HCRI Alumni Share Comments in Recognition of the Institute’s 50th Anniversary

Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.
Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI Founder and President

Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) recently achieved the nonprofit’s 50-year milestone. Founded by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI is a  leader in stuttering research, treatment innovation, and the delivery of effective, science-based stuttering therapy. During the past five decades, Dr. Webster and his team have conducted breakthrough research — and pioneered advancements in the understanding and treatment of stuttering.

Thousands of individuals who stutter have come to HCRI’s Virginia treatment center for stuttering therapy. They have come from every state in the U.S. and 50 countries around the world.

In recognition of HCRI and Dr. Webster’s half-century of work to help those who stutter, many therapy alumni sent congratulatory messages, emails and notecards to Dr. Webster. Following are some of the comments he received.


Comments Dr. Webster Received from HCRI Alumni:


“Decades of conducting groundbreaking research. Fifty years of supervising life-changing therapy.  I continue to be in awe of you, Dr. Webster, for your accomplishments and the benefits you’ve created for so many who have stuttered. Please accept my own profound gratitude and hearty congratulations, and my best wishes for further successes.”

-Alan T.


“48 years ago I went through the therapy program, as a young man with very little hope and direction in my life. My grades were bad and my social life was not very good. After participating in the HCRI program, it felt like I was on a natural high. My grades soared and my social and personal life was so much better. I had renewed confident that I do just about anything. And I did! Thank you for giving me my life back. I will always treasure you and HCRI.”

-Steve F.


“Congratulations on the 50th anniversary of HCRI. Thank you for everything you have done for those of use who were born with this problem. I feel very fortunate to have been associated with you and with HCRI for so many years.

You have done amazing work and touched so many lives, plus done so much to advance an understanding of the roots of this complex condition.  Thank you for giving me an opportunity to participate in your research when I was an undergraduate and later when I assisted with IT projects. HCRI has been such an important part of my life. I know that I owe my fluency and many other things to what I have learned at the institute.”

-Cary W.


“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for developing the tools that have given me a life with fluent speech. Stuttering closed so many doors for me and I am forever grateful that your leading research found a sustainable solution.”

-Josh B.


“Congratulations on reaching this incredible 50-year milestone. I can’t thank you enough for helping transform my life by giving me the gift of fluency.  You are an incredible light to the world, helping to brighten it each day. We are so lucky to have you. May God continue to give you strength to lead us in health and happiness for another 50 years! Thank you.”

-Avner B.


“HCRI has changed my life. People have no idea I stutter. Only my family and people back home can attest to my severe speech impediment. Your program continues to be life changing for many. But of course, it is not a pill. I am so glad you have maintained the high standards of treatment and continue to fine tune the program, as well. May God grant you many more years of health and service to the stuttering community. Happy 50th anniversary. That is quite an accomplishment!”

-Dorothy C.


“What can I say about your therapy program and follow-up. I have been allowed to have the kind of speaking life I always wanted to have. One that I can control and one that can help me realize my educational and professional goals. Thank you.”

-Randy B.


“I am deeply indebted to Ron Webster. When I was a new professor wondering about my future, he gave me hope. He took unhurried time with me. Because of his bold and ingenious work, I was freed from a debilitating stutter. I am leaving tomorrow to lecture in Israel. If not for Dr. Webster, I would not have been able to do this. Thank you, Dr. Webster!”

-Gerald M.


“Words can’t describe the joy I have had with fluency obtained during my time over the years with HCRI’s help. As a client attending in 1974, I was able to have ‘free words.’ The Lord be praised. Your guidance and passion for the work accomplished these 50 years touches lives today.”

-Jeannie L.


“My family, friends, colleagues, and I thank you for your amazing work. Overcoming an obstacle like stuttering brings joy to so many. I would not have had the confidence to pursue a career in law without HCRI.”

-Andrew K.


“What a wonderful journey HCRI has had. Think of how many people your institute has helped and made happy. You and your staff should be extremely proud.”

-Lane M.


“Many congratulations on the 50th anniversary of HCRI. As an alumnus, I can’t express what the stuttering therapy program has meant to me, and how much targets have improved my life and increased my personal success and fulfillment. HCRI’s research initiatives are very exciting, and I look forward to hearing about future discoveries and advancements that are sure to impact many people who stutter.”

-David. O.


“Congratulations on 50 years of dedication to helping us overcome such a difficult circumstance. I just want to say thank you! I truly have no idea what I would be doing with my life if I never came to HCRI.”

-Earl H.


“Congratulations to you and the HCRI staff on your 50th anniversary. Thank you for providing the gift of fluency and changing lives of individuals around the world.”

-Shannon A.


“I struggled with stuttering all of my life, until I learned of your research on stuttering and how to overcome it. While it took me several times at your clinic to learn how to achieve and use the targets, they have given me fluency ever since.  Thank you for your dedication to finding a solution to stuttering.”

-Keith S.


“If I were to write a book about my life, a common thread throughout would be my struggle with speech. But, now at the age of 40, I feel that the narrative would change to a story of hope.  When I attended HCRI, I didn’t know what it meant to ‘feel’ while I spoke. But, after months fluency practice, I do know. I feel that my speech has improved, as well as my confidence. Thanks so much for all you’ve done.”

