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May 24, 2023
National Deaf Life Museum
I. King Jordan Bio
I. King Jordan made history in 1988 when he became the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, the world’s only university with all programs and services designed specifically for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. That year Gallaudet students, with support from many alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the University, protested the Board of Trustees’ appointment of a hearing person to the presidency.
Called Deaf President Now (DPN), the week-long protest was a watershed event in the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people all over the world. At its conclusion, the Board reversed its decision and named I. King Jordan, one of three finalists for the position, the eighth president of Gallaudet and the first deaf president since the institution was established in 1864. Since DPN, I. King Jordan’s leadership heightened public awareness of the important educational contributions Gallaudet makes to the nation and the world. He served as an international spokesperson for deaf and hard of hearing people, as well as an advocate for all persons with disabilities. Much sought after as a public speaker, Dr. Jordan continues to challenge the American public to examine their attitudes toward people with disabilities and to open their minds, hearts and workplaces to them.
Dr. Jordan is a native of Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania, a small town near Philadelphia. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served four years. An automobile accident left him profoundly deaf at age 21.
Dr. Jordan earned a B.A. in psychology from Gallaudet in 1970. The following year he earned an M.A., and in 1973 a Ph.D., both in psychology and both from the University of Tennessee.
Upon receiving his doctorate, Dr. Jordan joined the faculty of Gallaudet’s Department of Psychology. In 1983 he became chair of the department; three years later he was appointed dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
As professor, department chair, dean, and president, Dr. Jordan made numerous scholarly contributions to his field. In addition, he has been a research fellow at Donaldson’s School for the Deaf in Edinburgh, Scotland, an exchange scholar at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and a visiting scholar and lecturer at schools in Paris, Toulouse, and Marseille, France.
Dr. Jordan holds eleven honorary degrees and is the recipient of numerous awards, among them: the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, the Washingtonian of the Year Award, the James L. Fisher Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the Larry Stewart Award from the American Psychological Association, and the Distinguished Leadership Award from the National Association for Community Leadership. In 1990, President George Bush appointed Dr. Jordan Vice Chair of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (POffice for Career Success). In 1993, President Clinton reappointed Dr. Jordan Vice Chair of POffice for Career Success.
On December 31, 2006, Dr. Jordan stepped down as president of the University.
On April 6, 2010 it was announced that President Emeritus I. King Jordan has been appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the Commission on Presidential Scholars. Read more about the appointment.
Speeches and Remarks
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,...
Resource Type: History
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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