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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 April 8, 1864, United States President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law.

Edward Miner Gallaudet, superintendent of the Columbia Institution under founder Amos Kendall, was made president of the institution, including the college, after Kendall stepped down earlier that year. In that first year there were eight students enrolled and during the first commencement in June 1869, 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.

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. Unfortunately we cannot accept scanned copies or commemorative versions. The originals of all the diplomas displayed here are housed in the Gallaudet Archives

In addition to Gallaudet diplomas, the Archives welcomes gifts of photographs, documents and memorabilia related to Gallaudet University and to deaf people-their lives, organizations, schools and culture. Visit the Archives Donations page for more information or contact the Archives at Contact here.

All images, scans of diplomas, and images of Gallaudet alumni are courtesy of the University Archives unless otherwise indicated.

Gallery of Diplomas – Woodrow Wilson

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Woodrow Wilson, who was president from 1913 until 1921. Diplomas were also signed by Percival Hall, president of Gallaudet, from 1910 until 1945. During this period, the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Theodore Roosevelt

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Theodore Roosevelt, who was president from 1901 until 1909. President Roosevelt presided over the May 1906 Presentation Day (Commencement) exercises. Diplomas were also signed by Gallaudet President...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – William Howard Taft

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President William Taft, who was president from 1909 until 1913. 1 Diplomas were also signed by Gallaudet President Edward Miner Gallaudet, president of the institution from 1864 until...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Ronald Reagan

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Ronald Reagan, who was president from 1981 until 1989. Diplomas were also signed by Edward C. Merrill, Jr., president of Gallaudet, from 1969 until 1983. The next...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Richard M. Nixon

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Richard Nixon who was president from 1969 until 1974. Diplomas were also signed by Edward C. Merrill, Jr., president of Gallaudet from 1969 until 1983. During this...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – William McKinley

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President William McKinley, who was president from 1897 until 1901. Diplomas were also signed by Gallaudet President Edward Miner Gallaudet, president of the institution since its founding in...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – John F. Kennedy

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President John F. Kennedy, who was president from 1961 until 1963. Diplomas were also signed by Leonard Elstad, president of Gallaudet, from 1945 until 1969. During this period...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Lyndon B. Johnson

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Lyndon Johnson, who was president from 1963 until 1969. On June 13, 1966, to the surprise and delight of the class of 1966 and their guests, President...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Herbert Hoover

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by Herbert Hoover was president of the United States from 1929 until 1933. Diplomas were also signed by Percival Hall, president of Gallaudet, from 1910 until 1945. During this period, the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Rutherford B. Hayes

Currently, Gallaudet Archives has no examples of diplomas signed by United States President Rutherford Hayes, who was president from 1877 until 1881. Hayes attended and delivered the Presentation Day (Commencement) address on April 11, 1877. On February 16, 1878, Hayes and his wife attended the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Warren G. Harding

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Warren Harding, who was president from 1921 until 1923. Diplomas were also signed by Percival Hall, president of Gallaudet, from 1910 until 1945. During this period, the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Ulysses S. Grant

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Ulysses S. Grant who was president from 1869 until 1877. Grant was the first U.S. President to sign the college's diplomas and on June 30, 1870, he...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – James Garfield

Currently Gallaudet Archives has no examples of diplomas signed by United States President James Garfield who was president from March until September of 1881. In his many years in Congress before becoming president, Garfield had been a strong advocate for the institution and was much...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – William Jefferson Clinton

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President William "Bill" Clinton, who was president from 1993 until 2001. President Clinton was the Commencement speaker on May 13, 1994, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – James Earl Carter, Jr.

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President James "Jimmy" Carter, who was president from 1977 until 1981. Although President Carter never visited campus during his four-year term in office, he and his wife, Rosalynn,...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Harry S. Truman

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Harry Truman, who was president from 1945 until 1953. Diplomas were also signed by Leonard Elstad, president of Gallaudet, from 1945 until 1969. During this period, the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Barack Obama

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Barack Obama, who was inaugurated in January of 2009. Diplomas were also signed by Gallaudet University President Robert R. Davila, '53, who was president from 2007 until...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Benjamin Harrison

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Benjamin Harrison, who was president from 1889 until 1893. President Harrison attended the Presentation Day (Commencement) exercises in May 1889. President Harrison was also a guest for...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – George W. Bush

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President George W. Bush, who was president from 2001 until 2009. Diplomas were also signed by Gallaudet University President I. King Jordan, '70, who was president from 1988...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – George Herbert Walker Bush

Currently Gallaudet Archives has no examples of diplomas signed by United States President George H. W. Bush, who was president from 1989 until 1993. Diplomas were also signed by Gallaudet University President I. King Jordan, '70, was president from 1988 until 2006. U.S. President Gallaudet...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Franklin Roosevelt who was president from 1933 until 1945. Diplomas were also signed by Percival Hall, president of Gallaudet from 1910 until 1945. During this period, the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Gerald Ford

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Gerald Ford who was president from 1974 until 1977. Diplomas were also signed by Edward C. Merrill, Jr., president of Gallaudet from 1969 until 1983. During this...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Dwight D. Eisenhower

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Dwight Eisenhower who was president from 1953 until 1961. Diplomas were also signed by Leonard Elstad, president of Gallaudet from 1945 until 1969. In 1954, the overall...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Calvin Coolidge

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Calvin Coolidge who was president from 1923 until 1929. Diplomas were also signed by Percival Hall, president of Gallaudet from 1910 until 1945. During this period, the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Grover Cleveland

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by the United States President Grover Cleveland, who was president from 1885 until 1889 and then again from 1893 until 1897. President Cleveland attended the Presentation Day (Commencement) exercises on May...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Chester A. Arthur

The following are diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Chester Arthur, who was president from 1881 until 1885. President Arthur and his wife, along with other distinguished government officials, toured the college on February 23, 1882....

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Contact Us

National Deaf Life Museum

Chapel Hall

(202) 250-2235

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