Called to Help
Morgan Davies brings services to deaf children and their families.
While many of her peers changed majors at least once during their undergraduate years at TCU, Morgan “Joey” Davies ’12 stepped onto campus the first day of her first year knowing that she wanted to work with the deaf.
After earning an undergraduate degree in deaf & hard of hearing studies, Davies completed a master’s in deaf education at Columbia University. She eventually earned a doctorate from the University of Houston. All the while, her passion for working with special-needs children grew, culminating with the launch of the Davies Institute for Speech and Hearing in suburban Houston in 2022.
The Davies Institute takes a whole-family approach to supporting children. Staff members offer hearing screenings, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, education and more. Parents and caretakers learn how to increase their children’s learning at home.
“I hated going to bed at night thinking no one else in our area was doing what I wanted to do for these kids,” Davies said. “I could wait 10, 20, 30 years for someone to come up with a similar business plan, but I knew I’d be a prouder version of myself if I at least tried.”
Finding Her Passion
Davies’ journey began in high school in Katy, Texas, where she decided to take American Sign Language “for an easy A.” To her surprise, the school’s new sign-language teacher had attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., arguably the nation’s premier institution of higher learning for the deaf and hard of hearing. She soon found herself hooked on a class that demanded concentration and commitment.
“I would stay after school to talk with the teacher about Deaf culture, accessibility with hearing loss and so much more,” said Davies, who founded the high school’s American Sign Language club. Among other activities, its members would sign the national anthem at school sporting events.
In 2008, Davies moved into TCU’s Colby Hall with a roommate she’d met at Frog Camp.
Davies loved that she received plenty of individualized attention from her professors. Among them was Teresa Gonzalez, an assistant professor of professional practice who teaches sign language. Davies described “Miss G” as one of her most demanding but impactful professors.
“I’ve always done better in small situations, and I’d always wanted one-on-one relationships with my professors,” she said. “TCU gave me that.”
Davies also relished working with young clients at TCU’s Miller Speech and Hearing Clinic. The on-campus clinic provides speech and language services to children starting at age 18 months; it also serves adults.
Love of Learning
A few months after graduating, Davies headed to New York City to begin work on a master’s degree in deaf education. Columbia’s program is considered among the best in the nation; Davies felt well-prepared for its rigors.
Her work at the Clarke School for Speech and Hearing on Manhattan’s Upper East Side sparked an interest in hearing aids. Children aren’t eligible to receive cochlear implants until they stop growing. Instead, they can use a temporary aid that sits on a headband behind the ear, sending signals to the brain through vibrations.
“The science fascinated me,” Davies said. “And working with children was as rewarding as I’d expected.”
Armed with a master’s degree, she returned to her hometown of Katy to work at an audiology office. She remained on the job even after she began pursuing a doctorate in professional leadership, specializing in curriculum and instruction, at the University of Houston. The program was geared toward health care professionals seeking to open or manage an office or clinic. She graduated in May 2021.
A year later, she founded the Davies Institute for Speech and Hearing, modeled in part on the Clarke curriculum. The institute welcomed its first clients in September 2022.
Children between 12 months and 5 years attend preschool at the Davies Institute. To qualify for enrollment, a child must be deaf, be hard of hearing or have severe language delays.
Many of the preschool students, as well as older children, also go to the development center for speech therapy, occupational therapy and educational diagnostics. An on-staff audiologist, meanwhile, provides early intervention such as hearing aids, hearing protection and custom ear molds.
“What she has created over there in Katy is much like what we have [at the Miller Speech and Hearing Clinic at TCU],” Gonzalez said. “I tell her every time I see her that I am so proud of her.”
The Houston metro area is home to the Texas Hearing Institute, which has a school in the south central part of the city. The nonprofit quickly began referring clients to the Davies Institute, particularly those families who live in closer proximity to Katy, situated to the west.
“Distance to services is critical,” said Emily Lund, associate professor at the Davies School of Communication Sciences and Disorders and associate dean for research at the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences. “In a place like Houston, if you drive across town, it might be the same as living a hundred miles away in terms of taking you that long to get where you’re going.”
Lund’s ongoing research tracks access to services for deaf children in rural Texas.
“We know the earlier you intervene with children with hearing loss the better, and the more support the better, particularly with people who are trained with a pediatric population,” she said.
Davies notes that as many as 2 out of 5 deaf or hard-of-hearing children also have other disabilities, such as autism or ADHD. Davies and her team of 10 work with families to identify a child’s needs, then arrange for therapies and interventions. An educational specialist works with families to ensure successful placement in public schools when children age out of the institute’s classrooms.
Davies also works to engage and educate parents. Her affection and admiration for her own mother, who adopted her and her brother, Taylor, as a single parent, informs her interactions with client families.
She also recruited her mother, TCU Trustee Marilyn Davies, to the Davies Institute board of directors. Marilyn Davies serves alongside Gonzalez and Christopher Watts, professor of communication sciences and disorders who also taught the younger Davies at TCU.
“At the end of the day, what I get excited about is seeing the kids progress. We had a little girl who was nonverbal who just said the word ‘puppy.’ You could see the excitement on her face.”
The Davies family has left its philanthropic mark on TCU. In August 2021, Watts became the first Marilyn and Morgan Davies Dean of Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences thanks to a $5 million gift from the mother and daughter during TCU’s Lead On campaign.
The duo also funded the Davies Graduate Workspace in the Miller Speech and Hearing Clinic, a workroom outfitted with state-of-the-art technology unveiled in fall 2014. The space doubled the number of students that the graduate program in speech language pathology could accommodate. The Davies School of Communication Sciences & Disorders was named in the family’s honor in 2014.
Meanwhile, the only issue the Davies Institute faced out of the gate was related to space. Today, up to 20 children can enroll in the development center preschool, where the staff-student ratio is 1:6. All told, the center regularly serves 45 children; a staff audiologist works with adults, too.
With growth in mind, Davies purchased the land next door to the current building. She plans to build a four-story center with floors dedicated to classrooms, audiology, occupational and speech therapy, and administration.
“At the end of the day, what I get excited about is seeing the kids progress,” she said. “We had a little girl who was nonverbal who just said the word ‘puppy.’ You could see the excitement on her face.”