Elaine Szymoniak and Norma Ansher Cranberg


In 2009, the Iowa Speech and Hearing Community lost two pioneers in the field - Elaine Szymoniak and Norma Ansher Cranberg.  The Iowa Speech-Language Hearing Association recognizes the accomplishments of these two individuals and shares part of their stories here. 

Individually, Elaine Szymoniak and Norma Ansher Cranberg helped create the new field of speech-language and hearing therapy in our state. They were skilled practitioners in careers that together spanned over 80 years.  They made a significant difference in the lives of many hundreds of clients that they served.

Elaine Szymoniak was born in 1920 of deaf parents, which led to her interest in speech and hearing. She earned a bachelor's degree in education and speech in 1941 from the University of Wisconsin. She then embarked on a 30-year career as a speech and hearing specialist, counselor and administrator for the Iowa Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. She worked actively with the deaf community and at one time was the state's sole rehab counselor for the deaf.

Elaine's public service on behalf of the speech and hearing community helped her develop into a bold and progressive civic leader, serving as the only woman on the Des Moines City Council from 1977 to 1988, and thereafter as an Iowa State Senator from 1988 to 2000, retiring at age 80.  Elaine passed away on May 20, 2009 at the age of 88.

Norma Ansher Cranberg, a lifelong Des Moines resident, earned Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Iowa in 1946 and 1948, respectively. She was one of the earliest students to work with Wendell Johnson.

Norma became passionate about the new field through her work with Johnson. Because speech pathology was not yet a distinct academic entity, students such as Norma pursuing advanced training in the new field in the early 1940s frequently took their undergraduate degrees in the Speech Department (including elocution, drama and the like) and graduate degrees in psychology. Norma did post-graduate work at the State School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs, and additional training in the otolaryngology department at the University of Iowa Medical School.

Norma, like Elaine, was one of the very earliest of the new breed of trained speech and hearing therapists. Upon graduation she established in Des Moines one of the first, if not the first, private practices of speech and hearing therapy in the Midwest. It was one of the few private practices in the country at that time. She maintained her practice for almost five decades, serving children and adults in a full range of matters, from helping stutterers, to teaching lip reading to the deaf and hard-of-hearing, to work with aphasics, to articulation. Her favorite clients were children who stuttered.

Norma was a co-founder and life member of the Iowa Speech and Hearing Association. She was a life member of the American Speech and Hearing Association. She served for 15 years as an elected trustee on the Board of the Central Iowa Regional Library system.  Norma passed away on September 12, 2009 at the age of 85.
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