Skip to main content

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 a great deal of documentation on Steer’s committee involvement with American Speech and Hearing Association, International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics, and his research on international speech and audiology programs supported by the United States Senate. Types of materials include newspaper clippings and articles, article manuscripts and primary research materials, correspondence, committee minutes and correspondence, publications, and awards. The papers are organized into six series: Manuscripts, Correspondence, Committee materials, Published materials, and Artifacts, awards, and audio-visual materials. History of Speech and Audiology clinic The program in Speech Pathology at Purdue University began in 1935 when Professor M. D. Steer joined the faculty. Its primary function at that time was to provide remedial services to those university students who had deviant speech skills. A year later, an undergraduate academic training program was started. The graduate program began in 1940. In its earlier years, the program was part of the Department of English. In 1947, the bachelors program was introduced. The first doctoral degree was granted in 1948. The SLHS program was one of the first in the country to achieve accreditation in both speech pathology and audiology from the Educational Standards Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The program has experienced continual growth. In honor of M. D Steer, the Speech and Hearing Clinic at Purdue University was renamed the M. D. Steer Audiology and Speech-Language Clinics in 2006. Source: Please see the attached finding aid for a box and folder list.


  • 1931 - 2004
  • Majority of material found within 1934 - 1983
  • Other: Date acquired: 03/03/1999


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Copyright held by Purdue University. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

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.


13.233 Cubic Feet (Twenty-nine letter-size full-width manuscript boxes, three legal-size full-width manuscript boxes, and one cubic foot box)

Arrangement Note

1. Manuscripts, 1931-2004 (3.6 cubic feet) Materials in the series are arranged chronologically. Subseries A: Personal materials This subseries includes curriculum vitas, newspaper clippings, and articles about the career of Max D. Steer. Subseries B: Professional materials This subseries includes items written by Max D. Steer. Examples include article manuscripts, speeches, notes, teaching materials, student papers, etc. 2. Correspondence, 1947-1990, (0.5 cubic feet) Materials in this series include personal and professional correspondence and memos. Materials in the series are arranged chronologically. 3. Department of audiology and speech sciences and clinic materials, 1936-1986, (0.8 cubic feet) Materials in this series include patient files, staff list, photographs, newspaper clippings, department budget, staff handbooks, newspaper clippings, and clinic 50th anniversary celebration materials. Valuable historical information about the department and policy and procedure manuals for working in the clinic are included in this series. Materials are arranged chronologically. 4. Committee materials, 1959-1990 (5.6 cubic feet) Materials are arranged chronologically. Subseries A: Purdue University committee materials Materials included in this subseries are PRF committee, Purdue Sires, Purdue Retirees, and Tarkington Hall faculty fellows correspondence and minutes. Subseries B: National committee materials Taking up the bulk of this subseries are the following: 1) Study on international assistance for speech and hearing programs by United State Senate subcommittee and 2) ASHA committee materials. Subseries C: International committee materials Documented in this subseries is Steer’s involvement with the following international organizations: Federacion Lation-Americana de Sociedades de Foniatria Logopedia y Audiologia (FLASFLA), International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics (IALP), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Affairs Committee (IAC) of the American Speech and hearing association (ASHA). Included within these records are correspondence, speeches, and papers directly related to each organization. 5. Published materials, 1934-1983 (4 cubic feet) Materials are arranged chronologically. Subseries A: Published materials written by M.D. Steer Materials included in this subseries are published journal articles written by M.D. Steer. Subseries B: Published materials not written by M.D. Steer Materials included in this subseries are published journal articles written by other audiology scientists and colleagues of M. D. Steer. Subseries C: United State Navy publications Materials included in this subseries are published technical reports written by Steer and colleagues during his time in the U.S. Navy. 6. Artifacts, awards and audio-visual materials, 1936-1999 (1 cubic foot) Materials are arranged chronologically when possible. Subseries A: Awards Materials included in this subseries are paper certificates from Purdue University, the state of Indiana, national associations, and international associations. Subseries B: Audio-visual materials Materials included in this subseries are audiocassettes of lectures and slides of Purdue University campus buildings. Subseries C: Artifacts Materials included in this subseries are a gavel, gavel blocks, and awards.

