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About – Deaf President Now

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.

Four fingers held up represent the four demands of DPN.

The Issues

A day-by-day chronology of events:

Greg Hlibok

Profiles & Viewpoints

Brief biographies of key individuals involved in the protest and personal accounts

DPN Banner

Impact

How DPN affected deaf and hearing people around the world

This website was initially created as part of the 10- and 15-year celebrations of DPN. Much has changed at Gallaudet University and for the deaf community around the world since DPN. The content has been lightly updated for the 25-year celebration but for the most part remains a snapshot of the events of March 1988.

Photo credits: Yoon K. Lee, Chun Louie and Ken Kurlychek

History

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,...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Vice President George Bush proclaims his support for DPN

March 1, 1988 Mr. Philip Bravin Presidential Search Committee Gallaudet University 7th and Florida Avenue, NE Washington, DC 20002 Dear Mr. Bravin: It is my understanding that Gallaudet University is in the process of selecting a new President. I also understand that you have identified...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Tim Rarus, ’88, most experienced of the “Gallaudet four”

Tim Rarus, a government major from Arizona, was the most politically experienced of the "Gallaudet four," the students who quickly rose to leadership positions during the DPN protest. The other three were Greg Hlibok, Jerry Covell, and Bridgetta Bourne. As the outgoing Student Body Government...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

The Week of DPN

Instead of coming to campus and announcing its decision as was planned, the Board of Trustees had the University's Public Relations Office hastily hand out press releases at 6:30 p.m., an hour and a half before many had expected. The release announced that, rather than...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

The Issues

In 1988, Gallaudet University was the site of student-led protests that today is called Deaf President Now, or simply DPN. But DPN was more than a protest. It was also a unique coming together of Gallaudet students, faculty, and staff with the national deaf community-all...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: Program Information

The impact of the Deaf President Now protest

Deaf President Now (DPN) was the result of many individuals standing up and saying, "I do not, we do not accept degraded status-yes, we require-that others accept this in us as well." Roger Wilkins, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and long time advocate for the rights of...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Senator Tom Harkin’s open letter to Gallaudet students, faculty, administrators and board of trustees

March 11, 1998 Subcommittee on the Handicapped 113 Hart Senate Office Bldg. AN OPEN LETTER TO STUDENTS, FACULTY, STAFF, ADMINISTRATORS, ALUMNI AND BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY Dear Folks: Congratulations. You have succeeded in educating the world about deafness, the concerns of deaf people,...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Senator Paul Simon writes to Greg Hlibok

March 10, 1998 Mr. Greg Hlibok President, Student Body Government Students for a Deaf President Now Alumni House Gallaudet University 800 Florida Ave., N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 Dear Greg: I wanted to let you know that I support the students' efforts seeking the ouster of...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Senator Bob Graham’s message to the board

February 25, 1988 Gallaudet University The Board of Trustees 7th & Florida Avenue NE Washington, D.C. 20002 Dear Members of the Board: It has come to my attention that the Board of Trustees will soon be selecting a new president for Gallaudet University. Assuming the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Senator Bob Dole on why Gallaudet should have a Deaf president

February 18, 1988 Philip Brann, Chairman Presidential Search Committee Gallaudet University 7th and Florida Avenue, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 Dear Mr. Brann: It is my understanding that Gallaudet University is in the process of choosing a new President. I also understand that, after an arduous...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Quotes about the DPN protest worth sharing

The following quotes were made during, or shortly after, the DPN protest of March 1988. The source for these and other quotes used throughout this website are from either the book by Jack Gannon, The Week the World Heard Gallaudet or Gallaudet in the News...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

President’s Council on Deafness

One of the groups most directly involved in the cause for a deaf president was the President's Council on Deafness (PCD). Established in the mid-1980s as an advocacy and advisory group for deaf faculty and staff at Gallaudet, the PCD's chief purpose was to promote...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Profile of Jane Bassett Spilman, former chair of the Board of Trustees

"Deaf people are not ready to function in a hearing world." are the words Jane Bassett Spilman, Chair of Gallaudet University's Board of Trustees, is reported to have said on the night Elizabeth Zinser was chosen as president. Spilman denied saying this, and many contended...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Profile of Gallaudet President Elisabeth Zinser

As vice-chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the Meadville, Pennsylvania native, Elizabeth Zinser, was named president of Gallaudet University on March 6, 1988. This sparked a protest by many students, alumni, faculty, and staff who felt that although she was a qualified...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Philip Bravin, ’66, chair of the presidential search committee

One of just four deaf Board of Trustee members in 1988, Bravin was chair of the presidential search committee responsible for the selection and screening of finalists. A 1966 graduate of Gallaudet and an IBM executive, Bravin became the intermediary between student leaders and the...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Letters of support come in for Gallaudet students before and during DPN

