Academics
Areas of Study

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

2013 Panel Discussion on the History of Women Leaders at Gallaudet

Check out this video of the panel of women at DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Additional Resources About the DPN Protest

More about the DPN protest at Gallaudet University.

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.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Deaf President Now: Profiles and viewpoints

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

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.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

DPN 25th Anniversary Program Schedule

The DPN 25th Anniversary Program Schedule

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.

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, 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 had attended Gallaudet, Hlibok quickly mastered the political savvy of politicians twice his age.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

I. King Jordan’s account of the DPN protest

I. King Jordan speaks on his personal experience becoming Gallaudet's first deaf president.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Impassioned speaker Gerald “Jerry” Covell, ’89

An impassioned speaker and activist, 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.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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

A collection of quotes from alumni, current students, and members of the deaf community inspired by the DPN protests on Gallaudet campus.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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

Despite his short tenure as university president, Jerry Lee guided Gallaudet through an expansive period. The college became a university and the campus served thousands of deaf students from the "rubella bulge."

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Letter from Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, advocating for a Deaf president

An endorsement letter from then-Congresswoman Pat Schroeder in support of DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Letter from Senator Lowell Weicker

An endorsement letter from then-senator Lowell Weicker in support of DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Letter of support from the Rev. Jesse Jackson

An endorsement letter from Rev. Jesse Jackson in support of DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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

Letters of support from important individuals during the DPN protest.

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 Board during the protest.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

President’s Council on Deafness

The appointment of the new president of Gallaudet University has resulted in an OVERWHELMING vote of NO CONFIDENCE in the Board of Trustees!

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 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 administrator, she didn't have the knowledge and skills necessary to lead Gallaudet University.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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

Jane Bassett Spillman was a problematic figure during the DPN protests. She sat on the Board of Directors but never learned to sign. Students fought for her resignation.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Quotes about the DPN protest worth sharing

The following quotations were made during, or shortly after, the DPN protest of March 1988 or come from letters sent in support of the DPN protest.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Senator Bob Dole on why Gallaudet should have a Deaf president

An endorsement letter from then-senator Bob Dole in support of DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Senator Bob Graham’s message to the board

An endorsement letter from then-senator Bob Graham in support of DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Senator Paul Simon writes to Greg Hlibok

An endorsement letter from then-senator Paul Simon in support of DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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

An endorsement letter from then-senator Tom Harkin in support of DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

The impact of the Deaf President Now protest

The long-lasting impact of the DPN movement on Gallaudet campus can still be felt to this day. Read now for more information on how DPN brought about legislative and social change in the United States.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

The Issues

In 1988, Gallaudet University was the site of a student-led protest that today is called Deaf President Now, or simply DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: Archives & Exhibits

The Week of DPN

A living piece of Gallaudet history: the DPN 1988 protest synopsis.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: Program Information

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.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Vice President George Bush proclaims his support for DPN

An endorsement letter from former president George Bush in support of DPN.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Contact Us

National Deaf Life Museum

Chapel Hall

(202) 250-2235

** By Appointment Only **
By submitting this form, I opt in to receive select information and deaf resources from Gallaudet University via email.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.