Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University is a federally chartered, quasi-governmental university for the education of the deaf and hard-of-hearing, located in Washington, D.C. It was the first school for the advanced education of the deaf and hard-of-hearing in the world, and is still the world's only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. The university was named after Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a notable figure in the advancement of deaf education.

Gallaudet University is a bilingual community in which American Sign Language (ASL) and English exist side-by-side. While there are no specific ASL requirements for undergraduate admission, many graduate programs have sign language proficiency requirements.


In 1856, philanthropist and former United States Postmaster General Amos Kendall became aware of several deaf and blind children in Washington, DC who were not receiving proper care. Kendall had the courts declare the children to be his wards, and donated two acres of his land to establish housing and a school for them.

In 1857, the 34th Congress passed HR 806, which chartered Kendall's school as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind and provided funding for the tuition of indigent deaf, dumb, or blind children belonging to the District.

In 1864, the 38th Congress authorized the Institution to grant and confirm college degrees.

In 1865, the 38th Congress removed the instruction that the Institution was to educate the blind, and renamed it the "Columbia Institution for the instruction of the Deaf and Dumb"

In 1954, Congress amended the charter of the Institution and changed the corporate name to "Gallaudet College" to match the name that had been the official name of the collegiate department since 1894.

In 1986, Congress again amended the charter of the Institution, and renamed it "Gallaudet University".


Deaf President Now (1988)

Student strikes at Gallaudet University starting March 6, 1988 revolutionized the perception and education of Deaf culture. Deaf students were outraged at the selection of another hearing president, Elisabeth Zinser, after a long line of university presidents who were not deaf. Alumni, faculty, staff, and students demanded that the next president of the university be deaf. After a week of protest and activism, Zinser resigned and was replaced by I. King Jordan. This movement became known as Deaf President Now (DPN).

Unity for Gallaudet Movement (2006)

Dr. Jordan announced his retirement in September 2005. On May 1, 2006, the University's Board of Trustees announced that Dr. Jane K. Fernandes, the University's current provost, would be the University's next president. This was met with protests from the student body, both in person on campus and in internet blogs and forums. Initially, students cited the lack of racial diversity among finalists, Fernandes's lack of warmth, and, as The Washington Post claimed two days later, her lack of fluency in American Sign Language.

Dr. Jordan publicly accused some critics of rejecting Dr. Fernandes because "she is not deaf enough." He described the protest as "identity politics," saying, "We are squabbling about what it means to be deaf.

The Washington Post reported that Fernandes "would like to see the institution become more inclusive of people who might not have grown up using sign language," stating that Gallaudet must embrace "all kinds of deaf people. Those who opposed her, said that they feared a "weakening of American Sign Language at an institution that should be its standard-bearer.

Protesters said Fernandes distorted their arguments, and the protest centered on her inability to lead, an unfair selection process and longstanding problems at the school.

In the spring 2006 protest, students blocked entrances to the Gallaudet campus, held rallies, and set up tents near the University's main entrance. Fernandes, appointed to serve as president-designate until Jordan retired, promised that she would not step down. On May 8, the faculty gave a vote of no confidence for Dr. Fernandes.

When the fall 2006 academic year resumed, some students, faculty, staff, and alumni continued their protest, calling for Fernandes to step down and the for the presidential search to be done again. On October 11, a group of protesting students shut down the campus. On October 16 at a regularly scheduled meeting, faculty members voted 138-24 to block Dr. Fernandes from becoming president of Gallaudet University.

Jane Fernandes said, "I really don't understand. So I have to believe it's not about me .. I believe it's about evolution and change and growth in the deaf community.

On October 29, the university withdrew the appointment of Jane Fernandes. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, former President Jordan defended Fernandes' remarks and denounced the board's decision and the actions of the protesters, saying "I am convinced that the board made a serious error in acceding to the demands of the protesters by terminating Fernandes's presidency before it began."

On December 10, 2006, the Board of Trustees announced that Robert Davila would serve as interim president for a period of up to two years. He was formally installed on May 9, 2007, during a ceremony that included a speech by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who spoke positively of the 2006 protest.


