Dear Campus Community:

Every year, Gallaudet University selects graduating students to share personal messages about their lives and their impressions of what Gallaudet has meant to them in front of families, friends, and fellow students gathered at Commencement. It is my honor and pleasure to announce the student speakers for the 147th annual Commencement Exercises, which will be held on Friday, May 12, 2017, beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the Field House.

Franklin Roosevelt Jones, Jr., from Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in American Sign Language. He will speak on behalf of the undergraduate Class of 2017. J. Anna Lim, from Manila, Republic of the Philippines, who is graduating with a Master of Arts degree with highest honors in Linguistics, will speak on behalf of the graduate student class.

Franklin Roosevelt Jones, Jr., undergraduate student speaker

Franklin is a member of a fourth generation Black Deaf family. At South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind in Spartanburg, he was a member of the student council and of the student food committee, class president all four years of high school, a member of the school’s chapter of the National Beta Club academic honor society, and an accomplished thespian. He graduated from SCSDB as class salutatorian in 2001. However, Franklin was not encouraged to pursue a college education, so he returned home and worked for two years.

Elisa Bennie Valles, ’05 & G-’16, a lifelong classmate at SCSDB, told Franklin that he was not giving himself enough credit, and that he should go to college because he was too smart and talented not to do so. Franklin enrolled at Gallaudet in 2003, intending to major in photography. He left after one year and returned to South Carolina, once again working for two years. In 2006, he returned to Gallaudet, stayed until December 2008, and left again. After exploring his options that winter and spring, Franklin enrolled at Trident Technical College in Charleston. In December 2010, he received an Associate of Arts degree in commercial graphics and a certificate in digital photography.

Franklin was unable to secure employment in his chosen field in South Carolina. He moved to Danville, Kentucky, in the fall of 2011 and lived there for nearly three years. While there, he found his passion—teaching American Sign Language—and decided to return to Gallaudet for the third time in the fall of 2014.

Franklin majored in American Sign Language and minored in both Deaf Studies and Linguistics. With no vocational rehabilitation support, he worked to support himself during the school year and the summers. Currently, he is a Digital Media associate in the Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies. Previously, he was an American Sign Language tutor, a Recruitment student assistant in the Office of Undergraduate admissions, and a JumpStart-ASL peer counselor. This past year, he was president of the Mu Iota Chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

Franklin enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, cooking, photography, and volunteering at animal shelters. He will begin the Master of Arts in Sign Language Education program at Gallaudet on the Monday after Commencement. Long-term, Franklin hopes to become a university professor of ASL and Deaf studies, where there is very little diversity in representation in the field, and especially for someone who is a Black Deaf Gay person.

Franklin lives by this quotation about intelligence, attributed to the television personality Tabatha Coffey: “It’s trusting your gut instincts, being intuitive, thinking outside the box, and sometimes just realizing that things need to change and being smart enough to change.”

J. Anna Lim, graduate student speaker

J. Anna Lim is a master’s degree student in the Department of Linguistics. She will be that program’s third Filipinx graduate, and its first deaf Filipinx graduate. She is from Chinatown in Manila, Philippines. A member of a multigenerational deaf family, she is fluent in both English and Tagalog, the Austronesian written and spoken language used by most people in her country. She is also conversant in Nihongo, basic Japanese Sign Language, Filipino Sign Language, and American Sign Language.

Anna attended Colegio de Santa Rosa, an all-girls Catholic school in Makati City, where she was the only deaf student and received no accommodations. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2002 at Ateneo de Manila University, a private Jesuit university in Quezon City. After graduating, Anna worked as a freelance proofreader and English tutor, and studied Nihongo, the national written and spoken language of Japan. She taught Civics and Culture to elementary school students at Miriam College-Southeast Asian Institute for the Deaf in Quezon City. After that, she received training in teaching English as a second language and worked as a deaf life skills facilitator for the deaf program at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in Manila.

In late 2013, Anna moved to San Francisco, California. While there, she married Natalee “Nayo” Franck, who is also graduating in May with a master’s degree in Deaf Studies-Cultural Studies. The couple moved to the Washington area in 2014. Anna volunteered at Deaf-REACH for several months. She was also an ESL instructor and tutor in the English Language Institute before. While studying for her master’s degree, Anna has been a graduate assistant in the Office of Academic Quality, a research assistant for the Sign Language Acquisition, Annotation, Archiving, and Sharing (SLAAASh) project, and a summer English coach for the Master of Arts program in Sign Language Education.

She was a departmental representative to the Graduate Student Association Student Council and served as chair of GSA’s Election Committee last fall. She was GSA representative to three university governance groups: The Council on Graduate Education (CGE), the CGE ad hoc Committee on Diversity, and the University Faculty Senate. Finally, she was a garden intern for the Green Grow student organization and served as a volunteer at Lavender Graduation in 2016.

After graduation, Anna and Nayo plan to move to Boston, where Anna will continue her involvement in linguistics research, with the goal of pursuing a doctoral degree in this field.

Anna thanks her wife, Nayo Franck, their families, her cohort, her friends, the faculty of the Department of Linguistics, and the LGBTQA Resource Center in the Office of Diversity and Equity for Students for their support during her time at Gallaudet.

The student speakers were chosen by a committee of students and faculty, chaired by Professor Kota Takayama of the Department of Social Work. Committee members were Professor Felicia Williams, Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, who was the graduate student speaker in 2013; David Bruno, Student Body Government vice president, and Professor Marina Dzougoutov, advisor, Faculty Administrator, Gallaudet Technology Services. Dr. Stephen F. Weiner, chair of the Department of Art, Communication, and Theatre, also served as an advisor and provided essential support. I thank the student speaker selection committee members for their hard work, and for recommending such outstanding speakers.

Please join me in congratulating Franklin and Anna. I look forward to seeing them shine at Commencement!

Carol J. Erting

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