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. Afterward, he went to work for New York School for the Deaf in Fanwood. Later he returned 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 Master’s from the New York University, which is a rare accomplishment back during that time. Not many Deaf people receive a 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 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 contribute to his fame. But he still had an important connection here at Gallaudet that many people didn’t realize about. People tend to connect Panara with the NTID but don’t realize that he had a connection with Gallaudet.

Panara passed away in 2014. Shortly afterward, 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 Hurwitz, went to see that exhibit and fell in love with it. They decided that it should be shown because of his important connection here. Panara had a connection with Gallaudet University, which means both universities should recognize his success.

We have worked hard to bring the exhibit here on 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 to 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 recognize someone who 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.

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