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Dec 2, 2022
Manuscripts – The Edna P. Adler Biographical Collection on Boyce R. Williams, 1899-2000
King Jordan Student Academic Center 1255
Adler, Edna P. (Edna Panaanen), 1915-2000,
and Williams, Boyce R. (Boyce Robert), 1910-1998
The Edna P. Adler Biographical Collection on Boyce R. Williams, 1899-2000
Gallaudet University Archives
Repository: Gallaudet University Archives
Call No.: MSS 220
Creators: Adler, Edna P. (Edna Panaanen), 1915-2000, and Williams, Boyce R. (Boyce Robert), 1910-1998
Title: The Edna P. Adler Biographical Collection on Boyce R. Williams, 1899-2000
Quantity: 7 boxes (3.75 lf).
Abstract: Articles, papers, correspondence, manuscript drafts, notes, and more collected by deaf vocational rehabilitation specialist Edna Adler while researching and writing a biography of her coworker, Boyce Williams.
Note: This document last updated February 2018.
Acquisition Information: Donated to the President’s Office by Edna Adler’s daughter, Karen Wilson, in 2000, then transferred to the Archives in 2008. Genealogical data (series 8) donated by Edna Adler, 1995.
Processed By: Begun by Corinne Palaia and Michael J. Olson, completed by Christopher Shea, February 2018.
Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions.
Related Material in the Archives
Born in 1910, Boyce Williams lost his hearing at age 17 after a bout of meningitis. He briefly attended the Wisconsin School for the Deaf and then entered Gallaudet College in 1929. He graduated in 1932, becoming a teacher at the Wisconsin School and later at the Indiana School for the Deaf. It was there that he met and married his wife, Hilda Tillinghast. At the Indiana School, he was promoted to vocational training director in 1937- a position where he saw how deaf people often struggled with discrimination when seeking jobs. Determined to change this, Williams attended Columbia University, where he got a master’s degree in deaf education in 1940. In 1945, Williams returned to Washington, DC, where he took a position with the federal Office of Vocational Rehabilitation as a consultant on the deaf and hard of hearing. Working closely with deaf groups such as the National Association of the Deaf and National Fraternal Society of the Deaf, Williams developed a framework for vocational rehabilitation services for the Deaf. His work helped educate the hearing world about the capabilities and challenges of the deaf while providing the deaf with training, education, and job placement opportunities.
During his time at OVR, Williams had a hand in developing programs such as the National Theatre for the Deaf, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Captioned Films for the Deaf, the National Leadership Training Program on Deafness, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and more. Due to his work in vocational rehabilitation, Williams was awarded an honorary LLD degree from Gallaudet in 1958. In 1970, the government created a federal Office on Deafness and Communicative Disorders, and Williams became its director until he retired in 1983.
Williams was a leading figure in the deaf community, including serving on Gallaudet’s Board of Directors and the National Association of the Deaf Executive Board and being president of the Gallaudet College Alumni Association. After his retirement, Williams was awarded Gallaudet’s Powrie V. Doctor Chair of Deaf Studies from 1983 through 1984. He passed away in late 1998. Edna P. Adler was born in 1915 and lost her hearing to meningitis at age 10. She attended the Michigan School for the Deaf and was a 1937 graduate of Gallaudet. Adler joined the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration in 1966 and was eventually promoted to assistant chief of the deafness and communicative disorders branch, making her the first deaf woman to have a high-level federal position. Before joining the RSA, Adler taught at the Michigan and Missouri Schools for the Deaf in the 1930s and 1940s. She received a master’s degree in rehabilitation services from Wayne State University and worked at the Center for Deaf Adults in Lansing, Michigan, before moving to Washington, DC. She received an honorary doctorate from Gallaudet in 1981. She retired in 1989 and passed away in 2000.
Scope and Content
This collection was gathered by Edna Adler as she worked on writing a biography of Boyce Williams. While the biography was never published, this collection does include her research notes and draft copies, as well as a wide variety of newspaper and magazine clippings, speeches, and papers written by or about Boyce Williams. These focus particularly on his career developing vocational rehabilitation programs for the deaf. Besides Williams, this collection also includes material on the development of vocational rehabilitation programs, mostly from the 1960s and 1980s, including Williams’s work on the subject and handbooks, legislation, and reports from the federal government other groups. Williams’s wife, Hilda Tillinghast, was a descendant of a family that had long been involved with deaf education. There are a few items in this collection related to the Tillinghast family, including a genealogical chart, a 19th-century wedding announcement, and a program from Hilda’s funeral.
Series 1. Williams family items, 1899-1989
A small collection of items related to the Williams and Tillinghast families, including a copy of Boyce Williams’s CV from the late 1960s, a poem written by Williams’s son John, and an 1899 wedding announcement for Edward Tillinghast and Hilda Watson. Also included is a partial genealogical chart for the Tillinghast family, but it is a very faint copy and difficult to read. See also series 8 for more on the Tillinghast/Watson families.
Edna P. Adler biographical research materials, 1966-2000
The material was collected and produced by Edna Adler during her work on her biography of Boyce Williams. This includes two separate draft manuscripts of the book. This series also includes
a variety of clippings on Williams (see series 7 for more),
correspondence with other people on Williams’s life and career, and
several notebooks that Adler filled with notes and outlines while working on this project.
Series 3. Boyce R. Williams speeches and writings, 1940-1988
Papers, correspondence, and speeches produced by Boyce Williams during his career in vocational rehabilitation. Bulk is papers and speeches that Williams delivered at various conferences and deaf-related events. It also includes a set of correspondence from 1940-1945, when Williams worked at the Indiana School and attempting to get a position with the federal government. Of particular interest is a set of reports from Williams, Frederick Schreiber, William Castle, and Edward Merrill on a 1988 trip to the Soviet Union to study the deaf community.
Series 4. Vocational rehabilitation papers and publications, 1959-1996
Material on the topic of vocational rehabilitation, particularly of the deaf, not written by Boyce Williams. Includes papers, manuals, reports, and handbooks published by the US federal government and other individuals and agencies. It also includes copies of some federal legislation on vocational rehabilitation.
Series 5. Federal Security Agency memos, 1945-1949 Box 5
A small collection of memos published by the Federal Security Agency (the predecessor to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and later the Department of Health and Human Services). Most are general memos addressed to various state agencies for the deaf and vocational rehabilitation, alerting them of new publications or resources they can use.
Series 6. Photographs, 1918-1996
A small collection of Williams family photographs, mostly portraits and group photos.
Series 7. Clippings, 1931-1999
See series 2 for more clippings—a collection of newspaper and magazine articles, most about Boyce Williams.
It includes material on his retirement and his term as the holder of the Powrie V. Doctor Chair.
Series 8. Genealogical materials, 1893-1994
A collection of news and book clippings, correspondence, family trees, and other material related to the Tillinghasts and other families. Individuals featured include John McGann, an Irish deaf educator and grandfather of Hilda Watson (later Hilda Tillinghast); Edward and Hilda Tillinghast; David and James Watson, and others.
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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