Outstanding Personalities to Receive Honorary Degrees

Gallaudet University is pleased to announce that three highly esteemed alumni and leaders in the deaf community have been selected by the University’s Board of Trustees as recipients of honorary degrees at Gallaudet’s 145th Commencement exercises. On Friday, May 16, 2014, the University will award degrees to Philip W. Bravin, ’66, Father Thomas J. Coughlin, ’72, and President Emeritus I. King Jordan, ’70, in recognition of their outstanding service. All three have accepted the invitation to receive these awards. In addition, Mr. Bravin will serve as the Class of 2014 Commencement speaker. Acknowledging the achievements of Mr. Bravin, Father Couglin, and Dr. Jordan is a particularly significant event for Gallaudet’s 2014 Commencement, because it coincides with the celebration of the University’s 150th anniversary.

“Mr. Bravin, Father Couglin, and Dr. Jordan are exemplary individuals whose achievements deserve one of the highest recognitions on our campus: receiving an honorary degree,” said President T. Alan Hurwitz. “I fully concur with the Board of Trustee’s final choices and I commend the efforts of the Faculty Committee on Honorary Degrees throughout the nomination and selection process.”

Each year, honorary degrees are presented at Commencement to deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing individuals for exemplary service to the deaf and hard of hearing community. The Faculty Committee on Honorary Degrees closely reviews nominations for the awards and recommends selections based on strict standards and procedures adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2010. As such, nominations are accepted on an ongoing basis and are considered by the Board 15 months in advance of the Commencement at which the award(s) will be given.

Criteria for honorary degree recipients include one or more of the following:

  • Individuals whose significant personal, social, cultural, scientific, or professional achievements have positively increased public awareness of deaf and hard of hearing people, nationally or internationally, and whose values inherently are reflected in the Gallaudet University mission.
  • Individuals with exemplary records of academic and/or public accomplishments in line with Gallaudet University’s standards for academic rigor, quality, and significance.
  • Persons whose leadership or originality in significant human endeavor has been with distinction, with preference to those whose accomplishments came first in a particular field of endeavor.
  • Individuals who have served as role models for deaf and hard of hearing people through their extensive leadership and public service.

Mr. Bravin gained acclaim as chair of the presidential search committee responsible for the selection and screening of finalists for the choice of Gallaudet University’s president in 1988, a tumultuous process that led to Deaf President Now. The movement held the world’s attention riveted to Gallaudet and led to the selection of Dr. Jordan as the University’s first deaf president. The influence of DPN continues to this day as the world becomes more and more aware of the contributions of deaf people. As a result of DPN, Mr. Bravin became the first deaf chair of a Board of Trustees that was composed, for the first time, of a deaf majority. He was a trustee for 20 years, serving eight of those years as chair. Mr. Bravin was instrumental in helping the university maintain a sound financial base and kept Gallaudet on the forefront with technology.

Father Coughlin is well known for his pioneering work in the ministerial field. He is one of the first deaf priests in North America, and his work in the deaf community is well known, particularly with youths. After working as a home missionary priest for the International Catholic Deaf Association, he founded Camp Mark Seven, a program for Catholic deaf youth and adults, in Old Forge, N.Y. He also is noted for establishing the House of Studies for Deaf Seminarians in Yonkers, N.Y., which was later transferred to San Antonio, Tex., where it became known as the Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate.

During his more than 18-year tenure as president, Dr. Jordan was an effective ambassador for the University, building strong relations in Congress and in the business community. Under his leadership, the University’s endowment and its federal appropriation increased tremendously, and its academic programs and scholarships increased in number and quality. He led a successful capital campaign that raised funds to build the Student Academic Center. In addition, Dr. Jordan was a champion for the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. In 2010, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the Commission on Presidential Scholars.

Also at Commencement, Rachel Hartig, Robert E. Johnson, Carol LaSasso, Scott Liddell, Ellen Loughran, Ceil Lucas, and Donald Peterson will receive professor emeriti status.

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.

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