In the days following the death of Dr. Robert Sandlin on May 4, the Internet was filled with heartfelt expressions of sorrow and fond reminiscences by Bob’s countless friends and admirers.
Last week on Hearinghealthmatters.org, Wayne’s World and Hearing News Watch published tributes to him. However, in view of the continuing outpouring of tributes to this extraordinary audiologist and no less extraordinary person, we asked Michael Metz to speak with some of those who knew Dr. Sandlin best.
Mike was well qualified to do this, since he and Bob had been close friends for some 40 years, ever since they met at the Speech, Hearing and Neurosensory Center at Children’s Hospital in San Diego. They were also business partners for many years, traveling throughout California and beyond giving talks and organizing CEU meetings. Going into business together often puts a strain on friendships, but not in this case. Mike recalled:
“Bob was one of the most honest people I have ever known, not only in what he said, but also in what he did. I don’t know anyone who met Bob who didn’t admire and appreciate him. In all our conversations, he never said negative things about any colleague. Everyone loved Bob and what he did for his profession. What a wonderful legacy!”
Dr. Sandlin’s passing was felt deeply at Hearinghealthnews.org. Holly Hosford-Dunn, editor of our blog, said of her “dear personal friend”:
Bob was a great audiologist and asset to our profession, but that is only the tip of an enormous iceberg. Disregarding politics, he was the Ronald Reagan of our profession – movie star good looks, newscaster voice, never forgot his lines, a towering presence in any group.”
“Despite those assets, Bob always chose a supporting role — finding the best in people, supporting their work endeavors. He touched many in our field, and I am certain that everyone he touched remembers him vividly and fondly.”
Wayne Staab, who wrote about Bob Sandlin last week on his Wayne’s World blog, treasures his memories of his close friend of 40 years:“We had many good experiences together over the years skiing, getting soaking wet at Busch Gardens, on programs together, collaborating on books and book chapters, and the many times together at the International Hearing Aid Seminar. And we enjoyed having him and Joann [his wife] as our guests here at our home.”
Wayne especially admired his friend’s courage in the face of his failing health:
“His acceptance and humor regarding his medical condition were remarkable. When we played golf here in St. George, Utah, probably his last time ever, he joked to me that if he couldn’t get the ball on the tee after about a minute I had permission to put it there.
“All who knew Bob and how gracious he always was, will miss him greatly.”
Many of those who became close friends met Dr. Sandlin at his annual International Hearing Aid Seminar. Mike Valente, a regular speaker there, said:
“We all have many fond memories of Bob and his beautiful wife, Joann. For me, it was his gentle soul, brilliant mind, incredible sense of humor and his always being ready to offer help and advice. I always looked forward to an invitation to speak at his international conference. I remember sitting in his beautiful l house in San Diego and sipping wine and overlooking a gorgeous valley.
“However, the thing I’m most fond of is Bob sharing the book about his life that he wrote for his grandchildren so they would better know who their grandfather was. That inspired me so much that I began writing an autobiography for my two daughters.”
To Robert Sweetow, another frequent participant in the Hearing Aid Seminars, Bob Sandlin was:
“ a great mentor, friend, and professional. He gave me my first opportunity to speak to audiologists at his International Conference. He even let me score one point against him in racquetball! All of us are so much richer for being his friend. He will be sorely missed.”
Dick Scott met Dr. Sandlin in the mid-1960s at the Otologic Medical Group. Dick was working on his audiology degree and Bob had just arrived there, Wayne State doctorate in hand. He recalled:
“We were all impressed, a new PhD with a warm personality and a wonderful attitude. He had a great memory because every time we met over the next few years, he would ask if I still had the pale blue slacks I was wearing the day we met. He always asked how my son was doing, and he remembered my son’s middle name was Hunter.“
Their friendship grew during the International Hearing Aid Seminar, an annual institution whose importance Scott described:
“This was a wonderful, yearly meeting where we discussed pertinent developments in Hearing and Amplification. This was at a time when audiologists and the hearing aid dispensers were not seeing eye to eye on any subject. It took Bob to realize that both sides had something to contribute and both groups were able to present information and get to understand each other. This was unheard of at the time, and it built some interesting friendships and great information exchanges. It did not hurt that there were some of the greatest parties at these seminars.
“Bob was always at the forefront of our field. His years of contributions to the development of Widex and the information he disseminated as their international representative were beneficial to both the company and to the field. We all learned a great deal.
Among Bob Sandlin’s many audiologist friends in the San Diego area was Bob Martin, who described him as:
“…the head of our professional family: always friendly, always helpful, ready to lend a hand, quick to give support. We have lost part of our family. He was one of the ‘rocks’ in the profession. I will especially miss his strength and his warmth.”
Robert Novak said of his former colleague at San Diego State University:
“What a fine man he was, and such a force for good in our profession.”
Perhaps no audiologist knew Bob Sandlin longer than Geary McCandless, who met him in the late 1950s when they were in graduate school together at Wayne State. Geary recalled:
“As long as I’ve known him, he has never failed to show consideration and kindness to all those with whom he came in contact, and always had a positive attitude toward life and work. Bob was not only an outstanding clinician, but he had diverse professional interests, including academic presentations, research, writing, and editing.
“His annual International Hearing Aid Seminar brought together a variety of outstanding professionals worldwide. This seminar created an atmosphere not only for learning, but also for the development of friendships amongst his colleagues that have lasted throughout the years. He has been a dear friend to my wife, Marsha, and me for many years, and he will be greatly missed.”