The upcoming year marks a prominent milestone in Gallaudet’s history as the University kicks off its sesquicentennial celebration. The occasion was the theme of President T. Alan Hurwitz’s September 12 welcome back address, entitled “The Years Behind-The Years Ahead.”

“Talk about waiting a long time – we have waited 150 years for this anniversary!” Dr. Hurwitz quipped. He added that this year will be a special time for the Gallaudet community to look back on “an exceedingly long, rich history,” and to express appreciation to “those who preceded us and brought us here today. Theirs is a lasting legacy.” He noted that Gallaudet students of the past, present, and future are part of a continuum of those who choose to come here to gain the best possible college education, discover an open door to a bright future, and become leaders for future generations.

Although the task was difficult, a committee from the community selected 15 notable alumni, known as Visionary Leaders, who will be honored every month from now until next November. Hurwitz encouraged the audience to learn about them and their “passion to make a difference” by visiting the sesquicentennial website. He called upon everyone to gain inspiration from these leaders and do their part in making the world a better place. “When we reach our 200th anniversary, which of you will be added to the list?” asked Hurwitz …. What will you have contributed? … How will you have led with vision?”

Through his examples of anniversary activities taking place throughout the year, the president emphasized several other themes as well-some explicitly and some implicitly-including: the vital role the Clerc Center plays within the University, the unity of the campus, and the work everyone does together as a community, the need for optimism and caring for each other despite funding issues, and the need to continue working conscientiously  on fulfilling the goals of Gallaudet’s Strategic Plan.

Like this year’s Deaf President Now 25th anniversary celebration, the sesquicentennial is an occasion for reflection, but both events provide opportunities for looking ahead, exploring new initiatives, sparking discussions, and forming partnerships to move the University forward. This can be achieved by focusing all of the University’s pursuits around three cornerstones ﹘ academics, community, and deaf culture, and Washington, D.C. “First for our future are our academics,” said Hurwitz. “We must ensure we provide a solid education for every student who comes to our Clerc Center or our University.” Second, he said, “is our responsibility to sustain our community-the community of Deaf Culture.” This includes embracing diversity, which he called “a driving force in our community.” Third, Gallaudet is an important component in the thriving, dynamic city of Washington, D.C. “When we speak of Gallaudet with others … we speak of moving from isolation to innovation within the broader District community.” Five noted speakers are addressing topics related to these core initiatives during this year. Information about them can also be found on the sesquicentennial website.

Upon entering Elstad Auditorium for Hurwitz’s presentation, each person was handed a University Viewbook and @ClercCenter, a publication about the Clerc Center’s national mission work and demonstration schools KDES and MSSD. The University’s recruitment DVD was also shown. The publications and DVD all reemphasized the themes of academics, community and deaf culture, and Washington, D.C. The focus on these topics not only helps ensure success for current students, but it also encourages potential students to envision themselves at a university that is renowned for its academic programs and its history, in the heart of one of the world’s most important cities, with its opportunities for career development in almost any conceivable field, as well as cultural enlightenment.

“Working together, we will ensure that at our 300th anniversary, all will look back at this era with pride in the inspiring list of our accomplishments,” said Hurwitz. “Like so many who have journeyed here before, I hope you continue to find the passion for making a difference.”

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