DeKALB – James Lankford spent 31 years teaching audiology at Northern Illinois University and served as dean of the College of Health and Human Services for 10 of those years.
During his time as a professor, Lankford was instrumental in helping NIU become the third university in the nation to dispense hearing aids as part of the educational process of training audiology students.
To commemorate his more than 45 years of research in preventing noise-induced hearing loss, Lankford’s alma mater, Oklahoma Christian University, presented him with a Distinguished Alumnus Award in November.
Lankford had tried to apply for medical school as an undergraduate but did not get in. An adviser then recommended that he look into communicative disorders, and after receiving a summer scholarship, during which he took courses on speech pathology and audiology, Lankford found audiology interesting and challenging enough to pursue it as a master’s program.
When he came to NIU in 1969, Lankford had no intentions of becoming a dean or taking any other administrative role, but about 10 years in, he was asked to become an assistant dean while he taught and did research.
“When I took the dean job, I told the provost I had one stipulation – that I still wanted to teach,” he said. “My philosophy is that everyone at the university should be teaching.”
Lankford has authored or co-authored more than 60 articles related to audiology, and he has devoted 15 years to preventing noise-induced hearing loss in the farming community.
He said he continues to work on an active research project with three other universities on preventing hearing loss resulting from recreational firearms. This has been ongoing for the past 10 years, he said.
Lankford lives in Sycamore with his wife, Vera, and has two grown children and four grandchildren. He also serves as a deacon at the Church of Christ in Sycamore.