Visionary Leader - August 2014

Jerald “JJ” Jordan

Jerald Jordan, 1948

Jerald “JJ” Jordan, ’48 and Gallaudet’s Visionary Leader for August, is remembered for his charisma and exceptional enthusiasm for deaf sports, which took him around the world. Throughout his life and professional career, he was dedicated to advancement of international deaf athletes and deaf sport competition.

Jordan in a flight suit flying in zero gravity in an airplane body
Jordan experiencing zero gravity as part of a Navy/NASA experiment.
Jordan in a motion sickness simulator
Jordan participating in another Navy research test on motion sickness.

An anecdote exemplifies Jordan’s charismatic approach to life. He was one of 11 men who participated as research subjects in motion sickness experiments in the 1960s for the U.S. Navy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). One requirement included drinking 16 ounces of vodka in 10 minutes while electrodes measured his involuntary eye movements.

In a 1962 Washington Post article, he was quoted as dryly remarking, “I didn’t understand the reason for the test, but it was thoroughly delightful.”

Born in 1927 in Michigan, Jordan was a sports enthusiast and had deep knowledge about the field of science and mathematics. After graduating from Gallaudet, he worked in the printing industry for two Washington, D.C.-area newspapers.

After 11 years in the printing industry, he switched gears and returned to Gallaudet as a professor. Jordan originally taught in the science and mathematics department, but in his 30 years of service with the University, he held a number of positions, including director of the Computing Center, director of the College Project Talent Search and in admissions.

Jordan demonstrating a machine while a young seated woman and two men standing look on
Jordan demonstrates a teletype machine.
Jordan in a running suit near Chapel Hall carrying the Olympic torch and surrounded by onlookers
In 1996, Jordan was honored to carry the Olympic torch through Gallaudet's campus on route to the Opening Ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia.

He also was heavily involved with the International Games for the Deaf, now known as the Deaflympics. Jordan efficiently carried out his duties as chairman of the 1965 Games, and in 1967 he joined the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD). He went on to become the fifth president of the ICSD — the first American to hold the position.

Jordan remained president of the organization for 24 years and accomplished a number of major initiatives, including establishing a stronger relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and increasing the number of participants in the Deaflympics.

One aspect of the Deaflympics that distinguishes it from all other IOC-sanctioned Games is that it is organized and exclusively operated by members of the deaf community. This ideal was important to Jordan.

“I’m completely, totally 1,000 percent deaf, and proud of it,” he said in 1975.

The IOC honored Jordan for his tremendous dedication with the Olympic Order — the highest honor the IOC can bestow and that is designed for individuals who have illustrated Olympic ideals through their actions. Jordan was the first deaf person to receive this honor. He also received the ICSD Gold Medal in recognition of his years of service, and he served as chair of the organization’s Legal Commission until his death.


Jordan also was an advocate for deaf people through his membership with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (DHHCAN). Serving as treasurer of the organization, he was a determined staunch advocate for improving accessibility to television programming, and he promoted and supported standardizing the quality of closed captioning.

Jordan retired from Gallaudet in 1991 and received an honorary degree from the University in 1994. His wife, Shirley — a former Gallaudet Hearing and Speech professor — was by his side when he died in 2008.


*Photos courtesy Gallaudet Archives

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