-Michael D.


“What a pleasure it is to congratulate you on HCRI’s 50th anniversary! It is a tribute to you and the excellent staff. I personally benefited from attending the therapy program, and I stay in touch regularly with my clinician. Thank you for providing a high-quality program and the opportunity for ongoing support.”

-Barbara B.


“I can’t thank you enough for the impact your program has had on my son. After completing the program at HCRI, he has become a lot more confident, structured and motivated. My son will be graduating early with honors and hopes to be an electrical and computer engineer. He is currently working on his college applications. His experience at HCRI has been front and center – and mentioned in all of his essays for admission due to the positive influence it has made in his life. I truly appreciate all you do for teens and adults navigating life with stuttering.”

-Maria N.


“HCRI and Dr. Webster have helped thousands in 50 years. I am one of these individuals whose life has changed! From my first time in 2002 to the refreshers I religiously attended, you have given me the tools to go after jobs and opportunities I never thought possible. Dr. Webster and HCRI are our King Midas!  What you touched turned gold; and for that, we say: to the next 50 years!”

-Joel S.


“I would like to congratulate you on HCRI’s 50th anniversary!  I can never thank you enough for changing my life with your program. And, I’m sure there are countless others who feel the same. Although I did not get to meet you during my time at HCRI, it was clear to see that you and your staff care about each and every one of your clients that come through. HCRI was a godsend for me. It gave me a gift that I never that was possible.  Since leaving HCRI, I have never talked more in my life and have wanted to be involved in more activities due to my fluency.  Thanks to your hard work and dedication, I am able to communicate effectively and let my opinions be heard. I cannot fully express my gratitude.”

-Matt J.



About HCRI

Since its doors opened in 1972, Virginia-based HCRI, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, has become a leader in stuttering research and the development of innovative, scientifically derived therapy approaches.

Specially trained clinicians at HCRI have treated more than 7,000 individuals who stutter. Clients come from all walks of life and include broadcasters, teachers, engineers, musicians, students, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, a supreme court nominee, and even royalty.

HCRI is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at (540) 265-5650 or info@stuttering.org.


Jean DePiro Overcame Stuttering’s Debilitating Impact and Found Her Voice


Music served as a refuge for the young, gifted Jean DePiro who began stuttering before she entered grade school. To escape the relentless taunting from classmates and siblings, Jean would spend time alone playing piano and listening to music. She would also sing to herself, since the physical properties that drive stuttering are typically not present when someone sings.

While growing up, Jean’s stuttering inhibited her from participating in classroom discussions, making new friends, and engaging in social activities. Her speech condition eroded her confidence and made her reclusive.

Jean DePiro Overcame Stuttering
Jean DePiro

“As a massive stutterer, I was miserable. I couldn’t pick up the phone and say hello. I couldn’t communicate with others. And, I simply shut down. Music was my only joy,” she said.

That all changed when Jean turned 17. Her parents learned about the pioneering work in stuttering therapy at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI). HCRI’s research scientists had identified a new way to view and treat stuttering. The result was a transforming, immersion therapy that systematically teaches individuals how to use speech muscles in new ways to control stuttering and speak fluently.

Jean enrolled in the nonprofit center’s three-week program and began therapy with 10 other participants from across the country. She worked intensely each day under the guidance of the center’s clinicians. Her efforts paid off. By the end of treatment, Jean was able to speak fluently for the first time in her life. In addition, she was amazed by her ability to talk with ease when standing in front of other participants. Prior to HCRI, speaking before a group was a terrifying concept.

“I was in tears by what I had accomplished,” Jean explained. “When you struggle with stuttering for so many years and have it resolved in such a short time, it is an overwhelming experience.”

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., “HCRI therapy is founded on science and tested with thousands of cases. Clients learn step-by-step exactly what they need to do with their speech muscles to achieve fluency. They are instructed by specially trained clinicians and use HCRI’s proprietary technology to make fluency acquisition easier, precise and long lasting.”

HCRI’s program, which is now 12 days in length, is effective across a wide range of stuttering types and severities. It yields proven, quantitative fluency outcomes. Research demonstrates that 93% of participants achieve fluent speech by the end of treatment and 75% sustain their fluency when evaluated two years later.

After Jean returned home from HCRI, she felt a new sense of freedom and potential. “My experience with HCRI therapy was life-changing,” she said. “For so long, I didn’t have a voice. Thanks to HCRI, now I do and I love to talk.”

More than three decades later, Jean continues to use the fluency skills she learned at HCRI. Her speech never holds her back from anything she wants to do. Music continues to play an important role in her life. She serves as the music director for a popular theatre house, as well as a church choir director and organist, while working in Revenue Cycle Training at the University of Virginia Hospital.

Moreover, she used her journey from stuttering to fluency to inspire a student she met at the University of Virginia. She shared her story and encouraged the student to seek HCRI stuttering treatment to help him realize his career dreams. He took her advice and is facing a future filled with opportunities through fluency.


