Kay Payne '73

Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Howard University's School of Communications

Kay Payne '73 is internationally renowned for her unique specializations in sociolinguistics and cultural anthropology, with expertise on communication disorders including diagnosis, treatment and bilingual issues. An authority on test-taking skills and cultural diversity, Payne has been awarded the Fulbright Fellowship twice to do research in Egypt and India, exchange fellowships in Brazil and China, a Ford Foundation Research Fellowship in Namibia, and a travel fellowship in Russia and Ukraine.

Since receiving her Ph.D. from Howard University in communication sciences and disorders, she has taught at the university. She helped create the first software program to improve the scores of minority students on the PRAXIS examinations, which evaluates individuals for entry into teacher education programs. She is the author of three best-selling books and two CD ROMs related to PRAXIS and has developed two distance-learning courses for PRAXIS delivered via the Blackboard course management system. Many users of these materials attribute their passing scores to Payne. 

She has been named a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and more recently received the prestigious Scholar-Mentor Award from the National Black Association for Speech, Language, and Hearing. The award is given to an outstanding professional who has been involved in the mentoring of black students in speech-language pathology, audiology and/or speech-hearing sciences through research, clinical, administrative and/or academic activities.

During "the height of the civil rights era and the Vietnam anti-war movement," Payne recalls that she and her "classmates were very conscious of social causes and injustices and saw our role in changing that. I discovered at William Smith that women could do anything. The notion that I had no limitations was instilled in me from the very beginning."

With the help of her fellow classmates, Payne helped found what is now Sankofa: The Black Student Union at HWS, and the Black House, at the time a place on campus where minority students could live and celebrate their culture. This student activism also led to new academic offerings, including courses on black studies.