On June 29, 2007, in the aftermath of the controversy over the university's presidency, Gallaudet was temporarily placed on probation by its accreditation organization, the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

The Washington Post reported that the Middle States Commission (MSC) cited concerns about deficiencies in standards for leadership, academic rigor, student retention and integrity that must be resolved for the school to maintain accreditation. The newspaper noted that in 2006 the Office of Management and Budget had reported that "Gallaudet failed to meet its goals or showed declining performance in key areas, including the number of students who stay in school, graduate and either pursue graduate degrees or find jobs upon graduation." According to the article, if the school should become unaccredited, students would become ineligible to receive federal loans and could be unable to transfer credits to other schools, while the school might lose its federal government funding of $108 million per year. In January 2007, former president Jordan wrote an editorial on the topic that appeared in the Washington Post.

The Middle States Commission reaffirmed Gallaudet's accreditation on June 27, 2008

Federal involvement

The university acknowledges that it "is a congressionally created corporation that serves governmental objectives." The university and the Department of Education explain that Gallaudet has been structured by the Federal Government to take the form of a "federally chartered, private, non-profit educational institution." The federal government plays various roles within the institution:

  • Congress incorporated the Columbia institution in 1857, significantly amended its charter in 1954 and authorizing permanent congressional appropriations. In 1986, Congress passed the Education of the Deaf Act and amended it in 1992. These Congressional acts are part of "the supreme law of Gallaudet University.
  • Gallaudet must obtain authorization from the Secretary of the US Department of Education in order to sell or transfer title of any of its real property
  • The diplomas of all Gallaudet graduates are signed by the current U.S. President.
  • Three members of Congress are appointed to the university's Board of Trustees as "Public Members.
  • Gallaudet must provide annual reports to the Secretary of Education.
  • "Gallaudet receives the bulk of its income in the form of an annual appropriation from Congress, and the Department of Education oversees the University's appropriation for the Federal government.

Gallaudet's Fifty-Fifth Annual Report contains an appendix that includes the text of 99 Federal Acts related to Gallaudet/Columbia which were enacted between 1857 and 1912.

Visits to Gallaudet by U.S. Presidents

  • President Ulysses S. Grant, 1870 , 1871
  • President Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877, , 1878 , 1879 and 1880
  • President James A. Garfield, 1881.
  • President Chester A. Arthur, 1882.
  • President President Benjamin Harrison, 1889.
  • President Theodore Roosevelt, 1906.
  • President Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1964 , and 1966
  • President William J. Clinton, 1994.

Mentions of Gallaudet in Speeches and Messages of US Presidents

  • President William McKinley, Jr, Message, 1897.
  • President Herbert Hoover, Special Message to Congress, December 9, 1932.
  • President Franklin Roosevelt, Message to Congress, April 11, 1940.
  • President Harry S. Truman, Message to Congress, January 10th, 1947.
  • President Harry S. Truman, Message to Congress, January 10th, 1949.
  • President Harry S. Truman, Message to Congress, January 9th, 1953.
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Message to Congress, January 21st, 1954.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks, December 17th, 1964.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks, June 8th, 1965.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks, August 25th, 1966.
  • President Ronald Reagan, Statement, August 4, 1986.
  • President George H.W. Bush, Announcement, April 25th, 1989.
  • President George H.W. Bush, Proclamation, March 13th, 1990.
  • President William J. Clinton, Remarks, July 27, 1994 and also
  • President William J. Clinton, Proclamation, September 30th, 1994.
  • President William J. Clinton, Statement, January 6, 1996.
  • President William J. Clinton, Remarks, June 22nd, 1996 and also June 24th, 1996.
  • President William J. Clinton, Remarks, February 21st, 1997,
  • President William J. Clinton, Statement, October 7th, 1998.
  • President William J. Clinton, Remarks, September 21st, 2000.
  • President William J. Clinton, Remarks, January 8th, 2001.

