“No child should be denied a chance just because he cannot speak.” With those words, Dr. Martin F. Palmer came to Wichita determined to give children with communicative disorders a new chance in life. With that determination Heartspring was born.
University of Wichita President William Jardine was impressed by Palmer’s enthusiasm and determination, and named him head of the Department of Speech Sciences. In a tiny room on the fourth floor of the Administration Building Palmer, his wife and a small staff began their work. A few years later, their combined efforts were named the Institute of Logopedics.
Author of numerous scientific publications, Dr. Palmer was a pioneer in the field of special education and during his time, Heartspring was responsible for many of the breakthroughs in treatment of children with multiple disabilities. His vision enabled children from around the world to reach their full potential. He had the energy and drive to accomplish what others had not even imagined. At a time when there was little public conscience or concern for those with disabilities, Palmer had the courage and foresight to open new doors for children with special needs.
A distinguished scholar, Dr. Palmer was a member of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy, International Council for Exceptional Children, International Society for Rehabilitation of the Disabled, U.S. International Committee on Deafness, and was a member and president of the American Speech and Hearing Association and Kansas Speech and Hearing Association. Dr. Palmer was appointed to the President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped in Washington D.C. in 1958. He also served as director and vice president of the American Board of Examiners in speech pathology and audiology and served as a consultant to the Ministry of Health of India. During his 31 years as founder and director at Heartspring, Dr. Palmer was listed in “Who’s who in America”, “American Men of Science” and “Who’s Who in Education”. He was a consultant for the World Health Organization to both Japan and India and a frequent consultant to state and federal legislatures and government agencies regarding communication disorders and the needs of individuals with disabilities.
At the time of his death in 1965, Heartspring was the largest institute of speech and hearing rehabilitation in the world. He helped to spread knowledge of treatment for children with special needs around the globe. Dr. Palmer guided the organization as director, playing a major role in its growth and success and was rewarded with worldwide recognition.
Dr. Palmer left an indelible mark on his students, staff, colleagues, parents and the children to whom he dedicated his life’s work. Upon his death, Heartspring’s interim director Charles Wurth said, “One thing, more than any other, will live on as Martin Palmer’s special lesson to his staff – and that is an unshakable belief in the worth and dignity of every human being. It was on that belief that the Institute was built, and that belief will guide its continued growth.”