In September, Amyn M. Amlani ’93, PhD gave the keynote address at the White Coat Ceremony in honor of the doctor of audiology Class of 2020. He shared with students and guests how coming to Pacific as a student dramatically altered the course of his life.
“In 1972, my family was expelled from Uganda, my country of birth, because of our ethnicity,” said Dr. Amlani. “We were displaced as refugees to Toronto, Canada. I was only 3 years old.”
In 1977 his family relocated to Dallas, Texas.
“My parents were always working at the dry cleaners to support me and my brother. Thus, we were left unsupervised much of the time. Being unsupervised was not an ideal situation for me. That freedom from parental guidance afforded me the liberty to engage in recreational drugs and alcohol at the young age of 13. By 1986, my recreational habits were out of control and I was asked to leave my parents’ home.”
Dr. Amlani’s father insisted that he go to college and applied to several local universities and community colleges on his behalf.
“Somehow, I got accepted to University of Texas at Arlington. I was happy to be living in the dorms, but I rarely attended class, sleeping off the prior night’s events. I was dismissed from the institution in 1988.”
“In 1989, my parents forced me to attend a family reunion in Toronto, Canada, to conceal the issues we still faced at home. During the event, my paternal grandfather recognized that I needed a change of scenery and that scenery required a grand distance from Dallas. In a kind, yet stern voice, he advised me to reenroll in college, bring up my grades and reapply to institutions out-of-state.”
“Heeding his words, I enrolled at a community college when I returned. Over the next year, I successfully brought my 1.6 grade point average up to a 2.1, and applied to five schools. Only University of the Pacific and Clemson University were willing to take a chance on me.”
‘Dr. Hanyak taught me to how to be a leader and push boundaries I thought were beyond my reach and capabilities. Without his encouragement and support, I never would have reached my full potential.”
“Based on nothing more than a gut feeling, I transferred to Pacific. When I arrived onto the Stockton campus in August of 1991, I brought with me my poor extracurricular recreational habits, less-than-desirable study skills, a bad attitude and a dreadful haircut.”
He was assigned an advisor, Simalee Smith-Stubblefield ’83, MA, CCC-SLP. She encouraged him to enroll in Introduction to Communicative Disorders, in addition to the required courses.
“Our first few weeks of lectures were taught by Dr. Bob Hanyak [‘79] and our subject content was the normal and disordered ear. A few weeks into this course, I was hooked to the profession of audiology and to the faculty. This is where I belonged. Over the next few months, I cleaned up my act, changed my behavior and attitude, and made amends with my parents.”
His grades drastically improved and he eagerly looked forward to going to class and participating in clinics.
“Much of my change in behavior and academic performance resulted because of interactions with Simalee. She would meet with me regularly to see how things were going and to share insights on how to study. […] Her gentle and nurturing hand allowed me to gain my self-esteem and self-confidence that I needed to be successful.”
Dr. Amlani also shared the impact that Dr. Hanyak, associate professor of speech-language pathology, has had on his life both personally and professionally.
“Not only was Dr. Hanyak instrumental in introducing me to the profession of audiology, but for the past 24 years, he has been mentor and supporter. […] Dr. Hanyak taught me to how to be a leader and push boundaries I thought were beyond my reach and capabilities. Without his encouragement and support, I never would have reached my full potential.”
Dr. Amlani earned his bachelor of arts in communication disorders from University of the Pacific, his master of science in audiology from Purdue University and his doctor of philosophy in audiology with an emphasis in psychoacoustics from Michigan State University. He is professor and chair of the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the Consortium Program between University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold