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.

I. King Jordan Bio

Title President, 1988-2006 Education Ph.D., Psychology, University of Tennessee, 1973 M.A., Psychology, University of Tennessee, 1971 B.A., Psychology, Gallaudet University, 1970 Short Biography I. King Jordan made history in 1988 when he became the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, the world's only university with...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

GUAA History

The Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA) has a rich history of support and services to Gallaudet University and to the general deaf community. Much of this is credited to the interest and generosity of the alumni and the leadership of outstanding Gallaudet graduates and former...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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

A TTY is basically the same thing as a TDD. The phrase TTY (or Teletype device) is how the deaf community used to refer to the extremely large machines they used to type messages back and forth over the phone lines. A TDD operates in...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

When Gallaudet University Football Invented the Huddle

In 1892, the Gallaudet football team was playing against another deaf team. Paul Hubbard, the quarterback, didn't want to risk the other team seeing him use American Sign Language (ASL) to explain the play to his teammates, so he asked them to form a tight...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet meets Alice Cogswell

The legend goes like this: In 1814, Thomas visited his family in Hartford, Connecticut. Looking out the window, he noticed that his younger brothers and sisters were not playing with another child. When he went out to investigate, he learned that this young woman, Alice...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

The History of names for Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University has had many names over the years. This chronology identifies the official name changes and Institutional growth. 1857 - The Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind is incorporated. 1864 - A college is authorized and named...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

The Legacy Begins

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet meets Alice Cogswell and Laurent Clerc Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), for whom Gallaudet University is named, was born in Philadelphia, Pa. His family later settled in Hartford, Conn., the home of his maternal grandparents. A brilliant student during his early years, Gallaudet...

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. Since then, Deaf President Now (DPN) has become synonymous with self-determination and empowerment for deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere. The Issues A...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

T. Alan Hurwitz, Gallaudet’s 10th president

Title President, 2010-2015 Education Ed.D., University of Rochester M.S., St. Louis University B.S., Washington University in St. Louis (MO) Short Biography Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz became the tenth president of Gallaudet University on January 1, 2010. Prior to Gallaudet, Hurwitz was president of the National...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

SBG Letter to the Faculty

Student Body Government letter to the faculty STUDENT BODY GOVERNMENTGALLAUDET UNIVERSITYKENDALL GREEN, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20002 February 26, 1988 ADMINISTRATION 1987-1988 MAIN OFFICE(202) 651-5390 TO: Collegiate Faculty From: U. Sung Chung, Special Assistant to President RE: Deaf President Now Rally The idea of a deaf person...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Robert R. Davila’s American story

Title President 2007-2009 Education Ph.D., Syracuse University,1972 M.A., Hunter College, 1963 B.A., Gallaudet University, 1953 Short Biography The life story of Robert R. Davila, Gallaudet University's ninth president, is quintessentially American. Born to poor but loving parents, both from Mexico and both workers in the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Re-Naming Gallaudet Museum

Hello! I'm Meredith Peruzzi, the manager and curator for the Gallaudet University Museum.Maybe you've heard via Facebook and Twitter that the Gallaudet museum is thinking of changing its name. This is true! We are currently working on a new name for a few reasons. First,...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Presidents Panel: Jordan, Davila, Hurwitz

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of DPN which occurs in March 2013, 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. Are...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Presidents of Gallaudet University

Edward Miner Gallaudet 1864-1910 Dr. Percival Hall, G-1893 1910-1945 Leonard M. Elstad, G-'23 1945-1969 Edward C. Merrill, Jr. 1969-1983 W. Lloyd Johns 1983 Jerry C. Lee 1984-1987 Elisabeth A. Zinser 1988 I. King Jordan, '70 1988-2006 profile Robert R. Davila, '53 2007-2009 profile T. Alan...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Our Time: The Legacy of the 20th Century

This lecture will focus on the impact of DPN throughout the United States. How has Deaf America changed over the past quarter-century? What areas have seen a marked improvement, and what challenges remain? The discussion will focus on the key changes in deaf education, access...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

MSSD Alumni panel on DPN

During DPN, the Gallaudet campus transformed into a living classroom for more than 300 impressionable high school students who were enrolled at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, which cohabitates the campus. Three of these students and a residence educator will recount how the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Lives Worth Living Film

Thursday, March 14 12:00-1:50 p.m. Swindells Auditorium Coordinated by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, panelists include Judith Huemann, special advisor, Office of International Disability Rights for the U.S. Department of State; Claudia L. Gordon, Esq., special assistant to the director of the U.S. Department...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

International Perspectives on Human Rights

Wilma and Bruno Druchen will discuss the legacy of DPN on an international scale. 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...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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. Gallaudet, his successors, and their families have lived in this home. Watch this trailer...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Honorary Chairs of National Deaf Life Museum

Dr. Jack R. Gannon and Mrs. Rosalyn Lee Gannon are the Honorary Chairs of the National Deaf Life Museum. This is their story: Dr. Jack R. Gannon and Ms. Rosalyn Lee Gannon. Photo courtesy of Christine Gannon, 2013. During 1985-1986, when Dr. Gannon was Director...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: Program Information

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. Watch it online. Photo gallery Tuesday,...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

George W. Veditz: Visionary Leader – July 2014

Gallaudet University has named activist and writer George W. Veditz, 1884 & G-1887, as July's Visionary Leader. While he is best known for his efforts to preserve and nurture sign language by capturing it on film, Veditz's many contributions to the deaf community changed the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas Collection

In 1864, Congress passed a bill authorizing the institution, known as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, to establish the National College for the Deaf and Dumb which would provide college-level instruction and confer college degrees. On...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallaudet University symbols and traditions

The mace that is carried by the faculty marshal as a symbol of the University's authority made its first ceremonial appearance at the installation of the fourth president of Gallaudet College. In a sense, it has existed longer than the University. It is made of...

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. Your comments and ideas on historic events are welcome. Please send feedback to: Archives Many thanks to the following...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

From Civil Rights to Human Rights

From his college days as a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to his Chairmanship of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Julian Bond has been an active participant in the movements for civil rights, economic justice, and peace,...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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

EXHIBIT "C" RESOLUTION #3 To be presented to the University Faculty meeting, on March 9, 1988 by RESOLUTION TO THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE UNIVERSITY FACULTY FROM THE UNIVERSITY FACULTY THE GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY FACULTY REQUESTS OF ITS INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS THAT THEY NOT PENALIZE STUDENTS INDIVIDUALLY...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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

EXHIBIT "B" RESOLUTION #2 To be presented to the University Faculty meeting on March 9, 1988 by RESOLUTION TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES FROM THE UNIVERSITY FACULTY THE GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY FACULTY WISHES TO MAKE IT KNOWN TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, TO THE STUDENTS OF...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Exhibit A: Jerry Lee’s involvement with Bassett Furniture

March 9, 1988 EXHIBIT "A" RESOLUTION: WHEREAS: Because former president Jerry Lee announced last August that he was resigning to go to work for Bassett Furniture, owned by Jane Bassett Spilman, Chair of Gallaudet's Board of Trustees, the body charged with protecting the interests of...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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

Dr. Glenn B. Anderson, '68, has attained an array of ground-breaking achievements that have benefited many people-deaf and hearing as well as those with disabilities-any of which warrant his recognition as Gallaudet's Visionary Leader for the month of February In addition, as a deaf African...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Dr. Gertrude Scott Galloway: Visionary Leader – March 2014

Women's Rights Advocate. Activist. Civic Leader. Educator. Pioneer. All of these titles apply to Dr. Gertrude Scott Galloway, '51. Combined, they more than qualify her as Gallaudet's Visionary Leader for the month of March. Beginning her career in a decade where the abilities of deaf...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Deaf History Lecture: DUCKS

"The 7 Ducks: Behind the DPN Movement" Thursday, March 7 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. SAC 1011 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. Ben Jarashow, a California...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Comparative Civil Rights panel on people of color during DPN

What were people of color doing during DPN? What are their perspectives and stories? This is an area that has not been extensively explored. Their stories can help shed light and add another layer to our understanding of DPN. Professor Elsa Barkley Brown of the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Chapel Hall: Background, architecture and photos

Built in 1870, Chapel Hall was once the main hub of the 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. According to the NPS, "Chapel Hall is one...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Campus landmarks you won’t want to miss

Chapel Hall Built in 1870, Chapel Hall was once the main hub of the university, serving as a chapel, auditorium, exhibit center, and dining hall. This picturesque High Victorian Gothic building is on the National Park Service National Register of Historic Places. Learn more. College...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Board of Trustees panel on the impact of DPN

This panel brings the current Chair and three former Chairs of Gallaudet Board of Trustees to reflect on the impact of DPN on the work of the Board of Trustees and how expectations of accountability of the Board of Trustees have changed in the last...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

American Sign Language & French Sign Language

Abbe Sicard, the director, and the teachers at the Institut Royal des Sourds-Muets in Paris, France used French Sign Language at their school. Legend has it that on the ship back to America, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet taught Laurent Clerc English while Clerc taught Gallaudet sign...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Olof Hanson: Visionary Leader – April 2014

Olof Hanson, 1886 & G-1889, believed to be America's first deaf architect, and a far-thinking leader who in the early 20th century was a champion for many of the same civil rights for deaf people that activists continue to fight for today, is Gallaudet's Visionary...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Contact Us

National Deaf Life Museum

Chapel Hall

(202) 250-2235

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