Orlando Taylor


Honorary Degree (2007)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Adam William Herbert


Orlando Taylor is widely regarded as a pioneer in communication studies and a national leader in graduate education. Taylor, who currently serves as vice provost for research, dean of the graduate school, and professor of communication at Howard University in Washington, D.C., has been hailed as "a visionary researcher and transformative leader." An event early in his academic career shaped Taylor's path. In 1969, Taylor, then an assistant professor of communication at Indiana University, was on the verge of assuming a leadership position at the university. One of only three African American faculty members at IU at the time, he had been selected to fill the newly created position of vice president of minority affairs.

Before he could take on the new role, Taylor found himself engulfed in what became a historic event. During a faculty senate meeting that he was attending, a group of eight African American students interrupted the proceedings, presenting the university leaders with demands related to the university's racial atmosphere. The students refused to let anyone leave except Taylor, who became their de facto advisor. The negotiations lasted three days, ending just before the National Guard arrived. A grand jury was empanelled to investigate the incident, and eventually Taylor and the students were indicted for conspiracy to take over IU. Facu1ty members helped bail the group out of jail.

As a result of the Bloomington Nine incident, as it became known, IU withdrew its offer of the position of vice president of minority affairs. Taylor, who had given up his faculty appointment to take the position, found himself unemployed. "(Taylor) stood up against racial hostility in 1969 at the cost of his position at IU early in what has turned out to be a truly remarkable career," says Robert L. Ivie, professor of communication and culture at IU Bloomington. After leaving IU, Taylor accepted a position in Washington, D.C., and went on to become a distinguished academician and leader. He has also, says Charlie Nelms, IU vice president for institutional development and student affairs, "devoted his life to enhancing excellence and equity for historically disenfranchised people."

A native of Tennessee, Taylor earned a bachelor's from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, in 1957. He went on to eam a master's degree from IU in 1960, studying with renowned communication scholars J. Jeffrey Auer and Robert Milisen. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1966, Taylor returned to IU, where he became an assistant professor of communication. When he left IU in 1969, he became associate director and senior research fellow at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C. While there, he began teaching at Federal City College (now University of the District of Columbia) and Howard University, and in 1973, he became a full-time professor at Howard.

Taylor's contributions to academia span a range of subjects. His early work in communication sciences and disorders focused on aphasia, or impairment of the power to use words, and language acquisition. Taylor, one of the few African Americans in the field at the time, became interested in the relationships between cultural and linguistic diversity and communication disorders. He began research on Black English, finding that speech pathologists and audiologists often misdiagnosed African American children with communication disorders because of lack of understanding about speech differences between linguistically diverse populations.

Taylor has been a national leader in organizations related to his academic discipline, serving as the first African American president of the National Communication Association and a founding organizer of the Black College Communication Association and of the Black Caucuses of the American Speech Language-Hearing Association and the National Communication Association.

Taylor is a national leader in transforming graduate education and creating a new generation of faculty who will be more effective educators. He is widely recognized as the driving force behind the Preparing Future Faculty program, as well as a national initiative for the recruitment and retention of faculty of color. Taylor currently leads Howard's efforts, along with those of 13 other leading research universities, to make doctoral education more responsive to societal needs and student interests.

Taylor has secured millions of dollars in research, training, and program development grants from federal and private sources. Currently, he is principal investigator on major grants from the National Science Foundation to increase the production of minority Ph.D. recipients in science, mathematics, and engineering and the U.S. Department of Education to develop collaborative academic and research programs between universities in Brazil and the Netherlands and U.S. institutions. Taylor continues to serve the broader academic community. He is currently president of the Consortium of Social Science Associations, chair elect of the board of the Jacob Javits Fellowship Program in the Humanities, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. He also has served as board chair of the Council of Graduate Schools and president of the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools.

Taylor's achievements have not gone unrecognized by his peers. In 1984, he received Howard University's Outstanding Scholar-Teacher Award. The American Speech-Language- Hearing Association presented him with its Honors of the Association award in 1992; and in 2003, he received Yale University's Bouchet Leadership Award in Minority Graduate Education.