Two HHD Professors Earn Rank of Distinguished Professor

January 10, 2006

(University Park, Pa) — Penn State has named Dr. Janice C. Light, of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), and Dr. Mark L. Latash, of the Department of Kinesiology (KINES), Distinguished Professors for their record of research, teaching and service.

As Dr. Gordon Blood, Department Head and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, explained, “Distinguished Professors are a small select group of our esteemed colleagues here at the University who have demonstrated their commitment to outstanding research, teaching, and service.” Dr. Light has clearly demonstrated her excellence in all three areas.

image of Dr. Janice C. Light

Dr. Janice C. Light

Her research is focused on improving communication outcomes and enhancing quality of life for individuals who have significant speech and language impairments and require augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) (e.g., signs, communication boards, voice output assistive technologies). Her recent publications have appeared in Augmentative and Alternative Communication and the Journal of Speech Language Hearing Research. Dr. Blood, in his letter recommending Dr. Light for this honor, stated, “Upon her arrival at Penn State over ten years ago, she articulated a vision for developing one of the leading research, teaching, and service programs in AAC in the nation. Under her leadership, the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders has become one of the top three leading programs in the area of AAC in the United States.” And according to Dr. Light’s colleagues in CSD, “Her passion and advocacy for assisting individuals with disabilities is known nationally and internationally.”

Upon hearing of Dr. Light’s success, Dr. Blood stated, “This is the first time in the 70+ year history of CSD that one of our colleagues has been recognized as a Distinguished Professor. The Department is so proud that Janice is being recognized for her scholarly contributions. Her leadership in the area of AAC has literally changed the lives of millions of individuals with severe communication disabilities. This award and recognition is so well deserved.”

image of Dr. Mark Latash

Dr. Mark L. Latash

Dr. Latash has also demonstrated continued excellence throughout his career in the areas of research, teaching and service. In his letter recommending Dr. Latash for a Distinguished Professorship, Dr. Philip Martin, Department Head and Professor of Kinesiology, stated, “He is truly an exceptional research scholar, an excellent mentor and teacher at both undergraduate and graduate levels, and a highly engaged and effective professional in our field. […] It is very difficult to identify any scholar nationally or internationally who exceeds the contributions and impact Dr. Latash has made to his area of expertise in motor control, and more generally to the field of kinesiology. His publication productivity is outstanding. […] He has authored two books, Control of Human Movement (1993) and Neurophysiological Bases of Movement (1998). […] Dr. Latash has also served as an editor for seven additional books, most of which were proceedings of scholarly conferences for which Dr. Latash played a significant organizational role. […] I am equally impressed by his broader commitment to young scientists nationally and internationally. Dr. Latash has established the Motor Control Summer School, a one week intensive exchange on the current state of the art in motor control research, developed predominantly for aspiring scholars.”

After hearing of Dr. Latash’s Distinguished Professorship, Dr. Martin stated, “I'm extremely pleased that the University has bestowed this honor on Dr. Latash. It is an honor that is richly deserved. Dr. Latash is clearly among the most respected and influential scholars in motor control in the world and among the very best faculty at Penn State, and I am extremely proud to say that one of our faculty has been honored with this very special distinction.”

Dr. Fred Vondracek, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Development, was also very pleased to hear of the College’s two new Distinguished Professors, stating that, “The success of the College of Health and Human Development is due in large part to its outstanding faculty. The recent naming of Drs. Mark Latash and Janice Light as Distinguished Professors is public recognition of the fact that they embody the ideals of the College by improving the quality of life through their research, teaching, and service.”

Specifically speaking of their accomplishments, he continued, “Dr. Latash has an astounding level of productivity with over 200 articles, books, book chapters and monographs published in the last 10 years. Particularly noteworthy are the contributions of his work for special populations of patients who struggle with motor control issues related to neurological disorders such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Downs syndrome.”

“Dr. Light's research is widely praised by colleagues around the world for its ground-breaking insights into augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) — an area of inquiry which focuses on improving the functional communication of individuals who have severe communication disabilities and cannot rely on “normal” speech to communicate. Dr. Light continues to be an important innovator in the field of augmentative and alternative communication and recently received a prestigious award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology Program to develop — in partnership with industry colleagues — new technologies for individuals with severe communication disabilities.”

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Editors: For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at (814) 865-3831 or