Designations of Gallaudet on Historic Registries and Surveys

  • National Register of Historic Places (added in 1974). Gallaudet College Historic District
  • District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites (listings added in 1964 and 1973).

"...well-preserved romantic landscape campus designed in 1866 by Olmsted, Vaux & Co. (on site of estate named Kendall Green); includes excellent examples of High Victorian Gothic collegiate architecture; monument to founder Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, pioneer educator of the deaf (Daniel Chester French, sculptor); includes approximately 10 buildings c. 1866-1885..."

  • National Historic Landmarks designation (added 1965).
  • Historic American Buildings Survey (added 1933).

See also: Francis R. Kowsky's two books: "College Hall at Gallaudet College" and "Gallaudet College: A High Victorian Campus".

Kowsky, Francis R., "College Hall at Gallaudet College," Records of the Columbia Historical Society 50 (1980), 279-289

Kowsky, Francis R., "Gallaudet College: A High Victorian Campus," Records of the Columbia Historical Society 48 (1971-1972), 439-467


Gallaudet is a member of NCAA Division III and the Capital Athletic Conference. The Bison compete in baseball, basketball, cross country running, football, indoor and outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, volleyball, and wrestling. Their colors are buff and blue.


The football huddle originated at Gallaudet when the team noticed that their opponents were trying to see and read their signs in order to try to guess their plays.

After an undefeated season in 2005, which was achieved after 122 years, head coach Ed Hottle began his campaign to return to the NCAA ranks. With support from the Gallaudet administration, the Bison played their last season of club football in 2006 and will play a full NCAA slate of eight games in 2007.


In 2006, the Gallaudet women's volleyball team ended their season 30-10 after a history-making run to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Division III tournament. Tamijo Foronda, a senior outside hitter, was named to the AVCA All-American Team.

Noted athletes

Gallaudet University, which plays in the NCAA-III division in all sports, has had its share of students that went to notably in a range of sports. Such athletes are:

  • Richard Jacobs, member of the national US Team Handball squad, with several international games to his credit; was one of the last cuts with the US Olympic Team Handball squad
  • Dawn Birley, certified as Olympic-eligible, won several national Canadian TaeKwonDo championships; she didn't make it to the Olympics only because Canada was not one of the invited nations in this event
  • Denny Guinn, also another Canadian, was the nation's top ranked Air Pistol shooter; while representing Gallaudet at the National Collegiate Shooting championship, finished #1 in the nation, despite having to practice at a shooting range, off campus because of safety concerns
  • Marvin Marshall won the Washington, DC local Golden Gloves boxing championship and took part at the national Golden Gloves championship; had over 500 amateur bouts in his boxing career
  • Gillian Hall was a Connecticut state synchronized swimming champion


The Gallaudet Research Institute (GRI) is internationally recognized for its leadership in deafness-related research. GRI researchers gather and analyze data concerning the social, academic, and perceptual characteristics of deaf and hard of hearing populations, primarily to provide information needed by educators in the field. Staff are skilled in various research methodologies including surveys, test norming and assessment, ethnographic studies, clinical studies, and information management.

Graduates in Gallaudet's early history


"America does mean opportunity. But it was not until 1864 that that great principle found illustration in a college for the training of the deaf. A German writer, commenting upon American literature, declares that the central note in it, the special characteristic of all our great writers, has been idealism--high and lofty idealism. And he says it is no wonder that Longfellow's poem 'Excelsior' was written by an American, because the excelsior note is the dominant note in American literature. This college, ladies and gentlemen, is 'Excelsior' wrought into an institution. It stands for justice, not charity. This college, and this college alone stands for the principle that a limitation upon one faculty shall not be a limitation upon all faculties, but rather a challenge to all faculties. It stands for the principle that the men and women who enter here shall see before them the same shining goal that beckons to the men and women who enter other colleges. It stands for the principle that the human mind, if compassed by eternal silence, shall be compassed also by eternal truth."--C. Alphonso Smith, from address given on Presentation Day at Gallaudet, May 6, 1914.

