Nanette Fabray 1972
Nanette Fabray, at 1972’s Commencement
SBG President Larry Forestal presents flowers to Ms. Fabray in 1962
SBG President Larry Forestal presents flowers to Ms. Fabray in 1962.

All photos provided courtesy of Gallaudet University Library Deaf Collections and Archives.

Ms. Nanette Fabray, H-’72, a noted actress, singer, and dancer, and a longtime friend of Gallaudet, passed away on February 22, 2018. She had been an honorary member of our Board of Trustees since 1974.

Nanette Fabray was born in 1920 and performed in vaudeville as a child. She began her theatrical career in her early 20s and won a Tony Award in 1949 for her performance in the Broadway show Love Life, and three Emmy Awards for her role as Sid Caesar’s partner on Caesar’s Hour. She also performed with Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon, a film musical, and in the role of Katherine Romero on the CBS television situation comedy One Day at a Time from 1979 to 1984. She may be best known to the American public for her frequent appearances on The Hollywood Squares; it is said that she always signed “Hello” when introduced. A full listing of her film and television credits appears at the Internet Movie Database.

Ms. Fabray grew up with an undiagnosed hearing loss, which later was addressed by surgery. She quickly became an advocate for deaf and hard of hearing people. She first visited Gallaudet College in October 1962 while performing in Mr. President at the National Theatre. After that, she became a frequent visitor to Kendall Green over the next two decades.

Ms. Fabray was involved with several organizations and schools, including the Council of Organizations Serving the Deaf, Hope for Hearing, the National Association of Hearing and Speech Agencies, the National Theatre of the Deaf, and Lexington School for the Deaf. She was also appointed to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Education of the Deaf during the Nixon administration. She was a strong advocate for sign language and closed captioning.

Gallaudet awarded Ms. Fabray the degree of Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 1972. She received the Gallaudet College Theatre Humanitarian Award, the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, and the U.S. President’s Distinguished Service Award.

In 1978, during her Commencement address, Ms. Fabray announced the establishment of the MacDougall Creative Writing Award in honor of her late husband, Ranald MacDougall. This award is still being given today.

Ms. Fabray’s family, including her son, Dr. Jamie MacDougall, have asked that memorial contributions be made to Gallaudet University.

Tiffany Williams, ’89, Chair of the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees wrote: “We thank Nanette Fabray for her long service on behalf of Gallaudet University and the deaf and hard of hearing community, and send our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends. She will be long remembered.”

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