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The Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences and Department of Allied Health Sciences recently celebrated the careers of Dr. Jackson Roush and Dr. Linda Watson as they both enter retirement.

Both Roush and Watson have been instrumental parts of the division for more than 30 years and have contributed greatly to their fields, colleagues, students, and patients in that time. A celebration on May 20, 2022 recognized their accomplishments both professionally and personally, and offered their colleagues and friends an opportunity to reflect and share meaningful tributes.

Jackson Roush, PhD

Jackson Roush, PhD, served as Professor in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences for nearly 40 years, where he acted as Division Director beginning in the early 1990s. He also served as Section Head for Audiology at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD). Roush earned a BS in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Western Michigan in 1975, a MA in Audiology from Western Michigan University in 1976, and a PhD in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of Michigan in 1981.

Roush worked as an audiologist for 40 years and has published and presented extensively on a variety of topics related to newborn hearing screening, diagnosis, and intervention for children who are deaf or hard of hearing including those with co-occurring conditions. He has been actively involved in several state and national organizations committed to improving early identification of hearing loss.

Roush is an ASHA Fellow, a Fellow of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, a 2007 recipient of the Presidential Award from the American Academy of Audiology, and a 2019 recipient of the CIDD Impact Award for outstanding contributions in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Linda Watson, EdD

Linda Watson, EdD, served as a Professor in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences where she worked in a clinical capacity providing speech-language pathology services for children with ASD and other disabilities, and eventually shifted into a research-focused role. Watson earned a BS in Education and Psychology from George Peabody College in 1972, an EdD in Applied Psycholinguistics from Boston University in 1979, and a MS in Speech-Language Pathology from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1989.

Experiences in her undergraduate education fostered Watson’s interest in language development and autism, prompting her pursuit of an EdD in Applied Psycholinguistics. She returned to her native North Carolina and worked with TEACCH, the statewide program serving individuals with autism and their families. While with TEACCH, she co-authored a communication curriculum guide for classrooms serving children with autism, received a National Research Service Award for post-doctoral research on communication between parents and young children with autism, and coordinated a demonstration preschool project for children with autism funded by the U. S. Department of Education.

Seeking clinical education and credentials that would best complement her research interests, Watson enrolled in the Master’s degree program in Speech-Language Pathology at UNC-Chapel Hill. After graduating and becoming a faculty member, Watson worked in a clinical setting, taught in the classroom and eventually shifted to focus on several research areas: social-communication, language and emergent literacy development of infants and children with ASD, other disabilities, and typical development; associations between sensory response patterns and core symptoms and social-communicative functioning in these children; the development and validation of a community screening tool to detect infant at-risk for ASD; and randomized controlled trials testing behavioral interventions with infants and young children with or at-risk for ASD.

Watson and her colleagues, ultimately known as PEARLS (Program for Early Autism Research, Leadership, and Service), developed a parent-report screening tool for 12 month-old children who were at-risk for a diagnosis of Autism called the First Year Inventory (FYI). FYI has been translated into several languages and has been used successfully around the world to identify children at-risk for Autism. The FYI has spawned related research by our team and others for more than 20 years.

Through PEARLS, Watson has helped develop assessment tools, and interventions for children at-risk or with Autism and has become internationally recognized as a researcher and scholar

She served on national grant review panels, as a journal reviewer, and as a member of multiple professional organizations. She received numerous awards for her research, teaching, and earlier clinical skills and has well over 120 publications. Watson is a prolific presenter at national and international meetings and has brought in millions of dollars in research and training grants.

Legacies Remain, Future is Bright for the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences

Drs. Roush and Watson leave behind deep roots within the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences – a foundation upon which its programs continue to build upon decades after they arrived in Chapel Hill.

As many colleagues, former students and friends stated in their reflections at the retirement party, Drs. Roush and Watson have positively impacted thousands of people through their work and research over the course of their careers, but even more importantly, their character and kindness have left lasting impressions beyond their professional settings.