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Dec 9, 2022
We Are Equal Exhibit
Then & Now Exhibit
Olof Hanson Exhibit
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Language, Culture, Communities
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The Life of Robert Panara Exhibit
Thank you all for coming for the opening of our temporary exhibit that is on loan from NTID and R.I.T. The reason why we want to show the exhibit on the life of Robert Panara. Panara graduated from Gallaudet University in 1945. Afterwards he went to work for New York School for the Deaf in Fanwood. Later he returned back to Gallaudet as a professor. Then became a chair of the English department, which meant he had an important role here at Gallaudet.
He received a Masters from the New York University, which is a rare accomplishment back during that time. Not many Deaf people receive Master’s degree, only a few of them. But Panara succeeded. He wanted to be a Chair of the English department, then in 1960, a man named William Stokoe who came to Gallaudet. Stokoe himself was hearing who is a famous legend who researched ASL, which was significant.
During that time, Panara felt betrayed for being replaced by Stokoe as a department chair. A Ph.D. degree was a requirement to chair a department, a degree that Panara didn’t have. There were extremely few Deaf people that have Ph.D. degrees, which was hard for Panara. Of course, Stokoe as a hearing person was able to get a Ph.D. degree. So then Panara was replaced by Stokoe to become a chair of that English department.
Panara continued to teach here but was frustrated and felt uneasy in the department. He learned of a new plan to establish National Technical Institute for the Deaf, he then moved to Rochester, New York to help foster the establishment of that project. With that, it became his legacy.
He offered Deaf heritage courses, English courses, Drama, Literature, and many more to the NTID students that contributes to his fame. But he still had an important connection here at Gallaudet that many people didn’t realized about. People tend to connect Panara with the NTID but don’t realize that he had a connection with Gallaudet as well.
Panara passed away in 2014. Shortly afterwards, the NTID hosted an exhibition about his life in recognizing his accomplishments at the NTID. Our Museum founder, Dr. Jane Norman and our former First Lady, Vicki Hurwtiz went to see that exhibit and fell in love with it. They decided that it should be shown here because of his important connection here. Panara actually had a connection with Gallaudet University, which means both universities should recognize his success.
We have worked hard to bring the exhibit here on a loan, which means for about a month people would be able to see the exhibit about Panara’s life. The exhibit focuses on his early life, a time as a Gallaudetian, the founding of NTID, and his legacy. Plus we include his family photos, which we are very grateful of his son, John Panara for donating the photos to R.I.T. that is on loan here from NTID. We are fortunate to be able to get these photos from his son. It is very impressive. These exhibit cases recognizes someone who nowadays has been overlooked by those here at Gallaudet but is an important part of Gallaudet history.
Thank you all for coming today. I hope you enjoy looking at these exhibit cases to see his life, pictures, and stories.
The Life of Robert Panara Exhibit is on loan from the Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Technical Institute of the Deaf, in collaboration with the Gallaudet University Archives.
On March 8, 2016, Meredith Peruzzi, Manager, unveiled the temporary exhibit that is located in the lower level of the Merrill Learning Center (library). There are four cases that reflect Panara’s life: Panara’s Early Life; As a Gallaudetian; The Founding of NTID; and Panara’s Legacy.
The center case displays his family photos, magazines that feature stories about him, curriculum at the NTID, Gallaudet medallion, and his other keepsakes.
The exhibit ended on May 18, 2016. The Gallaudet University Museum is deeply grateful to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for loaning us their exhibit to honor the late Dr. Robert Panara and his legacy.
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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