"In an age of improvement like the present, society does not rest satisfied with the achievement of mere essentials. The genius of civilization demands progress until absolute perfection is attained."--Edward Miner Gallaudet, 1867.

"Columbia Institution for the Deaf" was the corporate name for what is now Gallaudet University. In 1954 a law was passed, changing the corporate name to "Gallaudet College." (The collegiate department of the Columbia Institution had gone by the name "Gallaudet College" since 1894.) In 1986 another law was passed, changing the name to "Gallaudet University."

Year-by-year chronology of notable events

The Columbia Institution began as a grammar school in 1857, then added a college department in 1864.

First Decade of Existence

1857-1858: The school was established with considerable efforts being made by several concerned citizens of Washington, D.C. Two houses were used, one purchased, and one rented.

The First Annual Report was submitted to the Secretary of the Interior on November 1, 1858.

1858-1859: The school's second full year of operation. During the year, 14 deaf students were in attendance, as well as 7 blind students. Superintendent Gallaudet, anticipating the future growth of the school, requests money for more buildings, lamenting the fact that the money wasn't issued in the year prior, due to federal budget problems.

The Second Annual Report was submitted on November 5, 1859.

1859-1860: President Kendall beseeches the federal government for funds to relocate the school to more spacious grounds. Superintendent Gallaudet praises President Kendall for having donated money to construct a new brick building, yet reports that both school buildings are already at capacity. There were 24 deaf students, necessitating the need for a second teacher of the deaf. The teacher of the 6 blind students, Mrs. Eddy, resigned due to health concerns.

The Third Annual Report was submitted on November 5, 1860.

1860-1861: The Civil War had been in progress for over six months, but Superintendent Gallaudet reports that the students are safe and free from fear. There were 35 deaf students and 6 blind students in attendance during the academic year. An art teacher was hired for the first time. A committee inspected the school and gave a report, which is included. Sample essays written by congenitally deaf students are also included.

The Fourth Annual Report was submitted on November 5, 1861.

1861-1862: Supt. Gallaudet explains that new moneys provided for industrial education were used to rent a nearby shop in order to teach cabinet-making to the boys. Plans were underway to construct a new building using $9000 that Congress appropriated. There were 35 deaf students and 6 blind students. During vacation in August a regiment of troops used the brick building for a hospital, and some of the students who stayed over the summer helped with tending to the sick soldiers. One soldier died.

For the first time, Supt. Gallaudet proposes expanding the school to create a college for deaf students. An examining committee gives a report and student writing samples are included.

The Fifth Annual Report was submitted on November 3, 1862.

1862-1863: Even with new construction completed, the school is still at capacity and more money is needed to purchase 13 acres of adjoining land and then build even more buildings. Supt. Gallaudet asks for money to pipe in water from the river, the existing cistern and well being inadequate to the school's needs. President Kendall praises the school's matron, Mrs. Sophia Gallaudet (the superintendent's mother) for the fact that not a single student has died during the entire course of the school's existence.

The Sixth Annual Report was submitted on October 15, 1863.

1863-1864: For the first time, college-level classes are offered, the new collegiate department representing what will later expand to become Gallaudet College and later Gallaudet University. Congress approved of Columbia granting college degrees, and an enabling act for the college was passed and approved by President Lincoln. An elaborate inauguration ceremony was held in June with Laurent Clerc in attendance. A complete transcript of the Gallaudet's and Clerc's addresses is included.

Two students had died, one from illness while on vacation, and another was struck by a train.

Fourteen acres of land was purchased with money supplied by the government. Supt. Gallaudet has been promoted to President of the institution and he presses hard for more money to expand and build new buildings.

President Gallaudet proposes ceasing services for blind students, saying that the small number of blind students would be better served at the school for the blind in Baltimore.

The Seventh Annual Report was submitted on November 17, 1864.

1864-1865: The enrollment numbers are increasing rapidly with more increases on the horizon. President Gallaudet asks the government for money to accomplish several projects, including the construction of an ice house and a gas house, sewer lines, and more. Major construction is continuing. The name of the collegiate department is changed to "National Deaf-Mute College." The blind students are transferred to a school in Baltimore. Passing reference is made to the end of the Civil War, but no mention is made of the assassination of President Lincoln which occurred in April during the school year--the first year of operation of the college department.

