Academics
Areas of Study

The first 100 years

In 1856, Amos Kendall, a postmaster general during two presidential administrations, donated two acres of his estate in northeast Washington, D.C. to establish a school and housing for 12 deaf and six blind students. The following year, Kendall persuaded Congress to incorporate the new school, which was called the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind. Edward Miner Gallaudet, the son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, founder of the first school for deaf students in the United States, became the new school’s superintendent. Congress authorized the institution to confer college degrees in 1864, and President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law. Gallaudet was made president of the institution, including the college, which that year had eight students enrolled. He presided over the first commencement in June 1869 when three young men received diplomas. Their diplomas were signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, and to this day the diplomas of all Gallaudet graduates are signed by the presiding U.S. president.

In 1894 the name of the college portion of the institution was changed to Gallaudet College in honor of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and through an act of Congress in 1954, the entire institution became known as Gallaudet College.

A time of expansion

In 1969, President Lyndon Johnson signed an act to create the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD). That same year, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and Gallaudet President Leonard Elstad signed an agreement authorizing the establishment and operation of MSSD on the Gallaudet campus. A year later, President Richard Nixon signed the bill that authorized the establishment of Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. Today, the two schools are part of Gallaudet’s Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, which is devoted to the creation and dissemination of educational opportunities for deaf students nationwide.

By an act of the U.S. Congress, Gallaudet was granted university status in October 1986. Two years later, in March 1988, the Deaf President Now (DPN) movement led to the appointment of the University’s first deaf president, Dr. I. King Jordan, ’70 and the Board of Trustees’ first deaf chair, Philip Bravin, ’66. Since then, DPN has become synonymous with self-determination and empowerment for deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere.

In the 1990s, a generous contribution from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation enabled the University to construct the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University, which has become a popular venue for meetings, seminars, receptions, and other events for both on- and off-campus groups.

The new millennium has brought events such as the Deaf Way II festival that attracted 10,000 deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people from around the world; the opening of the technology-rich I. King Jordan Student Academic Center; and, thanks to the generosity of James Lee Sorenson, chair of Sorenson Development, Inc., the James Lee Sorenson Language and Communication Center, a unique facility that provides an inclusive learning environment totally compatible with the visu-centric “deaf way of being.”

The University’s undergraduate students can choose from more than 40 majors leading to bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degrees. A small number of hearing undergraduate students-up to five percent of an entering class-are also admitted to the University each year. Graduate programs at Gallaudet are open to deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing students and offer certificates and master of arts, master of science, doctoral, and specialist degrees in a variety of fields involving professional service to deaf and hard of hearing people.

Through the University Career center, students receive internships that provide a wealth of experiential learning opportunities. Recent internships were offered at Merrill Lynch, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Health, and the World Bank. Students also benefit from an array of services provided by such campus units as the Burstein Leadership Institute, Language Planning Institute, Hearing and Speech Center, Cochlear Implant Education Center, and the Center for International Programs and Services.

Today, Gallaudet is viewed by deaf and hearing people alike as a primary resource for all things related to deaf people, including educational and career opportunities; open communication and visual learning; deaf history and culture; American Sign Language; and the impact of technology on the deaf community.

Check out some of our other historical resources below.

American Sign Language & French Sign Language

American Sign Language's connection to French Sign Language.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Board of Trustees panel on the impact of DPN

Four generations of Chairs of Gallaudet Board of Trustees gather to form a panel that examines the effects of DPN on the work of the Board of Trustees.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Campus landmarks you won’t want to miss

Landmarks you'll see around campus.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Chapel Hall: Background, architecture and photos

Built in 1870, Chapel Hall was once the main hub of Gallaudet University, serving as a chapel, auditorium, exhibit center, and dining hall. Chapel Hall is on the National Park Service (NPS) National Register of Historic Places.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Comparative Civil Rights panel on people of color during DPN

Comparative civil rights panel for people of color come together to discuss diversity within social movements.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Deaf History Lecture: DUCKS

This lecture is based on interviews with the "7 Ducks," a group of alumni who were intimately involved in building momentum for the DPN movement.

