Below is a selection of testimonials from colleagues, students, and friends with whom I have worked over the years to meet the needs of individuals with severe communication disabilities.
Great Vision and an Open Heart
Dr. Erna Alant, as an internationally well-known researcher and advocate in the field of severe developmental disabilities, takes a very humanitarian approach when she works with each individual. When you work with her, you feel that she always puts the students (mentees/clients) first and thinks in their shoes. Her prolific research productivity, rich clinical practices, and a wide range of professional networks around the world make her an individual of great vision with an open heart, and an effective problem-solver.
~ Luke Sun
(one of Dr. Alant’s former doctoral students at IU-Bloomington)
Erna Alant gave me direction in my work—direction in ways I didn’t even know to look. She supported my growth in new perspectives and defined a set of steps to guide me to my goals. Each step too was open to my own interpretation and creativity. Combined we made progress that I could not have achieved on my own, and that I have proud ownership of. I don’t know how, but Erna Alant knows what short-term accomplishments lead me to my goals. I am ever grateful. Absolutely, working with Erna Alant is money and time well spent.
~ Brenda Brannigan
A Positive and Significant Impact
Erna, congratulations on being awarded the Neville Cohen Memorial Lecture. I can think of nobody more deserving to receive it…but want to extend my deepest gratitude and thanks to you. You have had a positive and significant impact on my life—as you have on many others’ lives.
~ Martin Pistorius
(author of Ghost Boy)
You have put so much love and energy into these two causes close to your heart: AAC and our lovely country, South Africa. During the 15-odd years we’ve known each other, we both have suffered great losses but also reaped great awards. As you continue further on the road of life, may it be filled with joy and happiness as you continue to touch the lives of everyone you meet. I am honoured to call you a scholar, a mentor, a colleague, and above all a friend.
A Mentor and an Encourager
Professor Erna Alant has had a deep and lasting impact on my life. When I look back at when she first took me under her wing, I cringe at how little I knew about anything! Yet Professor Alant took the time to work with me and she believed in me. Many cups of tea were made and afternoon walks enjoyed, where she was a sounding board, a mentor, and an encourager. That is who she is, and what makes her impact the world around her so deeply. She believes that each member of society, no matter who they are and how little knowledge and ability they currently display, has the capacity to achieve greatness.
I have no doubt that I would not have come as far without Professor Alant in my corner, and I am sure many others would say the same.
~ Dr. Elsa Popich
Congratulations, Erna, on receiving the prestigious Neville Cohen Award! I cannot think of anyone more deserving.
You have empowered so many to have a “voice.” You are one of those exceptional world-leading academics who inspires us all with the tremendous contribution you make not only in terms of research but also truly improving the day-to-day lives of so many people through your work in AAC and severe disability. Your integrity, human warmth, and compassion are phenomenal.
I can hear your wonderful warm laugh as I write this. Equally impressive is the way you have empowered so many PhD students and professionals to continue to propel things forward. Having you as a PhD supervisor is one of the greatest gifts I have received.
After all these years you are still the person on this planet that I most admire!
~ Nicci Campbell
A Deep Debt of Gratitude
Congratulations on yet another recognition of the outstanding and indeed remarkable contribution you have made to the world of AAC through this international Neville Cohen Award.
But from our perspective in South Africa, your contribution takes on a bigger, personal magnitude, because for AAC in South Africa, the CAAC heads the way, and you are the “mother” of the CAAC. There are very few in the field of AAC in South Africa who have not been influenced by you, even if indirectly. We are so very proud to call you our own.
But on an even more personal note, I owe you a deep debt of gratitude for guiding me to completion of my PhD. For that alone you need an award!
~ Marina Herold
A Privilege to Have Worked Alongside You
When I think of your contribution to the field, it is in terms of the birth of the Centre for AAC and growing its reach and influence. But it is also in the way you invested in people—from the AAC PhD graduates, who are still actively pursuing research careers and advancing the field, to the people with severe disabilities who you gave a hand up to (not a hand-out). I know of very few people who have leveraged their influence to benefit so many. I count it a privilege to have worked alongside you and learnt from you!
~ Michal Harty
CAAC Awards Neville Cohen Award to Prof. Erna Alant
Prof. Erna Alant, founder of the Centre of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC) at the University of Pretoria, received the Neville Cohen Award on 24 May 2017. Prof. Alant received this award for her outstanding contribution in the field of augmentative and alternative communication and severe disability. Her acceptance lecture was titled “Meaning-making in Interpersonal Interactions: Moving Beyond Exchanging Messages in Interaction.” More than 60 of her former students and colleagues attended the prize acceptance lecture.
Prof. Alant is currently Professor and Otting Chair in Special Education at Indiana University, Bloomington, USA, and additionally an extraordinary professor in the CAAC, University of Pretoria.
It was an honour for the CAAC to award Prof. Alant this prestigious award she so rightly deserves.
(View the commemorative testimonials booklet—with messages from friends, colleagues, and former students—given on the occasion of the Neville Cohen Award being presented to Prof. Erna Alant.)