Clerc Hall is an eight-story residence hall consisting mostly of six quads per floor. A quad is a suite of rooms that houses four people and contains two double rooms, a combined living and study room, and a bathroom. Each floor accommodates 24 students. There are study an TV lounges on some floors. Each bedroom is equipped with a heating and air-conditioning unit, carpeting, Venetian blinds, beds, desks, chairs, wardrobe closets, and dressers. Each living and study room has a sofa and a coffee table. Clerc Hall accommodates 180 sophomores, juniors, and some transfer and returning students.
Number of floors: 9 plus basement
Capacity: 39 suites & 7 apartments
History of the building: The first co-ed dormitory on campus.
Size of the building: It is 113 feet, 6 inches tall.
Date of dedication: April 6, 1974
Named for Laurent Clerc (1785-1869)
There are a lot of firsts that Laurent Clerc accomplished. He was the first deaf teacher in America, the first deaf person to appear before the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., to talk about establishing public schools for the deaf, and the first deaf person to get an honorary M.A. degree from Trinity College.
Clerc was born to a prominent family in the village of LaBalme, France. His father was a notary by profession and mayor of the village for 34 years. His mother was the daughter of another notary. Males in Clerc's family held the office of Tubelion (a Royal Commission) in that village for over 300 years. Clerc's family believed that he became deaf after falling from his highchair into the kitchen fire, but he might have been born deaf. His right creek was burned in the accident - hence the name sign of brushing two fingers across the cheek.
Clerc lived through the French Revolution, witnessing Napoleon's rise and fall. In fact, he lived in England for a while to escape from the turmoil.
Clerc had once been considered to help start a school for the deaf in Russia, but was passed over because he was deaf. He agreed to come to America for only three years for three reasons: 1) to help organize a new school for the deaf; 2) to be the first experience teacher; and 3) to teach others how to teach the deaf. However, he married one of his beautiful, dark-eyed, dark-haired, slender, and vivacious pupils, Eliza Crocker Boardman of Whiteborough, N.Y. This proved to be a strong incentive for Clerc to stay in America. Clerc and Eliza had six hearing children (two died at the age of 2), and Clerc returned to France three times with his sons to ensure they would have a firm grasp of the French language. Clerc stated that each time he visited France, he returned to the U.S.A. feeling that America needed him more. He felt that he had received the blessings of an education and wanted to freely give to others - "freely receive, freely give" as he quoted from the Bible.
The French are known for their logical way of thinking. When Clerc was sailing from France to America for the first time with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, he saw some sailors feeding mice to the ducks that were kept on deck as food for the passengers. Clerc wrote in his journal that if ducks ate mice and people ate the ducks, then the people were really eating mice! After that, when roast duck was served on the ship, he refused to eat the duck, eating only bread and tea.
On the ship, Clerc taught Gallaudet sign language while Gallaudet taught him English. Clerc knew not one iota of the English language, but by the time he arrived in America (52 days), he had mastered English "to near perfection."
Clerc loved New York City and on meeting Alice Cogswell all his homesickness, which he had felt on the ship, vanished.
Clerc's first three pupils were Alice Cogswell, Wilson Whiton (first native-born American deaf teacher), and George Loring (entered business with his father in Boston).
Clerc taught for over 50 years. He had taught for at least 10 years in France, and then for 40 years at the American School for the Deaf. He left the American School for six months to be acting principal at the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf in Philadelphia. Clerc retired in 1858 at the age of 73 years. He died on July 18, 1869, two months after his 50th wedding anniversary.
Clerc and John Carlin knew each other. Carlin did at least two oil paintings of Clerc. One of the paintings labeled Clerc as "an apostle to the deaf-mutes of the New World." Indeed, he is recognized as such, and as it was said, "If Clerc had been a lesser man, the social, economic, and educational history of the deaf in the United States would be considerably different from what it is."