Margaret Walker Skinner, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology and director of the Cochlear Implant and Hearing Rehabilitation Program, died Friday, Jan. 11, 2008, at Barnes-Jewish Hospital after a long illness. She was 72.
Skinner, known to friends and family as Margo, worked in audiology for more than four decades, earning an international reputation in auditory rehabilitation. Her research and insightful clinical skills culminated in the publication of a book considered the “Bible” on hearing aids. She was a pioneer in the field of cochlear implants to help patients who do not benefit from hearing aids, and she served on the executive boards of state and national auditory societies and chaired international conferences in this area.
Skinner began her academic career at Washington University as a lecturer in the Department of Speech and Hearing in 1977, eventually becoming a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery in 1997. She became director of the Cochlear Implant and Hearing Rehabilitation Program in 1984.
She received many awards and honors including the Pioneer in Hearing Aids, the Jerger Career Award in Hearing from the American Academy of Audiology, the Carhart Memorial Lecturer from the American Auditory Society, the Washington University Academic Women’s Pioneer Award and the keynote lectureship at the 11th International Symposium on Cochlear Implants in 2007.
Born in Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, 1935, Skinner earned a degree in chemistry at Wellesley College in 1956. She earned a master’s degree in audiology from Case Western Reserve University in 1960 and worked as an audiologist for almost two decades before earning her doctorate in audiology at Washington University in 1976.
Skinner juggled being a homemaker and raising two boys with her clinical responsibilities as an audiologist. Although she did not complete her doctorate until she was in her 40s, her progress was rapid due to her legendary clinical expertise and her well-honed multi-tasking capabilities. A translational scientist before the term was coined, Skinner’s intense fascination and passion for her work led many patients “back into the world of sound.”
She is survived by sons George L. Kraft and Jonathan R. Kraft and daughter-in-law Lori Kraft, all of St. Louis; a stepdaughter, Linda Pigg of Kansas City; seven grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and friends. Memorial contributions may be made to the Cochlear Implant and Hearing Rehabilitation Program at Campus Box 1247. A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19 at Trinity Episcopal Church at 600 North Euclid.