National Deaf Life Museum
Dr. Gertrude Scott Galloway: Visionary Leader – March 2014

Gallaudet University names Dr. Gertrude Scott Galloway, '51, women's rights advocate and activist, as the Visionary Leader for the month of March during the 150th anniversary celebration.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Dr. Glenn B. Anderson: Visionary Leader – February 2014

Gallaudet University recognizes Dr. Glenn B. Anderson, the university's first black alumnus, as Visionary Leader for the month of February during the 150th anniversary celebration.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Exhibit A: Jerry Lee’s involvement with Bassett Furniture

The DPN statement calling for the resignation of Jane Basset Spilman, Chair of Gallaudet's Board of Trustees.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Exhibit B, resolution #2, to the board of trustees

Exhibit B resolution #2 proposed by Robert Carl Johnson

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Exhibit C, resolution #3, to the board of trustees

Exhibit C resolution #3 proposed by Robert Carl Johnson

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

From Civil Rights to Human Rights

This is the story of civil rights Professor Julian Bond and his journey from a student to chairman of the NAACP

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallaudet University Historical Timeline

This timeline, developed by Gallaudet University Archives, traces 150 years of campus history 1864-2014. As with all history research, this timeline is a work in progress.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallaudet University symbols and traditions

Learn about Gallaudet University's traditions and symbols, including the Mace and Honor Stole.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas Collection

As part of Gallaudet's 150th Anniversary in 2014, we hope to collect one original diploma for each year that Gallaudet conferred degrees. If you are interested, please send us your original diploma for the Gallaudet Archives.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

George W. Veditz: Visionary Leader – July 2014

Gallaudet University names activist and writer George W. Veditz, 1884 & G-1887, as July's Visionary Leader as part of the university's 150th anniversary celebration.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

History of Women at Gallaudet and DPN

The Board of Trustees has selected a female president two times and each time the campus community has rebelled. This panel will discuss this in terms of gender and history and the role of women in the DPN movement.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Honorary Chairs of National Deaf Life Museum

The story of the Honorary Chairs of the National Deaf Life Museum, Dr. Jack R. Gannon and Mrs. Rosalyn Lee Gannon.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: Program Information

House One, the Edward Miner Gallaudet Residence

The Edward Miner Gallaudet Residence, also known as House One, is a 35-room Victorian Gothic mansion that was built in 1869 for Gallaudet University's founder and first president, Edward Miner Gallaudet.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

I. King Jordan Bio

This is the story of I. King Jordan, Gallaudet University's first deaf president.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

International Perspectives on Human Rights

How has the spirit of DPN inspired other disability rights movements to reaffirm sign language rights, including the important work that led to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Wilma and Bruno Druchen will discuss the legacy of DPN on an international scale.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Lives Worth Living Film

Watch the screening and panel discussion for Lives Worth Living here.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

MSSD Alumni panel on DPN

A panel of Alumni from the MSSD project will recount their experiments in a highschool social experiment.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Olof Hanson: Visionary Leader – April 2014

Gallaudet University names Olaf Hanson, believed to be America's first deaf architect, April's Visionary Leader during the 150th anniversary celebration.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Our Time: The Legacy of the 20th Century

Impact of DPN throughout the United States. How has Deaf America changed over the past quarter century?

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Presidents of Gallaudet University

List of Gallaudet University's Presidents over the years.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Presidents Panel: Jordan, Davila, Hurwitz

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of DPN, there will be a series of panels and presentations to examine and recognize the significance of this milestone for Gallaudet and the deaf community in the United States and around the world.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Re-Naming Gallaudet Museum

Video and transcript of Meredith Peruzzi, the manager and curator for the Gallaudet University Museum, discussing the re-naming of Gallaudet Museum.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: Learning Materials

Robert R. Davila’s American story

This is the story of the ninth president of Gallaudet University, Robert R. Davila, which embodies the American dream

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

SBG Letter to the Faculty

The idea of a deaf person being named president of this University is exceptionally important to us and to the entire community of people concerned with deafness and education.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

T. Alan Hurwitz, Gallaudet’s 10th president

This is the story of the tenth president of Gallaudet University, T. Alan Hurwitz.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

The Deaf President Now (DPN) Protest

In March 1988, Gallaudet University experienced a watershed event that led to the appointment of the 124-year-old university's first deaf president.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

The History of names for Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University's many names over the years.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

The Legacy Begins

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet meets Alice Cogswell and Laurent Clerc

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet meets Alice Cogswell

The legendary story of Gallaudet University's founding and founding family.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

What’s a TTY? What’s a TDD? What’s a relay system?

TTY, TTD, Close Captions, and Relay Systems in a nutshell.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

When Gallaudet University Football Invented the Huddle

How Gallaudet University Invented the Huddle

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: Deaf School

Contact Us

National Deaf Life Museum

Chapel Hall

(202) 250-2235

** By Appointment Only **
By submitting this form, I opt in to receive select information and deaf resources from Gallaudet University via email.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.