, and explained to the class that, “My dad is a doctor, but not a real doctor. He’s a talking doctor.”
David is survived by his wife of 68 years, Dolores (Dee) Stump Yoder, his daughter Lisa Yoder-DuBus (Lyle), Mexia, TX; his son Eric of Littleton, CO; granddaughter, Shannon Smith (Ben), Richland Hills, TX; grandson Shawn Hofstede, La Porte, TX; great-grandsons, Dean Smith and Luke Smith of Richland Hills, TX; brother Terry of Goshen, Indiana; and a number of nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at a later time. At his request his cremains will be scattered at the Goshen College Mennonite Church Memorial Garden, in Goshen, Indiana. Memorials may be made to the David E. and Dolores J. (Dee) Yoder Professorship in Literacy and Disability Studies, c/o the UNC Health Foundation (https://go.unc.edu/YoderProfessorship) or to the McLean Yoder Schiefelbusch Fund c/o the ASHFoundation (https://www.ashfoundation.org/Ways-to-Give/Individual-Donor-Form; indicate MYS Fund in the “Comments” box).