Remembering Dr. Ralph L. Shelton, Professor Emeritus

Nov. 15, 2019

April 4, 1929 - November 9, 2019

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Dr. Ralph L. Shelton, Professor Emeritus, passed away on Saturday, November 9th at age 90. Dr. Shelton was Professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at the University of Arizona from 1970 to 1998, when he retired. He had a distinguished career as an international leader in the field of speech-language pathology, with major contributions in the areas of articulation, cleft palate, and craniofacial disorders. He was an early proponent of “evidence-based practice” long before the term was in vogue, and taught us all to think, to evaluate, and to question. He was a lovable critic, an endearing skeptic, and a lifelong learner. His voracious appetite for scientific literature across an incredibly broad array of topics continued long into his retirement, and he was the self-appointed collector of articles and essays for many of us – sharing things that he thought we should read or would find interesting. We will miss that.

Shelton was a triple alumnus of the University of Utah (BA, 1952, MS, 1956, PhD, 1959). He started his academic career at the University of Kansas Medical Center in 1959, where he emerged over time as an international leader. He joined the faculty at the University of Arizona in 1970 where he worked until his retirement in 1998. For over 40 years, Dr. Shelton raised questions, designed experiments, and educated students. He was among the first to develop a research agenda that systematically examined the effects of behavioral treatment on the speech of children with cleft lip and cleft palate. His work was funded for decades by the National Institute for Dental Research. He was a clear thinker and strong writer, and he served his profession as Editor of the Journal of Speech and Hearing Research as well as the Cleft Palate Journal. Shelton’s profound impact on the field was recognized as he was awarded the Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (1996), and again as he received the Honors of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (1998).

On a personal level, Ralph was a kind and gentle man, loved and respected by so many. He had an avid love of the outdoors and took joy in introducing treasures of the Arizona desert to newcomers. He always spoke lovingly of his wife, Marilyn Seitzberg, and his children, Nathan and Julie Shelton, who survive him.

We will always remember Dr. Shelton as one of the greats – one of the Titans of the Field. Donations can be given in his memory to the Titans of the Field Student Scholarship. We want future students to always know about this great man.

Donations can be made to the University of Arizona Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences.  Titans of the Field Student Scholarships can be selected from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, checks can be made out to "The University of Arizona Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences", with Dr. Shelton's name in the memo.  Send to UA Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, 1131 E 2nd St, Tucson, AZ 85721. Please call (520) 621-1819 with any questions.