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Tom Minifie

Note:  The story was told me of the day someone came into the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center, looked at the portrait of Dad, and said, "I know that boy."  But the details were lost to memory.  In February 1998 I had a wonderful e-mail exchange with two of Dad's former students, Bob Erickson and Fred Minifie.  The mystery solved, it seems only appropriate to share with you what one radio commentator calls, "the rest of the story."  It provides not only the answer to the burning question, "Who is that boy in the picture?" but a delightful recollection of the spirit that surrounded Dad and his students -- who were as well his friends -- in the early 1960s.  Here (with, of course, their permission) is the full text of their e-mails. -- Nicholas Johnson

Date:     Tue Feb 03, 1998 11:36 pm  CST
From:     Bob Erickson
          EMS: INTERNET / MCI ID: 376-5414
TO:     * Nicholas Johnson / MCI ID: 103-5393
As you already probably knew -- but just in case you didn't -- the painting replicates a photo of your father talking with one of Fred Minifie's children, taken in the early 60's when Fred and I both were doctoral students (and working as research associates under the direction of your father and Dean Williams).  Have enjoyed browsing your page a bit -- a nice memorial project!

Robert L. Erickson, Ph.D.
(616) 387-8049; 381-2078

# # #

Date:     Wed Feb 25, 1998  5:07 pm  CST
From:     Fred Minifie
          EMS: INTERNET / MCI ID: 376-5414
TO:       Bob Erickson
          EMS: INTERNET / MCI ID: 376-5414
CC:       Nicholas Johnson
          EMS: INTERNET / MCI ID: 376-5414
BCC:    * Nicholas Johnson / MCI ID: 103-5393
Subject:  Re: Fred Minifie/WJ Page
Yes, the boy in the painting is my oldest son Tom.  I have been meaning to respond to the website Nicholas Johnson developed in memory of his dad for some time.  Bob, as usual, you get to things quicker than I.  I would love to receive a copy of the material you sent to Nicholas.  I could then provide some amendations if they are in order.

You have undoubtedly told him that the theme of the dinner for which the picture was taken was "A Change and a Passing" and was to chronicle the history of the Gables where the clinical treament of stuttering program was housed for many years.  If memory serves, we took a picture of a cockroach that we named "Wendell" who knew the full history of what went on in the Gables.  The story line was that "Wendell" had gotten smashed a couple of days before the dinner and we thought that the history of the Gables was lost.  We went on to say "that Wendell had been smashed before, and had always recovered well."  Wendell presented a series of slides showing the worst sides of the Gables.

Needless to say, the guy who was rolling in the aisles during the presentation of the elegantly scruffy slides that depicted the history of the Gables was Jack.  The picture that you took to show Jack asking the little boy "Now when did you first notice that you began to stutter?" was meant to create a howl, since Jack's diagnosogenic theory of stuttering would never have had him asking such a question.

The beauty of the picture was it showed Jack's extraordinary ability to relate to people.  And, of course, he loved kids.  Quite simply, Tom was mesmerized by Wendell Johnson.  I loved the slide, and had an 8 X 10 picture made that hung in my office for many years.

When Jim Curtis retired I spoke at his retirement dinner.  Hugh Morris said to me "Did you see the picture of Jack they hung in the entry (to the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center)?  I looked over and said, "My God, that is my son."  Hugh Morris had me write down the history behind the picture because they had long since forgotten when the original photo was taken. I think the description still resides in the department.  The artist, upon hearing the history of the photo, kindly made two prints of the painting and sent them to me.  Tom has one in his home.  The other has hung over my desk at the University of Washington.  Whenever I feel disspirited by the problems with academia, I look at the picture.  It lets me know that you really can accomplish things if you are a person of good will and good intentions.  Jack has meant so much to all who came in contact with him. The picture has bouyed me on many an occasion.

A couple of years ago, Barbara and I went back to Iowa to receive a distinguished alumnus award from the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology.  Tom was able to join us and see the painting.  It brought my life into full circle.

Bob, I have detailed these thoughts knowing that Nick Johnson will receive them as well.  You already know most of this stuff.  I trust that retirement is treating you well and that you are finding time to get to all the stuff you have been really wanting to do.

Our best to you and Jackie.
Fred D. Minifie, Ph.D.
Professor, Speech and Hearing Sciences Dept.
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98105-6246
TEL (206) 543-0095
FAX (206) 543-1093

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