Acquisition Information

Collection donated by Max and Ruth Steer on March 27, 1997, June 23, 1998, August 7, 2009, July 21, 2010

Accruals and Additions

All additions have been integrated into the main collection.

Addition I, June 23, 1998, donated by Ruth Steer

Newspaper articles: They teach Others to Hear and Talk Psi Iota Xi Sorority is sponsor of an institute for girls who may become speech and hearing therapists Sunday The Indianapolis Star Magazine June 29, 1958; Clinic Head Honored by Association Friday Evening February 20, 1959 The Jo… IND (6 copies); Prof. Finds Anti-Sub Net deadly No date, no source; Dr. Steer Given Highest Speech, Hearing award No date, no source; Steer Named to Committee No date, no source; Speech, Hearing Director to Address Dinner Meeting No date, no source; Speech, Hearing Unit Lauds Hoosier Doctor No date, no source; Diploma; Ph.D Awarded from State University of Iowa February 1, 1938; Certificates; The Society of the Sigma Xi member Iowa 24 March 1937; The Society of the Sigma Xi Associate Iowa 28 March 1935; The Long Island University Alumni Association Alumni Unity Long Island University class of 1932, Awarded Brooklyn NY June 6, 1952; The American Speech and Hearing Association Advanced Clinical Certificate in Speech First day of January 1950; The Indiana Society for crippled Children Certificate of Appreciation September 15, 1954;

Photographs: Max D. Steer speaking to group, no date, no site; Max D. Steer with another man, signed “with compliments & thanks for your courtesy & hospitality To the board of the Ind Soc for Crippled Children (looks like same site as item 1, photographs); Steer date and site not provided, looks like one half of photo; Group date 26-6-59 (?) site (?); Steer at podium No date, No site; 4 Naval officers, last names on back including steer no date or site; Male & Female Naval officers, last names on back, no date or site; Steer at desk no date or site; Steer at desk with pipe no date or site; Steer signed To Mother and Dad love Mack no date; Naval Officer in front of school of Aviation Medicine signed to Max whose fine help has been appreciated Signature; LL.D Award 1957 Long Island Univ.; Group include Steer, signed and loose card with names (? Accompany this photo); The Purdue University Bands Distinguished Service Award January 27, 1976; The Purdue Residence Hall council for Outstanding Achievement in the area of Faculty Fellow Program second day of April 1986; Group of Naval Officers including Steer no date or site; Honorary Big Niner USS Essex a ship of the United States Navy, 30 July 1960 signed R.L. Fowler Captain USN; Steer & Capt Fowler on the bridge, signed It has been a pleasure to have you on board USS Essex 27 July – 4 August 1960 Capt R. L. Fowler U.S.N. Commanding officer; The Purdue Retiree Hall Council presents this award of excellence to Max D. Steer, for Outstanding Achievement in the area of Faculty Fellow Program eighth day of April 1987

Addition II, September 6, 2009, donated by Ruth Steer

Packet of newspaper clippings and materials concerning Max Steer.

Addition III, September 30, 2010, donated by Ruth Steer

Retirement congratulatory letter, 1976; bound, “Purdue Visions,” 1992; wall plaques in honor/recognition; newspaper clippings of career; facts about Dept. of Speech and Audiology; two desk paperweights; correspondence; Sagamore of the Wabash award, 1976

Processing Information

Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained. All materials have been housed in acid-free boxes. Materials have been refoldered where necessary. Artifacts and audio-visual items have been housed together for preservation purposes.
Max D. Steer papers
In Progress
Shauna Borger and Keertana Marella
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Third Edition. Collection description was first completed 2012-10-03.

Revision Statements

  • 2013-11-13: Revised 11/13/2013 EW
  • 2020-04-06: Collection description updated by Keertana Marella
  • 2021-03-29: Biographical Information updated by E. Sandgren with sketch written by David Hovde

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States