The life story of Robert R. Davila, Gallaudet University's ninth president, is quintessentially American.
Born to poor but loving parents, both from Mexico and both workers in the fields and orchards of Southern California, Bob Davila became deaf at eight years of age, the result of a severe case of spinal meningitis. Learning about a special school for deaf children in the northern part of the state and determined that her young son have a fair shot at life, Davila's mother sent him off alone to the city of Berkeley, the home of the California School for the Deaf (CSD). So began his amazing journey to personal and professional success.
Although the young Davila had received no formal education until his arrival at CSD, once there he soared. He learned American Sign Language and English, and after graduating with honors from CSD, entered Gallaudet University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in 1953, followed by master's and doctorate degrees in education from Hunter College and Syracuse University, respectively.
When he became Gallaudet University's president on January 1, 2007, Davila brought with him a depth of experience in education, both as a classroom teacher and institutional administrator. His classroom career involved teaching at the elementary, high school, and college levels, including nine years as a professor in Gallaudet's Department of Education.
He earned his "administrative spurs" supervising elementary schools for deaf students in New York and Washington, D.C., and from there progressed up the professional ladder to become vice president of Gallaudet University's former Pre-College Programs (now called the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center), chief executive officer of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the U.S. Department of Education. As assistant secretary he was the federal government's chief advisor on federal policy affecting the education and vocational rehabilitation of the nation's 40 million people with disabilities.
Davila holds honorary degrees from Gallaudet, RIT, Stonehill College, and Hunter College. He is the recipient of numerous awards and a prolific speaker and author on topics related to deaf education and the empowerment of deaf people.
Dr. Davila's presidency ended on December 31, 2009. There were many events to celebrate his service and contributions to the University. See the related links below for more information and to view videos of the events.