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Peppers Give $5 Million to Endow Communication Department

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November 2, 2005 | by Alan K. Cubbage

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A Northwestern University alumni couple plans to donate $5 million to Northwestern University’s School of Communication to endow the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern President Henry S. Bienen announced today (Nov. 2).

The gift will be made by Richard and Roxelyn Pepper of Barrington. Mr. Pepper, the chairman emeritus of Pepper Construction Group, LLC, of Chicago, received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Northwestern in 1953. Roxelyn Pepper received a degree in communication sciences and disorders from Northwestern in 1953. She is the daughter of the late Dr. J. Roscoe Miller, who was Northwestern’s president from 1949 to 1970, and Berenice Miller.

In honor of the gift from Mr. and Mrs. Pepper and the long-standing support of Northwestern by the Pepper family, the department will be named The Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

“We’re very pleased to receive this significant gift from Richard and Roxy Pepper and to recognize them. They both have been strong supporters of Northwestern for many years,” Bienen said. “Both Richard and Roxy have served Northwestern as dedicated volunteers in a variety of capacities. Their vision and foresight have made them successful in many areas, so it is only fitting that their name be associated with this important academic area, which also has long been a strength of Northwestern.”

Started as a speech clinic in 1928, the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department offers undergraduate programs in audiology and hearing sciences, human communications studies, learning disabilities and speech language pathology. In addition, the department provides

professional master’s programs in learning disabilities and speech language pathology, a professional doctor of audiology program and a research Ph.D. The department’s professional audiology and speech and language pathology programs are consistently ranked among the best in the country.

Approximately 100 individuals are affiliated with the department's research, teaching, and clinical-educational service missions.  Department faculty represent a diverse, yet related group of disciplines that includes speech language pathology, audiology, learning disabilities, communication and learning science, psychology, neuroscience, neurophysiology, medicine, neurolinguistics, psychoacoustics, deaf education, neurobiology, electrical engineering, and more. Many department faculty members hold joint appointments in other departments including Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Neurobiology and Physiology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Psychology, Neurology, and Linguistics.

The department operates clinics in the Frances Searle building on the Evanston campus and in hospital-based clinics in downtown Chicago. A full range of diagnostic and treatment services are offered for patients of all ages with hearing, speech, learning, language, voice, and swallowing disorders.

“This wonderful gift by Mr. and Mrs. Pepper will enable the department to continue the research, teaching and clinical work that has benefited so many individuals,” said Barbara J. O’Keefe, dean of the School of Communication. “We are truly grateful for this support.”

Mrs. Pepper said, “Northwestern has been an important part of our lives for many years, so we’re very pleased to be able to make this gift to the University. We both have very fond memories of our time here.”

Mr. Pepper noted that he and Mrs. Pepper met at Northwestern on her first date as a student. “We’ve benefited from our time at Northwestern both professionally and personally, and we’re happy to be able to benefit the University’s current students and those in the future,” he said.

Mr. and Mrs. Pepper have been long-time volunteers and benefactors of Northwestern. Both have served as leaders for several alumni organizations and on their class reunion committee. Mrs. Pepper also was a member of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees from 1985 to 1989.  In 2001, they jointly received Northwestern’s Alumni Medal, the highest honor awarded to alumni of the University.

In 1978, Mr. and Mrs. Pepper established the Stanley F. Pepper Chair in Civil Engineering in honor of his father. In 1997, Mr. and Mrs. Pepper contributed $4 million to endow the undergraduate laboratories in civil and environmental engineering and to assist in the renovation of the Technological Institute, the building that houses the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. The civil engineering wing of the Technological Institute was named in honor of the family at that time.