Home away from home

How ISTAR’s clients became part of the family

AnneMarie Aguilar - 31 May 2021

For years, when clients visited the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) for intensive speech therapy, Julia Boberg’s smile was the first thing they saw when they opened the door. She helped them feel at home. 

Which made sense, since she was family. 

Julia’s husband, Einer Boberg, founded ISTAR in 1986. His own experience with stuttering inspired him to pursue a career in speech-language pathology to understand what caused stuttering and help others who were suffering. 

“I didn’t know anyone who stuttered before I met Einer,” Julia says. “Seeing how stuttering affected him has given me a great sympathy for people who stutter. I understand the bravery it takes to work to gain control of their speech.” 

Einer and Julia built ISTAR with the help of Deborah Kully, a student clinician who later became clinic coordinator. Together they made the institute a world-renowned centre of excellence in stuttering treatment and research. Julia worked as office manager for 14 years and served as a member of the ISTAR Foundation’s board of directors for 34 years, only retiring in the fall of 2020. “I always found it fascinating, meeting clients and seeing the difference receiving therapy can have in a person’s life,” she says. “It completely transforms them.” 

In her time as office manager, Julia saw how hard the clinicians and volunteers were working, but didn’t realize the impact she also had on clients. Many of them were anxious about starting treatment, but Julia’s warmth and smile made people feel at home. 

“I remember the wonderful atmosphere and feeling of cooperation, and determination,” she says. “Everyone working together, doing the best we can for all of ISTAR’s clients.” 

Einer passed away in 1995 but ISTAR remains close to Julia's heart. Now retired from the Foundation board, she continues to attend as many of the client final speech presentations as she can. And four years ago, Julia and her son, Peter, created the Dr Einer Boberg Memorial Endowment, which provides additional financial support to clients so that they can access treatment programs at ISTAR.

“Once you get help from a program like ISTAR, you feel devoted to it,” says Julia. “The clients and the clinicians, they’re like family. Everyone comes together to create a warm community that carries on.” 

Read more: One man's love created a legacy