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Joel Silberstein – The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Joel Silberstein, ’70, made his first gift to Gallaudet University in 1975.
He has not stopped since.

“Giving back to Gallaudet makes me feel good,” he said.

However, Silberstein felt that he needed to do more, especially for young members of the South Carolina deaf and hard of hearing community. In addition to his annual gift, he established a generous donation through his will.
“I have had a strong desire to establish a scholarship in my name to help students from South Carolina,” Silberstein said.

Silberstein worked with the Office of Development at Gallaudet in August 2014 to arrange a planned gift that would establish The Joel M. Silberstein, ’70, Scholarship Fund.

A few months later, Silberstein decided he did not want to wait until the end of his life to endow a scholarship fund. The idea of meeting and talking with scholarship recipients was too enticing. He established monthly contributions to endow the scholarship fund during his lifetime, with the goal of full endowment in 2019.

Born in Margaretville, N.Y., Silberstein grew up in nearby Fleischmanns, in the heart of the Catskill Mountains. He attended two schools for the deaf, the Central New York School for the Deaf in Rome (now New York State School for the Deaf) and the former New York School for the Deaf, known as Fanwood.
It was at Fanwood that Silberstein met three deaf teachers who would significantly influence his direction in life – David Davidowitz, ’36; Taras Denis, ’50; and former Gallaudet president Dr. Robert R. Davila, ’53. They all encouraged him to attend Gallaudet.

Silberstein enrolled at Gallaudet in 1965 and has very fond memories of his college years, especially his numerous learning experiences and the lifelong friendships he developed.

Silberstein also benefited from financial support that was critical to helping him complete his education and graduate debt-free.
“I was very grateful that I received nearly full financial assistance from New York State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Fanwood’s Jesup Scholarship Fund for five years,” Silberstein said.

Silberstein studied mathematics at Gallaudet, which, combined with an inner calling, would guide him throughout his 31-year career teaching high school math at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind (SCSDB).
It is because of his love for and connection with his former students that Silberstein is establishing this scholarship fund.

“I have a strong bond with SCSDB and South Carolina’s deaf community,” Silberstein said. “I have heard some sad stories. Some of my students attended Gallaudet and withdrew due to financial hardships. They never returned. Some graduated, but they had huge debts to pay afterwards. I also met some bright old-timers. They never went to college because they couldn’t afford it.”

Silberstein explored other ways to donate but, as a proud alumnus of Gallaudet, ultimately chose to establish a scholarship fund at the University.

“I considered making monetary gifts to charitable organizations such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Alzheimer’s Association,” Silberstein said. However, “I feel that Gallaudet is the best choice. A scholarship in my name would last as long as Gallaudet University exists.”

Silberstein worked with Gallaudet to establish specific criteria for scholarship recipients. The first category for consideration is first-year students from the South Carolina School for the Deaf who have financial need. If none are identified, the criteria expands to include any first-year undergraduate from the state of South Carolina with financial need, then any undergraduate student from the state, regardless of year, with financial need and a 3.0 GPA or better.

Silberstein serves as an example of how alumni can show their love of Gallaudet through supporting incoming and current Gallaudet students, which helps them focus on their studies instead of finances and graduate with as little debt as possible.

Join Joel in the Abraham Lincoln Legacy Society. By establishing endowed funds and including Gallaudet in your planned giving, you have the opportunity to experience the joy of knowing you are making a difference in the lives of deaf and hard of hearing students.

For more information about how to leave your legacy at Gallaudet, please visit

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