Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

Bravin, side view of him signingMr. Philip W. Bravin, '66, will be the official Commencement speaker at Gallaudet University's 145th Commencement exercises on Friday, May 16, 2014. As a result of the 1988 Deaf President Now (DPN) movement, 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. Always a loyal advocate for our students, Bravin was instrumental in helping the University maintain a sound financial base and keep Gallaudet on the forefront with technology. Bravin has a long and distinguished record of service to organizations at the local, state, regional, and national level. He currently serves as vice president for business development and outreach for ZVRS.

Senator Tom Harkin
Photo courtesy of Senator Harkin

We are also honored to have Senator Tom Harkin, H-'91, speak at Commencement. Harkin has been a staunch supporter of Gallaudet University and of the deaf and hard of hearing community throughout the nation. His brother, Frank, was deaf and as such Harkin understood the unique perspective of the deaf community. In his role in Congress as Chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Harkin has steadfastly supported Gallaudet during often intense Congressional negotiations over the federal budget. He has visited campus on many occasions, hosted a Congressional hearing on employment of deaf and hard of hearing people, and has recognized Gallaudet many times on the Senate floor over the years. Harkin received an honorary degree from Gallaudet in 1991. After 40 years of serving in Congress, Senator Harkin is retiring at the end of this term.

In addition, Bravin and two other highly esteemed alumni and leaders in the deaf community have been selected by the Board of Trustees as recipients of honorary degrees at Gallaudet's 145th Commencement exercises. The other honorees are Father Thomas J. Coughlin, '72 & G-'79, and President Emeritus I. King Jordan, '70.

Father Coughlin
Photo from

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 -- particularly with youth -- is nothing short of outstanding. 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.

I. King Jordan posing at Chapel Hall columnsDuring 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. What's more, 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.

The far-reaching contributions these honorary degree recipients have made have benefited so many people and are greatly appreciated.

Drs. Rachel Hartig, Robert E. Johnson, Carol LaSasso, Scott Liddell, Ellen Loughran, Ceil Lucas, and Donald Peterson will also be awarded professor emeriti status.

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