Our History


In 1971, Dr. Einer Boberg arrived at the University of Alberta to head the new Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology.

During his first summer in Edmonton, Dr. Boberg offered an experimental three-week intensive clinic for stuttering through the University Hospitals. Sessions took place in Corbett Hall with six adult clients and two student clinicians to help. Treatment was very intensive with morning, afternoon and evening sessions. At the end, the clients and clinicians celebrated their achievements over dinner with family and friends at a nearby restaurant.

Dr. Boberg continued to hold clinics for adults each summer. He constantly improved the program on the basis of previous results, incorporating ideas and techniques from various clinics in Australia and North America. Deborah Kully, an early student clinician, played an important role in developing the program, and together with Dr. Boberg wrote The Comprehensive Stuttering Program (College Press, 1985). Deborah Kully became Clinic Coordinator in 1980 and soon began expanding services and developing and testing programs for adolescents, school aged children and preschoolers.

As word of the program's success spread, the waiting list grew to over 100 names. By 1985 it was clear that demand exceeded available facilities. Dr. Boberg approached the University Hospital and the University of Alberta to request space and funding for a year-round program. Both endorsed the idea but had neither space nor funds to offer.

Disappointed, Boberg retreated to his vacation villa in the Rocky Mountains to consider his next step. He was relaxing in a hot tub when another man joined him. Small talk revealed that the man was Don Fowler, a member of the Alberta Elks Association, looking for an Alberta project to support. Several meetings later, the national Elks Purple Cross Fund offered a start-up grant and the Alberta Elks Association made a five-year annual pledge that would cover rent of premises for the fledgling Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR). This chance meeting was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship that continues to thrive today.

ISTAR was registered as a non-profit society in December 1986 and moved into its first premises in Edmonton's Noble Building on 109 Street in February 1987. Its mandate was to provide the best possible therapy for stuttering, to conduct research into the causes and nature of stuttering, to provide advanced training to clinicians and to promote public understanding of stuttering. With the unflagging efforts of Julia Boberg as Office Manager, Deborah Kully as Clinical Director and, later, Marilyn Langevin as Clinic Coordinator, the institute's programs flourished and soon began attracting clients and trainees from across Canada and around the world. As demand for services grew, Bev Ross, Holly Lomheim and other highly talented speech-language pathologists joined the team and gave unstintingly of time and expertise to their clients and the work of ISTAR.

Sadly, Einer Boberg died in 1995, just a few months before ISTAR's move to larger and brighter space on the third floor of the former Aberhart Nurses' Residence on the U of A campus.

The grand opening of the new ISTAR offices was held November 29, 1996. The occasion marked not only the move to a larger and improved site, but also the 10th anniversary of the founding of the institute.

ISTAR has continued to flourish and to expand its international reputation as a centre of excellence in stuttering treatment and research. From the early days of one clinician and an office manager in 1986, the staff expanded over time to an executive director, research director, clinical director, 5 clinicians, and administrative assistants.

In early 2004 ISTAR accepted an invitation to become an Institute of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta, thus formalizing its long association with the University. However, ISTAR remains a self-supporting institute and must raise funds in order to continue its work.

In 2006, ISTAR opened a satellite office in Calgary in a shared space with one part-time clinician. In a few years, the office moved into a larger, dedicated space with full-time clinicians and the capacity to train graduate S-LP students.

The years of expansion were sadly halted during the pandemic that started in 2020 when both the Edmonton and Calgary offices quickly adjusted by offering all therapy via distance technology. ISTAR’s many years of innovative research, service, and training delivery using telehealth helped make this transition as painless as possible. That year was not without challenges, however, as more clients needed to access financial support at the same time that many long-time donors were similarly impacted in their capacity to help. At the end of the year, ISTAR’s Edmonton office moved from a large in-person clinic space to a more modest on-campus site nearby while the clinicians continued to work remotely.

ISTAR's staff remain absolutely committed to helping those affected by stuttering. Since 1986, thousands of stutterers of all ages and from many parts of the world have transformed their lives through therapy at the institute. Training clinicians, from the University of Alberta and elsewhere, have learned skills that enable them to conduct effective therapy thousands of miles away in their home communities. And, through hundreds of professional presentations, publications and public education initiatives in both stuttering and teasing and bullying, the effects of ISTAR have spread far and wide.

* Excerpts taken from the article A Dream, A Hot Tub and an Institute by Julia Boberg, MA, LLB, October 1998.