The Eighth Annual Report was submitted on November 6, 1865.

1865-1866: President Gallaudet responds to criticism from supporters of the oral method in Massachusetts and explains that oral instruction is usually of little value to congenitally deaf children. He proposes that a representative of the school be sent to Europe to study the methods employed there, in order to determine which types of instructional methods might be added to those methods already being used successfully at the Columbia Institution and other American schools. Combined enrollment of all levels of instruction, including the collegiate level, exceeds 100 for the first time. There are 25 students enrolled in the college, including students from 14 states of all parts of the Union. Sophia Gallaudet, the widow of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and the matron of the school, tendered her resignation. Edward Allen Fay joins the faculty as a professor of history, having learned to sign as a child.

The Ninth Annual Report was submitted on November 6, 1866.

1866-1867: Two students died tragically while swimming in the Potomac with large group of students. The building for the primary school is extended and sickness is thereby reduced. A mathematics professor is hired for the first time. More money is needed to accommodate additional students expected to swell the ranks of the school.

President Gallaudet gives a lengthy account of his travels to Europe and is very critical in his comments of the extent to which speech is taught to deaf children in European schools for the deaf. Nevertheless, he recommends that a limited amount of speech training be afforded to deaf students in America to those who show they can benefit.

Gallaudet's travels took him to: Doncaster, England; Birmingham, England; Manchester, England; Liverpool, England; Glasgow, Scotland; Belfast, Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Geneva, Switzerland; Nancy, France, Saint Hypolite Du-Fort, France; Vienna, Austria; Leipsic, Saxony (Leipzig, Germany); Lubec (Lübeck, Germany); Frankfort On-the-Main (Frankfurt am Main, Germany); Brussels, Belgiam; Zürich, Switzerland; Rotterdam, Holland; Paris, France; Weissenfels, Prussia (Weißenfels, Germany); Prague, Bohemia; (Prague, Czech Republic); Berlin, Prussia (Berlin, Germany); Milan, Italy; Genoa, Italy; Turin, Italy; Dresden, Saxony (Dresden, Germany); London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Bordeaux, France; Marseilles, France; Munich, Bavaria (Munich, Germany); Bruges, Belgium; St. Petersburg, Russia; Abo, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Tenth Annual Report was submitted on October 28, 1867.

Second Decade

1867-1868: The biggest educational conference in the then-history of deaf education was held during the month of May 1868 in Washington, D.C., largely made up of principals of schools for the deaf. Fourteen schools for the deaf were represented from 22 different states. The chief topic of discussion was the recommendations put forth by Edward Gallaudet regarding adding articulation lessons to schools' curricula.

The Eleventh Annual Report was submitted on October 26, 1868.

1868-1869: James Henry Logan, John Burton Hotchkiss, and Joseph Griffin Parkinson became the first three students to complete a full course of college studies, all graduating with bachelor's degrees.

The Twelfth Annual Report was submitted on October 20, 1869.

1869-1870: The esteemed founder of the school, Amos Kendall, died in November of 1869. President Gallaudet delivered a eulogy at the board meeting in January. The main central building was partially completed, with rooms in the basement and on the first floor first being used. Plans were being made to purchase Amos Kendall's estate, which adjoined the grounds of the school. President Gallaudet cautioned Congress that Kendall's heirs had plans to subdivide the property if it was not sold to Columbia, and hence the land would never again become available for purchase as a whole.

The Thirteenth Annual Report was submitted on October 29, 1870.

See also


External links



Presidential search controversy-related

  • Washington Post coverage of the controversy
  • Chronicles of Deaf Higher Education: Search for the Next Gallaudet President
  • (Washington, D.C. based website featuring deaf writers)
  • Joey Baer's website (Northern California based website featuring videos in sign language)
  • Telecom Foundation For The Deaf ("Handhelds and Gallaudet Protesters") Cindy Greatrex

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