Inauguration of Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz

Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz accepted the presidency of Gallaudet at a May 12 Inauguration ceremony, pledging to lead the University toward achieving “a natural balance” between its cherished heritage and changes that will be required to guarantee a bright and promising future.

Board of Trustees Chair Benjamin Soukup, assisted by trustees Tom Humphries and Nancy Kelly-Jones, installed Hurwitz as Gallaudet’s 10th president. “Dr. Hurwitz, your Gallaudet family wishes you every success,” said Soukup, who presented the new president a framed copy of the University’s charter, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. “Please know we share your sense of purpose for Gallaudet and will work with you to help you achieve it.

Introducing the president and first lady
Dr. Barbara White, 2009 Distinguished Faculty Member, introduced Hurwitz as a seasoned leader with a “lifelong passion” for shattering barriers for deaf and hard of hearing people. She recognized him as a “collaborative leader” with an “enormous capacity for work.”

In his formal acceptance of the presidency he has held since January, Hurwitz said that although he is new to Gallaudet, the University “is not new to me.” He spoke of his many interactions with the Gallaudet community over the years, and the close friendships he has developed. Addressing the members of the Gallaudet community in the audience, he said he has come to realize that “the Gallaudet heritage is at the center of your love for the University.”

This heritage encompasses Gallaudet’s bilingual mission, its visual learning environment, its advocacy for American Sign Language, and its love of deaf culture and history. He compared this rich heritage to a lens that looks deeply into the very essence of the University, a kaleidoscope that reveals a plethora of perspectives on issues, a magnifying glass that provides an up-close focus on even the finest subtleties of its proud tradition, and a telescope that “allows us to see and reach for the stars. … We can have our dreams. They can come true.”

Hurwitz’s remarks were preceded by a moving video tribute by student-run Bison TV, and a video montage prepared by Academic Technology’s Video Services of the Hurwitz family through the years.

The montage included many photos of the couple’s children, Bernard and Stephanie, both of whom were present for the ceremony, along with many other family members.
First Lady Vicki Hurwitz also received ample praise during the ceremony. White said to Mrs. Hurwitz, “You will leave your own mark on Gallaudet’s history.” She said the First Lady has already been “a busy and gracious hostess” at House One, and she has given numerous presentations on women’s leadership and undertaken research on the famous Edward Miner Gallaudet residence.

Festive ceremony, warm wishes
The program overall was infused with a jubilant air. It began on a festive note with an academic procession, and students carrying the flags of 52 countries and every U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia-a dramatic representation of the diverse campus community–circling the Field House gymnasium. Soukup acknowledged the many individuals who served on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, the Presidential Transition Advisory Committee, and Presidential Inauguration Planning Committee, thanking them for their work on a successful and inclusive presidential selection and transition, and for creating a fitting tribute to Hurwitz. Soukup also welcomed the business, educational, organizational, and government leaders who were on hand to witness this special day in Gallaudet’s history.

Representatives of University and Clerc Center constituencies-students, faculty, teachers, staff, alumni, and Board of Associates-paid tribute to President Hurwitz for his proven track record of leadership, and promised their support to help ensure Gallaudet’s ongoing success under his guidance. Others who offered congratulations and best wishes to Gallaudet’s 10th president included Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a long-standing friend of the University; Dr. Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University and a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Metropolitan Consortium of Universities, which Gallaudet belongs to; and Claudia Gordon, special assistant to the director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Harkin, whose comments came via video presentation, lamented that his work in the Senate prevented him from being present for the ceremony. He remarked that his brother and Hurwitz’s father were schoolmates at the Iowa School for the Deaf. Harkin called Hurwitz “a truly distinguished academic leader,” but noted that he “is not an ivory tower academic. He loves people, he puts students first, and he has a vision for expanding the very important mission of Gallaudet University.” Harkin noted that this year is also the 20th anniversary of the milestone Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which he sponsored. Although the ADA has made significant gains in accessibility and opportunities for people with disabilities, Harkin said much more needs to be done. “I am counting on Gallaudet and its excellent new leader to help us reach these goals,” he said.

McGuire said “Gallaudet’s mission and values are unique and irreplaceable,” and therefore an integral part of the Washington Consortium, which includes “a remarkable group of universities founded … to provide access to higher education for historically marginalized populations.” She called President Hurwitz “a beacon of hope for the entire community of Gallaudet University,” and she said it is her wish that he will be “a tireless advocate for the resources and public support that this University needs to grow even more prominent as the world’s leading university for the deaf and hard of hearing.”

Gordon has known the Hurwitzes for several years through their support of National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc., and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s National Advisory Group. Knowing Dr. Hurwitz as a “persistent and persuasive leader” with “an amazing ability to bring diverse people together,” Gordon said she is “excited at all the possibilities that lie ahead for the D.C. area’s deaf and hard of hearing community with Alan at the helm of Gallaudet.”

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