Gallaudet University has announced its plans to mark the 25th anniversary of its historic Deaf President Now (DPN) movement which ushered in the first deaf president of the world only liberal arts university for deaf and hard of hearing students. Since then, DPN has become synonymous with self-determination and empowerment for deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere.

The DPN movement was sparked on March 6, 1988, when the university Board of Trustees selected the lone hearing candidate among the three final candidates under consideration for the position. Over the following eight days, Gallaudet students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the deaf community at large, marched on Capitol Hill, participated in demonstrations and rallies, and gave inspirational speeches advocating for deaf representation at the highest levels of the university, including as its president. On March 13, 1998, following the resignation of the Board of Trustees original selection for president, Elizabeth Zinser, the Gallaudet Board of Trustees appointed Dr. I. King Jordan as Gallaudet first deaf president.

The DPN movement gained worldwide media attention as well as support from political leaders and activists, including then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, then-Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, Senator Tom Harkin, then-U.S. Representative Pat Schroeder, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and others. Many credit the movement for spearheading a shift in society perception of how people with different abilities can make meaningful contributions and participate in leadership roles within and beyond their communities. A little more than two years after the DPN movement, President Bush signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Deaf President Now movement is a pivotal moment in deaf history that captured the attention and respect of the country and the world, said Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz. My wife, Vicki, and I actively supported the DPN movement back in 1988 and I’m proud to be president of the university today as we commemorate this special anniversary.

To commemorate this milestone in deaf history, the University will host a number of lectures, panels, and a film screening to explore the multifaceted nature of this movement. For more information, visit

President’s Panel
Tuesday, February 5 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.

Elstad Auditorium

The University’s first three deaf presidents will describe their experiences and give insight on the transformative changes that have occurred at Gallaudet over the last 25 years.

Board of Trustees Chairs Panel

Wednesday, February 13 from 3:00-4:15 p.m.

Swindells Auditorium

This panel brings the current Chair and three former Chairs of Gallaudet Board of Trustees to reflect on the impact of DPN on the work of the Board of Trustees and how expectations of accountability of the Board of Trustees have changed in the last 25 years. Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz will moderate this panel.

Julian Bond lecture: “From Civil Rights to Human Rights”

Thursday, February 21 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.

Elstad Auditorium

From his college days as a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to his Chairmanship of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Julian Bond has been an active participant in the movements for civil rights, economic justice, and peace, and an aggressive spokesman for the disenfranchised. Professor Bond will establish context and explain the meaning of civil rights and recognize DPN in its proper place in the history of American civil rights movement.

Benjamin Jarashow Lecture: “The 7 Ducks: Behind the DPN Movement”
Wednesday, March 6 from 12:00-1:00 p.m.

I. King Jordan Student Activities Center, Room 1011

This lecture is based on interviews with the “7 Ducks,” a group of alumni who were intimately involved in building momentum for the DPN movement.

Four DPN Student Leaders Panel
Saturday, March 9 from 2:00-3:30 p.m.

Merrill Learning Center, Room B-111

Co-sponsored by the Gallaudet University Alumni Association and moderated by GUAA President Alyce Slater Reynolds, this panel brings together four student leaders that became the face of the DPN movement. This panel discussion will be live streamed to GUAA chapters around the country and the world.

Comparative Civil Rights Panel

Tuesday, March 12 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.

Foster Auditorium

What were people of color doing during DPN? What are their perspectives and stories? This is an area that has not been extensively explored. Their stories can help shed light and add another layer to our understanding of DPN. Professor Ella Barkley Brown of University of Maryland-College Park will examine the issue of diversity within social movements.

“Lives Worth Living” Film Screening and Panel

Thursday, March 14 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.

Foster Auditorium

Coordinated by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, panelists include Judith Huemann, special advisor, Office of International Disability Rights for the U.S. Department of State; Claudia L. Gordon, Esq., special assistant to the director of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and current member of the Gallaudet Board of Trustees.

History of Women at Gallaudet and DPN Panel

Tuesday, March 26 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.

Foster Auditorium

The Board of Trustees has selected a female president two times and each time the campus community has rebelled. This panel will discuss this in terms of gender and history and the role of women in the DPN movement.

David Armstrong Lecture: “DPN and the Struggle for Deaf Control at Gallaudet”

Monday, April 1 from 12:00-1:00 p.m.

I. King Jordan Student Activities Center Multipurpose Room

This lecture will focus on the paradigm shift in Gallaudet’s history as a result of DPN. Questions for consideration include: What are the direct consequences of DPN at Gallaudet? How has Gallaudet changed over the last 25 years? What areas have seen marked improvement? Some additional consideration may be given to the increase in the number of deaf faculty and staff, the university’s endowment fund, the increase in deaf administrators, and changes in physical structure to accommodate the unique visual accessibility needs of deaf students, faculty and staff.

Tom Humphries Lecture: “Our Time: The Legacy of the 20th Century”

Tuesday, April 2 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.

Foster Auditorium

This lecture will focus on the impact of DPN throughout the United States. How has Deaf America changed over the past quarter century? What areas have seen marked improvement and what challenges remain? Discussion will focus on the key changes in deaf education, access to health care, employment, technology, and language rights over the past four decades in the United States. Humphries in an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California at San Diego and is on the Gallaudet Board of Trustees.

Wilma and Bruno Druchen Lecture: “International Perspectives on Human Rights”

Tuesday, April 9 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.

Foster Auditorium

Wilma and Bruno Druchen will discuss the legacy of DPN on an international scale. How has the spirit of DPN inspired other disability rights movements to reaffirm sign language rights, including the important work that led to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? This would draw on their extensive knowledge as leaders of not only South Africa, but also as collaborators with the United Nations, and the World Federation of the Deaf. The Honorable Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, a Gallaudet alumnus, is the first deaf person to be elected to the South African Parliament.

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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