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Diane Davis Endowment for Communication Disorders and Sciences Education

diane davis

Diane Davis spent the last five years of her life fighting for the rights of those who had undergone laryngectomies—providing support, education and friendship. She died in August 2009 after a 14 year battle with throat and neck cancer.

However, her legacy and memory will forever remain alive thanks to her husband, Joel Davis, who recently made a $10,000 donation to Cal State Northridge to establish the Diane Davis Endowment for Communication Disorders and Sciences Education. “Hopefully this memorial endowment honoring her memory and the involvement in the club that she so loved and nurtured will inspire CSUN’s graduate clinicians to be more knowledgeable in laryngectomee issues,” said Davis after his presentation of the gift to College of Health and Human Development Dean Sylvia Alva, Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences Chair Stephen Sinclair, and Language, Speech and Hearing Center Clinic Coordinator Janice Woolsey.

Dean Sylvia Alva with Joel Davis

“Thank you all for attending this very special ceremony commemorating the life and legacy of my dear wife and soul mate,” Davis added. The endowment will be used to support the creation of experiential and academic learning opportunities for CSUN students who wish to work with patients who are overcoming speech and language deficits like laryngectomees.

A laryngectomy is the removal of the larynx and separation of the airway from the mouth, nose and esophagus. Cal State Northridge’ Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences is one of the largest academic programs of its kind in the United States, training one in every four master’s level speech pathologist in California. Completion of a bachelor’s and master’s degree enables students to practice in audiology or speechlanguage pathology in medical, rehabilitative or private practice settings— helping laryngectomees learn new ways to communicate and educating others who work with these patients. “This is an example of how allied health fields really do make a difference in the quality of people’s lives,” said Dean Alva. “We are really touched by your gift.”

Davis underwent laryngectomee surgery in 2005, becoming one of approximately 50,000 in the United States, according to the International Association of Laryngectomees. The Thousand Oaks advertising and marketing executive was the president of The Laryngectomee Connection, a support group to help improve the lives of laryngectomees based in Mission Hills. Joel Davis said he chose to make the endowment to CSUN because of the department’s reputation and influence on the speech pathology community. “I thought this was the kind of place where we could leave a thumbprint,” Davis said.

The department has pledged to conduct community service each year in memory of Diane Davis. The first project is to distribute wallet-size cards to laryngectomees, paramedics and others that provide instruction on how to perform life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Davis said this project is particularly touching because his wife nearly died because a paramedic did not know how to administer CPR to her. “This could be life-changing,” said Russ O’Neil, a member of Davis’ laryngectomee connection who attended the presentation. He said CSUN could play a pivotal role in “transforming” the lives of laryngectomees.

CSUN University Relations shared this story with the college. To read the original posting, see the March 1st issue of @csun . (Alva/Davis photo by Tuyen Nguyen.)