About HCRI

HCRI was founded by Ronald L Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Virginia-based HCRI, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of scientifically derived therapy approaches.

More than 6,500 people from across the U.S. and 50 countries have come to HCRI for stuttering treatment. Clients come from all walks of life and include teachers, business professionals, athletes, broadcasters, engineers, musicians, students, doctors, military personnel, police officers, actors, a Supreme Court nominee, and even royalty.

HCRI is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at (540) 265-5650.

How Mountain Climbing, World Travel and HCRI Stuttering Therapy Helped This Attorney Achieve Fluency

Attorney and mountain climber Leigh P. Bennett of Edmonds, Washington has stuttered since he uttered his first sentence. Yet, he considers himself lucky to have dealt with the challenge of stuttering at such a young age.

During school and into adult life, Leigh regularly faced difficult situations and frustration because of the way he talked. Though, he believes his speech condition served as the impetus to develop a can-do attitude, courage, and emotional strength early in life. These traits have stayed with him through the years, enabling him to thrive professionally and personally.

“My stuttering was ever-present for as long as I can remember. While it got in the way whenever I spoke, I was determined to stay positive and become stronger because of it,” Leigh said.

Stuttering affects three million people in the U.S. and 66 million worldwide, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Stuttering ranges in severity and often hampers educational and career aspirations, inhibits social growth, and serves as a barrier to people reaching their full potential in life.

From Stuttering to Fluency

Leigh’s journey to fluency included a gamut of unsuccessful treatment attempts that included speech therapy in elementary school, unproductive sessions with a psychologist, and visits to a speech clinic once every two weeks during high school. None of these efforts produced results.

Leigh P. Bennett
Leigh P. Bennett

After high school, Leigh went to college and also became an avid mountain climber and windsurfer. His outdoor activities required significant mental focus, training, self-control, and self-reliance. He learned how to manage his fear and maintain a sense of calm, as he scaled summits, traversed rough waters, and achieved each new goal he set for himself.

At the time, he didn’t consider that these carefully honed skills would help him on the path to fluency.

Upon graduation, Leigh traveled the world and grew even more self-assured. He also ran his own mountaineering school. Yet, he knew he needed to bring his stuttering under control to pursue the next chapter in his life.

Then, he learned about the unique behavioral stuttering therapy provided by Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) in Roanoke, Virginia. He was drawn to HCRI’s physically based approach, scientifically derived methodology and intensity of therapy. The treatment strategy made sense to him and he enrolled in the stuttering therapy program.

HCRI Therapy Participation

At HCRI, Leigh worked one-on-one with specially trained clinicians and systematically learned how to replace faulty muscle behaviors that cause stuttering with new speech motor skills that enable fluency. His can-do attitude, strong self-reliance, and ability to adapt – which were skills he cultivated through his outdoor sports and independent travels – served him well in achieving success during therapy.

According to HCRI Founder and President Dr. Ron Webster, “Our physically based therapy takes hard work, focus and total commitment to the process. Clients who give 110 percent leave with the knowledge and techniques they need to take control of their stuttering and remain fluent for life.”

Research shows that 93 percent of HCRI therapy program participants achieve fluency by the end of treatment. Follow-up studies reveal 75 percent retain fluency for the long term. “Our results are in stark contrast to other speech therapy approaches that work in only 25 percent of cases,” Webster noted.

New Opportunities through Fluency

After attending HCRI, Leigh was able to manage his stuttering for the first time in his life. “HCRI treatment provided me with the tools I needed to speak fluently,” Leigh explained. “When I would start stuttering in stressful situations, I knew just what I needed to do to regulate my speech.”

With his newly acquired fluency, Leigh decided to go to law school, become an attorney in Edmonds, and follow in his father’s respected footsteps. Today, Leigh has a busy law practice with his brother, Peter W. Bennett, and is carrying on his father’s legacy at his Bennett and Bennett law firm. He specializes in estate planning, elder law, trusts, Medicaid planning, real estate law, and other related legal services. Leigh is a member of the Washington State Bar Association, board member of the Hubbard Family Foundation, member of the Everett Mountaineers, and a ski instructor.

He believes that success requires an individual to proactively take control of his or her life and “make things happen.” Leigh attributes his ability to overcome stuttering to having the right attitude, learning from his experiences, and getting the right stuttering treatment.

About HCRI

Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) was founded by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Virginia-based HCRI, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of innovative, scientifically based therapy approaches. HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,500 individuals from across the U.S. and 50 countries. The center is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at (540) 265-5650 (toll-free) or admin@stuttering.org.

About Bennett and Bennett

The Bennett and Bennett partnership was founded in 1988 by brothers Leigh P. Bennett and Peter W. Bennett in Edmonds, Washington, The goal of the law firm is to guide clients successfully through the often complex processes of estate planning, probate, trusts, elder law, real estate law, and related legal matters – and to make the process educational, practical, and cost effective. Bennett and Bennett is located at 400 Dayton, Suite A, Edmonds, Wash. 98020. For more information, visit www.edmondslaw.com, call 425-776-0139, or send an email to bb@edmondslaw.com.