Friendship leads to audiology fellowship


Virginia Wilson, seated, with Dr. Sharon Lesner and Missy, who is Wilson's hearing assistance dog.

Thanks to the 30-year friendship between an audiologist and a woman with a severe hearing loss, aspiring audiologists with hearing impairments of their own can benefit from a new fellowship program at The University of Akron.

The Virginia E. Wilson and Dr. Sharon A. Lesner Graduate Professional Fellowship has been established by Wilson in honor of her friend Lesner, an audiology professor at UA.

The Wilson and Lesner Fellowship is for students in the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) Program in UA's School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. Only students with a hearing impairment are eligible.

Need met, friendship born

Wilson first met Lesner in 1982, when Wilson came to a "Self-help for the Hard of Hearing" meeting at which Lesner demonstrated new technology for individuals with hearing impairments. Wilson had come seeking help for a severe hearing loss that began when she was 35.

"Sharon brought me back into the hearing world," says Wilson. "I wanted to honor Sharon by providing financial assistance to audiology students who will carry on her work."

Wilson worked as an attorney and was married to the late J. Robert Wilson, retired president of Roadway Express. In addition to supporting the new audiology fellowship and other programs at UA, she has funded a demonstration center in the UA Audiology and Speech Center that enables patients to experiment with assistive listening devices in a homelike setting to determine which work best for them before making a purchase.

She also is a staunch proponent of hearing assistance dogs and has had four over the years. Her current dog, Missy, is a 6-year-old Airedale.

Lesner, a resident of Portage Lakes, joined the UA faculty in 1979. She was instrumental in developing the Northeast Ohio Au.D. Consortium (NOAC), a doctoral program in audiology that is a partnership of The University of Akron, Kent State University and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Generous support over the years

"Virginia has made significant contributions to the School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and the University," says Lesner. "Her generosity has benefited innumerable individuals with hearing impairments and her influence will go on and on as a result of her support of audiology students."

UA's Audiology and Speech Center, located in the Polsky Building on campus, is the clinical training arm of the UA School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

Working under the direction of Lesner and other faculty, students at the center provide evaluation and treatment for people of all ages, including children with speech, language and hearing disorders; children and adults who stutter; persons with voice disorders; adults who have acquired head injuries; persons who cannot speak and require technology to express themselves; and children and adults such as Virginia Wilson with hearing losses. Last year the center logged nearly 4,000 client visits.

For more information visit the UA School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and its Audiology and Speech Center, e-mail, or call 330-972-6803.

Media contact: Cyndee Snider, 330-972-5196 or