Below are links to the text of letters of support received before and during the DPN protest. Although these letters have been re-typed for this website, every effort has been made to retain the exact wording and spelling of the originals. Vice-President George W Bush...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Letter from Senator Lowell Weicker

Subcommittee on the Handicapped 113 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 February 29, 1988 Mr. Philip Bravin, Chairman Presidential Search Committee Gallaudet University 7th and Florida Avenue, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 Dear Mr. Bravin, It has come to our attention that the Presidential Search...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Letter of support from the Rev. Jesse Jackson

March 9, 1988 TO THE STUDENTS OF GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY: I want to send you my warmest feelings of personal support in your effort to reshape your education and assert your vision. Gallaudet University is a proud symbol of the deaf community. Yet in its 124...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Letter from Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, advocating for a Deaf president

March 9, 1988 Board of Trustees Gallaudet University Washington, D.C. Dear Trustees: I urge you to reconsider the selection of a new president for Gallaudet University. While I hesitate to urge the Board to vote for one candidate over another, it is important to emphasize...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Jerry C. Lee resigns as Gallaudet president after only three years

Only three years after being named the seventh president of Gallaudet University in 1984, Jerry C. Lee announced he would be leaving to take a job as vice-president of Bassett Industries. His resignation began an intense debate about the need for a deaf president. A...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

In Their Own Words: Students remember the day DPN shut the Gallaudet campus down

Yoon Lee, student photographer "On the 8th Day of the DPN Movement, around 8 p.m. some students were running toward the Field House and signing, 'WE WON! WE WON! EVERYONE GO TO THE FIELD HOUSE!' I was already tired from taking pictures every day and...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

I. King Jordan’s account of the DPN protest

"My all-day interview happened on Saturday. It was very intensive, and when it was over, I felt confident. I knew I had done well. I went home that evening and told Linda that I was sure I would be offered the job. On Sunday, I...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Impassioned speaker Gerald “Jerry” Covell, ’89

An impassioned speaker and activist, Gerald "Jerry" Lee Covell was well known at Gallaudet for his involvement in campus politics and extracurricular activities. He was tagged as the protesting students' "spiritual leader" due to his fire-and-brimstone speaking style. He had just completed an unsuccessful bid...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Greg Hlibok, ’89, elected president of the Student Body Government one day before the protest

Elected president of the Student Body Government only a day before the March 1 rally, Greg Hlibok found himself thrust into the spotlight as the official student leader of DPN. A member of a close-knit New York deaf family, which included two older brothers who...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Events leading up to DPN

The spark that ignited DPN was the announcement on March 6, 1988, by the University's Board of Trustees that a hearing person had been selected as Gallaudet's seventh president. In the months — or by some accounts, the years — leading up to this date,...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Documents related to the 1988 DPN protest

Below are links to the text of a wide variety of documents related to the 1988 DPN protest. Although they have been re-typed for this website, we have retained the look, wording and spelling of the originals. Student Body Government Letter to Faculty

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

DPN 25th Anniversary Program Schedule

Presidents Panel Panelists: I. King Jordan Robert R. Davila T. Alan Hurwitz Moderator: Brian Greenwald Tuesday, February 5 12:30 - 1:50 p.m. Elstad Auditorium Watch it online. Board of Trustees Panel Panelists: Philip Bravin Glenn Anderson Pamela Holmes Benjamin Soukup Moderator: T. Alan Hurwitz Wednesday,...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Deaf President Now: Profiles and viewpoints

Bridgetta Bourne-FirlStudent Activist Jerry Covell Student Activist Greg Hlibok Student Activist Tim Rarus Student Activist Phil Bravin Board Member Elisabeth Zinser Hearing Presidential Candidate Jane Spilman Board chairperson President's Council on Deafness Special Advisory Group Jerry C. Lee Former President Dr. I. King Jordan Former...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Bio of DPN student activist Bridgetta Bourne-Firl, ’89

A government major in 1988, Bridgetta Bourne-Firl was heavily involved with college politics and once ran as Jerry Covell's running mate in a bid for Student Body Government leadership. A soft-spoken yet charismatic student and a natural leader, she joined forces with the new SBG...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Additional Resources About the DPN Protest

Deaf Empowerment: Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric Katherine A. Jankowski, Gallaudet University Press, Washington, DC ISBN 1-56368-061-0 Deaf President Now! The 1988 Revolution at Gallaudet University by John B. Christiansen and Sharon N. Barnartt, Gallaudet University Press, Washington, DC ISBN 1-56368-035-1 The Week the World Heard...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

2013 Panel Discussion on the History of Women Leaders at Gallaudet

Video: Watch it online Photos by Matthew Vita

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Contact Us

National Deaf Life Museum

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(202) 250-2235

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