A Legend Leaves Us: Arnold Aronson, Mayo Clinic Speech Pathologist, Dies At 90


Few can say they given back to the world as much as they’ve received. Arnold Aronson, one of the chief speech pathology researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota dedicated 36 years of his life to the nonprofit organization before passing away in mid-November at age 90.

“His clinical, research, and scholarly contributions were enormous,” a colleague, Joseph Duffy, said in remarks he prepared for Aronson’s memorial service. “They helped set the course for an entire profession, and their influence endures today.”

Aronson performed a multitude of roles: he treated patients, mentored students, and led research that made him an authority in the diagnosis and treatment of speech and voice disorders. One of his most famous cases involved a man who had suffered a stroke, only to recover with a thick Scandinavian accent. The man had no experience with foreign languages and was a native English speaker (born in Baltimore), yet he “sounded Nordic and unfamiliar with English.” Aronson went on to identify it as a rare condition known as foreign-accent disorder, and claimed that “about 40% of cases produced German, Swedish, or Norwegian accents.”

There are currently around 145,000 speech-language pathologists in the U.S., and there’s a solid chance that Aronson inspired — and maybe even taught — a good number of them, if Duffy’s words are anything to go by.

“I was fortunate to be among 35 men and women who did postdoctoral work at the Mayo Clinic under Arnie’s guidance,” he stated during the memorial service. “He helped foster our dreams and aspirations by believing in us. He wanted us to be better than we were, and treated us like he believed that was possible.”

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN is responsible for a significant amount of research: patients would often travel from far and wide to seek out Aronson’s unique knowledge of rare conditions as a result of the efforts and progresses he had made at the nonprofit organization.

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