Katherine S. Harris

Acoustical Society of America

Gold Medal Award


Katherine S. Harris

Katherine Harris is a New Englandnative who still owns a home in Massachusetts. She livedin other places in her youth, including Greenwood, Mississippi, whereone of her high school classmates was James Flanagan. Kathycurrently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she and herhusband George have resided for more than 50 years. Shereceived a B.A. in Psychology from Radcliffe College in 1943and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University in 1954,the year in which she joined the Acoustical Society ofAmerica.

Kathy has been recognized as an outstanding scientist in speechcommunication research since the beginning of her career. Specifically, Kathy'sleadership in the area of speech production has been acknowledgedfrom the beginning of her career. At the National Institutesof Health (NIH) she has participated on grant review panels,as well as serving as a consultant on task forcesand advisory committees for the National Institute on Deafness andOther Communication Disorders. For 20 years she was the principalinvestigator on an NIH Clinical Research Center Grant, directing alarge number of investigators and diverse research projects. Notably, Kathyhas been named a Fellow by four distinguished societies, theAcoustical Society of America, the American Association for the Advancementof Science, The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the New YorkAcademy of Sciences. Given this outstanding research career, Kathy hasfrequently been invited to present her research and reviews ofthe spectrum of speech production research at major national andinternational meetings.

The word “pioneer” aptly characterizes Kathy's career. Kathy wasa pioneer in the use of electromyography (EMG) to studythe dynamics of motor control, specifically with regard to themuscles used in speech production. The fact that no proceduresexisted to process and reduce the data for interpretation ata time when computers were just being introduced in speechresearch did not intimidate her. She cheerfully lead a teamof engineers, programmers, technicians, ENT physicians, fellow scientists and studentsto find ways to solve the technical problems and obtainuseful data. In spite of recalcitrant electrode placements, disk crashesand working late-late nights, Kathy was always there with acheery smile and a lilting “hello” to keep everyone going.The significant role she has played in this speech productionresearch was acknowledged by her selection to lead the historylectures in Speech Communication in preparation for celebrating the 75thanniversary of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) in 2004(Harris, Ladefoged and Stevens, 2000).

Kathy was also a pioneer rolemodel for women scientists, particularly in ASA. In the 1950sfew women were active members in ASA or indeed visiblein many of the hard sciences. Kathy, however, made majorscientific contributions through her research at Haskins Laboratories. When shemoved into her academic role as a professor in themid-1960s, she brought her enthusiasm and dedication to science withher. This attracted a host of students, both female andmale, to her and to her research. The women, however,especially benefited from Kathy's mentorship. Because she is a womanwho is also a wife and mother, women students couldsee that practicing exemplary science and being female were notmutually exclusive.

Through Kathy's mentorship many of the field's most productivemen and women have forged their own excellent careers inspeech science. Both nationally and internationally, at universities and inlaboratories, Kathy's students and research associates can be found amongthe leading figures in speech research. It is fair tosay that there is no such thing as an “ex-student”of Kathy Harris. Indeed, her influence extends, through her students,to today's younger generation of speech scientists. This is inpart due to the textbook Kathy has written with herformer doctoral students Gloria Borden (Professor, Temple University) and LawrenceRaphael (Professor, Adelphi University), one of the most widely usedtextbooks in speech science for 20 years, the Speech SciencePrimer.

Kathy has had a life-long commitment of service to theAcoustical Society. She served as Chair of the Speech CommunicationTechnical Committee from 1963-1965, and has served on the Committeeon Medals and Awards, and the Committee on Special Fellowships.Kathy was a member of the Executive Council (1980-1983) andVice President (1990-1991). Kathy's contributions to Speech Communication have beenrecognized by the Society in her election to Fellowship inthe ASA (in 1967) and her receipt of the SilverMedal in Speech Communication (in 2005).

Kathy's most recent service tothe Society was as President (2000-2001). Beginning in her yearas President-Elect (1999-2000) and continuing into her year as President,the Society's Standards activities faced substantial challenges, including international concernsthat the Society was no longer committed to standards work.These concerns had to be addressed as the Spring 2001meeting in Vienna of the International Organization for Standardization TechnicalCommittee 108 approached. Although somewhat tangential to her own technicalarea, Kathy understood that as president she had to reinforcethe Society's commitment to standards work. Thus, Kathy attended themeeting as part of the US delegation. Kathy's attention tothe Standards program illustrates her commitment to the Society: whateverthe issue, she approaches it enthusiastically, learns everything she can,pays attention to the details, and works toward a solution.

Theaward of the Gold Medal is given in recognition ofher life-long devotion to science and to the Society. Shehas earned an international reputation as a leader in speechscience by contributing her insights to a variety of topicsin basic and applied speech communication. Moreover, her bright dispositionand inquiring mind has inspired many of the best speechscientists today to follow her example.