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Steer, Max David, 1910-



  • Existence: June 14, 1920 - June 24, 2003

Biographical Information

Max David Steer was born on June 14, 1910 in New York City. He graduated from Long Island University in 1931 with a B.S. degree in psychology and speech. He completed an M.S. degree in pathology, audiology, and voice science in 1933 and a Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology, speech pathology and voice science in 1938, both at the University of Iowa. Steer was an internationally known authority in bio-acoustics and experimental phonetics applied to speech and language pathology, who devoted his entire professional career to Purdue.

Steer joined the Purdue faculty in 1935. He had been one of the first doctoral students in the then new discipline of communicative sciences and disorders. Steer was the founder of the Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences. Graduate and undergraduate programs in this new department were established by 1940. Steer was department head from 1963 to 1970 and was the director of the Purdue University Speech and Hearing Clinic from 1935 to 1970. In 1986 the clinic was renamed the Max D. Steer Audiology and Speech-Language Center in his honor.

Steer also performed government work beginning with joining the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1942 as aviation psychologist and head of the Acoustic Laboratory, School of Aviation Medicine, Pensacola, Florida. He was discharged as a lieutenant commander in 1946 when he returned to Purdue. In 1965 he was appointed to the U.S. Public Health Service’s National Advisory Committee for the Neurological and Sensory Disease Program. Other government work throughout his career included serving as a member of the National Advisory Committee for the Division of Research of the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped in the U.S. Office of Education and as a consultant to the Bureau of Higher Education Division of Graduate Programs of the same agency. He also participated as a Consultant for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Steer was elected to the position of president of the Indiana Speech Correction Association in 1938 and also served as president of the American Speech and Hearing Foundation. He was a Fellow of the American Speech and Hearing Association, served as its president in 1951, and also served as chairman of the Association's International Affairs Committee. Steer was one of the founders of the Indiana Speech and Hearing Association and served as its president from 1937-1939. He served as chairman of the Indiana Hearing Commission and consultant to the Fort Wayne State Hospital and Training Center. Steer was on the board of directors of the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics from 1959 to 1983; and held the position of executive vice president from 1980-1983. He was elected to the select membership of the Collegium International de Phonologie Experiementale in 1969.

In 1970 Steer was named a Distinguished Professor by the Purdue Board of Trustees making him the first professor given this distinction in the School of Humanities, Social Science and Education. In 1974, he received honors from the Latin American Federation of Societies of Phoniatrics, Logopedics, and Audiology and from the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics in 1983. In 1986 he received the Charles E. Heineman Allied Service Award from the Indiana Psychological Association. The award is given to individuals for outstanding leadership in a closely related field. He also received honors from the Indiana Speech and Hearing Association and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association as well as being named a Sagamore of the Wabash. Steer, who is listed in Who’s Who and American Men of Science, was awarded an honorary LL.D. degree from Long Island University in 1957. He was also a member of Sigma Xi.

Steer was a past president of the University Club at Purdue University and devoted considerable time to various academic committees and served on the Graduate Council, the University Senate, the Faculty Athletic Affairs Committee, the Campus Appeals Committee and the Purdue Research Foundation. Author of more than 135 articles and research reports, Steer served as a visiting lecturer in universities at home and abroad on subjects of psycho-acoustics, bio-acoustics, experimental phonetics and speech pathology.

He married the former Ruth K. Pittleman of Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1942. She received a master’s degree in psychology from Purdue. They conducted and published many research studies together in the field of psycho-acoustics.


MSF 360, Max D. Steer papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Max D. Steer papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 360
Scope and Contents The Max D. Steer papers (1931-2004; 17 cubic feet) document the academic and scientific career of Prof. Steer. The collection details the many different facets of his career at Purdue University including teaching, publishing, primary research, campus-wide, national, and international committee involvement, and awards. This collection would be very useful to anyone researching in the Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences at Purdue because Steer is the founder of that department. There is...
Dates: 1931 - 2004; Majority of material found within 1934 - 1983; Other: Date acquired: 03/03/1999