Speech pathology and audiology programming at Western Michigan University dates from 1936, when Dr. Charles Van Riper came from the University of Iowa to establish a speech clinic and develop a curriculum in speech correction. This was one of the nation's earliest clinics for the study and treatment of speech disorders and the preparation of "speech correctionists." Graduate level study began some 20 years later, and in 1966, WMU's graduate program became the first in Michigan, and one of the first six in the nation, to gain accreditation.

Over the years, Van Riper's remarkable success in treating stuttering in clients from around the world earned him the reputation of being a giant in the field. He authored one of the primary textbooks still used in classrooms today. Along with the continuing growth in his stature, and the quality contributions of other faculty, came an enhancement in the department's reputation for excellence, diversity and leadership; a trend that continues to this day.