1931 - 2014

James LeRoy “Red” Aten, Ph.D. (SPPA ’68)

Aten, James “Red” LeRoy, Ph.D., a very well-loved speech-language pathologist of Laguna Beach, CA, died on his 83rd birthday on Sunday, November 9, 2014, from natural causes following a series of strokes.Dr. Aten was born in Monmouth, IL in 1931. He graduated from Roseville High School in 1949, where he participated in track, football, basketball, chorus, theater and reporting for the school newspaper. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1951 and later joined the US Naval Flight Program in Pensacola, FL. He served as a radio operator and a Navy pilot, landing on carriers via SNJ-5 and SNJ-6 airplanes during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged in 1955.

He attended the University of Redlands concurrent with his military service, graduating in 1953 with a BA in psychology and MA in speech pathology in 1956. He lettered in track as a pole vaulter, belonged to the ski club and participated in theater as an actor. He was a proud member of the Pi Chi fraternity, where he helped build their first frat house in 1951, and belonged to a group called the “Bulldogs,” who still gather annually to celebrate their decades-long fellowship. He loved his alma mater, where he received “an education to be proud of.”

In September 1955, he married Nadine Malbeck from Pensacola, FL and his first child, Steve, was born in August, 1956. Ambitious as ever, he concluded his Ph.D. in speech-language pathology at the University of Washington in 1960, while contributing to the creation of daughters, Taryn and Lisa in his spare time. He received a post-doctoral internship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and finished his residency in 1968.

His speech pathologist career spanned over 50 years, beginning at San Jose State College as a speech pathology clinical director and assistant professor. Highlights of his profession included speech pathology positions at the Seattle VA Medical Center, associate professor and clinical director at San Jose State University, and as a tenured associate professor at the University of Denver. In 1992, he retired as the chief of speech pathology and audiology at the Long Beach VA Hospital. He continued with consulting and in private practice after his retirement.

Dr. Aten served as a consultant to the cleft palate team at Children’s Hospital and Craig Rehabilitation in Denver, CO; neuro-care speech-language pathologist for traumatic brain-injured; instructor and curriculum advisor at California State University, Long Beach; associate clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine, Division of Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery; and on the advisory board for the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at Chapman College.

He was a prolific author in his field, and remained involved in many professional activities until a stroke disabled him with the same neurological conditions suffered by many of the patients he treated over the years. His final accomplishment in 2014 was the completion of life-long career project, The Denver Auditory Phoneme Sequencing Test, published in collaboration and with the exceptional talents of colleague Dr. Deborah Swain.

Jim had great balance in his life. He loved his kids, his friends, his faith, Bible study, his “probability seminar” (poker group), fishing, traveling the world, tennis, skiing-and it’s no secret-more than his fair share of interesting girlfriends. He was so well-skilled at Happy Hour that he found his eldest daughter a husband. In a bar. In Alaska.

He was involved with St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Laguna Beach and contributed to many charitable organizations. If you needed a hand, Jim was always willing to help. Never idle, he worked hard all of his life, from picking potatoes and laying bricks, to being a mailman to pay his way through college. Always be kind to your mail carrier.

He is survived by his son, Steve Aten of Denver, CO; daughter, Taryn and son-in-law Todd Armstrong of Soldotna, AK; and daughter, Lisa Aten of Richland, WA.

Dr. Aten donated his body to the University of California, Irvine, Willed Body Program, for educational purposes. Many thanks go out to his supportive friends and colleagues, especially to Dr. Betty McMicken, who stepped up with unparalleled compassion and professionalism to assist with Jim’s post-stroke disabilities. Dr. Daniel Boone was a force of incredible influence more than once, by way of recommendations, for Jim’s advancement in the speech-language pathology profession. To those positive people trekking along with Jim’s life path, he has before, and would now, express eternal gratitude.

Memorial Donations can be made to the Truesdail Center at the University of Redlands in Jim Aten’s name. No service is planned at this time.


Published in Orange County Register from Nov. 16 to Nov. 23, 2014.