Professor Puich and alumni at the Pacific Speech-Language Pathology San Diego Alumni and Friends Reception.
Emeriti Faculty Spotlight: Virginia Puich
She walks into a room and it lights up. Her name is mentioned and it brings a smile to everyone's face. Her name is Professor Virginia Puich.
Before coming to Pacific in 1969, Professor Puich received her bachelor of science in speech corrections from San Diego State University. Like many of us, she too had her share of exploring majors. She spoke about her joy of studying drama and the productions she was involved with as an undergraduate. Discouraged by her fear of not being able to make a career of it she changed her major to English. She felt it would support her passion for teaching. It was soon after that she learned the department was offering a major in speech corrections and was recruiting prospective students. That's when her career took off.
After graduation, Professor Puich taught in a public school for three years. One summer her and three friends decided to quit their jobs to travel to Europe. "There were four of us and we were a curiosity everywhere we went. It was just after the end of World War II and people didn't travel anymore. We had a wonderful time; it was great," she said.
Professor Puich then attended University of Oregon where she earned her master of science in speech-language pathology. She recalled working in Yosemite during the summers to help finance her school and trips. After receiving her master's she joined the University of Colorado as a faculty member in the English department. Two years into her teaching, her longing for California brought her back to Fresno State University briefly only to return to Colorado where she continued her teaching for a total of six years.
When she did return to California, she joined Stanford University as a full-time faculty and doctoral student. After six rigorous years, she finished her coursework and started studying for the qualifying exams. Meanwhile, she learned that the program was being eliminated. The news was "a tragedy because I worked so hard for my degree only to find out that I couldn't finish it. I never took my exams."
However, her time at Stanford did provide her an opportunity that would help create her legacy at Pacific. After a year at San Jose State University, she was recruited by Dr. Perrin, former student at Stanford, who was the chair of the communications disorder program at Pacific, to fill a tenure track faculty position.
She was well-liked and an inspiration to many of her students. "She taught me to have high expectations yet be thoughtful and kind," said Professor Simalee Smith-Stubblefield ‘82. "One student commented to me that taking a course from Ms. Puich was like sitting across a table, having a cup of coffee and discussing the topic at hand," she added.
Her legacy wasn't just the about the relationship she created with her colleagues and students. She is also remembered for the impact she made in the program. With Drs. Perrin and Roy Timmons, she developed the foundation of both the undergraduate and graduate program that exists today. "The program has a clinical focus, providing students with the best possible clinical instruction, which prepares them well for graduate school and eventually their professional careers. Miss Puich left a big impact on the program as she was on the faculty when the Master's degree program first became accredited in 1973," said Dr. Robert Hanyak ‘79, former student and current department chair.
Professor Puich retired in 1997 after 28 years with the University.
"I enjoyed every bit of my time at Pacific. I loved getting to know the students and being the department chair (for six years). It was such a happy place to be and the whole experience was gratifying," said Professor Puich.
Her retirement took to San Diego where she lived and cared for her mom who passed away last July at the age of 106. She is still in San Diego and enjoying the "beautiful city and cultures." Last November, Professor Puich joined alumni and friends at the Pacific Speech-Language Pathology Alumni and Friends San Diego Reception and "had a great time."
"For many years Ms. Puich was the heart and soul of the department. Every time I attend the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association annual conference former students ask me about Ms. Puich. I think this a testament to her impact," said Professor Smith-Stubblefield.
The Virginia Puich Endowed Scholarship was created by students to create a lasting legacy in her honor. The scholarship was first awarded in 1999 and recognizes one graduating senior for their academic and clinical excellence.