Who We Are
News & Stories
May 25, 2023
May 18, 2023
June 24, 2023
June 29, 2023
August 20, 2023
University Wide Events
No Communication Compromises
Areas of Study
Changing the world
Community & Innovation
Research Experiences & Services
Our Global Presence
Global at Home
Global Learning For All
Your Journey Starts Here
Tools and Resources
Explore Our Campus
Jun 1, 2023
National Deaf Life Museum
The Deaf President Now (DPN...
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 her interpreter misunderstood her. Regardless, it became the catalyst for many students, faculty, staff, and alumni to join the protest as they felt Spilman had lost touch with the campus.
A granddaughter of the Bassett Industries founder and wife of its president and CEO, Spilman served on Gallaudet’s Board of Trustees for years but never learned to sign. She became the focal point of many of the DPN protesters’ anger.
A popular refrain seen and heard during the week was “Spilman, learn to sign: ‘I resign!’
A reserved woman, she was frequently characterized as paternalistic and ignorant of deaf culture, although many board members also described her as hard-working and dedicated.
Spilman resigned as Chair of the Board of Trustees and from the board completely on March 13, 1998, one week after the protest began.
She called her continued presence on the Board, “An obstacle to healing.”
Bridgetta Bourne-Firl Student 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...
Resource Type: History
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
Copyright © 2023 Gallaudet University. All rights reserved.
800 Florida Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002