Gallaudet celebrates 142nd Commencement

May 14, 2011

On Friday, May 13, almost 350 undergraduate and graduate students were awarded diplomas at Gallaudet University's 142nd Commencement exercises.

Families, friends, faculty, and staff joined honorary degree recipients and representatives from the Canadian and Swiss embassies as Gallaudet's newly minted alumni made their way across the stage in the University's Field House to collect their diplomas.

The program was highlighted by commencement speaker Gary Malkowski (watch video), a Canadian native and Gallaudet alumnus ('82 & G-'84), who in 1990 was elected to a seat in the Provincial Assembly of Ontario, becoming Canada's first deaf parliamentarian. During his five years in office his work led to the introduction and implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005. Currently, Malkowski is special advisor to the president, public affairs, at The Canadian Hearing Society.

"This is the highest recognition I could ever have imagined," said Malkowski, who was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. "Gallaudet University is truly a home, and is an engine for higher education that continues to be an integral tool in the building of thousands of bridges between deaf and hard of hearing people who use signed languages and our general societies, including institutions of all levels of government."

Karen Peltz Strauss, Esq., deputy bureau chief for the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree. Currently, she is responsible for overseeing the FCC's efforts to ensure that the nation's mandates for telecommunications access for people who are deaf and those with disabilities are fully implemented.

"The deaf and hard of hearing communities owe a great debt to Ms. Peltz Strauss, Esq., for her many years of unparalleled efforts to help ensure full telecommunications access for everyone," said Gallaudet Board of Trustees Chair Benjamin J. Soukup.

Students selected to speak at commencement (watch video) were undergraduates Daniel DiDonna and Angela Marie Vasquez, and graduate student Adam Wasilewski. Quoting former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Wasilewski noted, "...each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse. The fireworks begin today as you go forth into the brave new world. This knowledge can inspire and uplift others--after all, knowledge is power. As we continue to grow and expand our horizons, Gallaudet collectively grows as well."

Three former faculty members were also granted "emeriti" status: Dr. John Christiansen, Dr. Ann Powell, and Dr. Stephen Fox.

In his closing remarks, President Hurwitz sent the new graduates off with the question, "And what of the future?" He said, "We know that it is uncertain but we also know that Gallaudet has helped prepare you for life."

On the previous day, Howard Rosenblum (watch video), newly appointed chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf and a 2010 presidential appointee to the U.S. Access Board, addressed master's and Ph.D. candidates at the Graduate Awards and Hooding Ceremony.

In addition to congratulating the members of the Graduate Class of 2011 for their hard work and achievements, Rosenblum, who is noted for his career in championing the legal rights of individuals with disabilities, stated that in the career world, deaf people and individuals with disabilities face inequities daily. Those who complain about this unfair treatment are constantly frustrated, he said. However, he noted that history is full of people who changed the world by being proactive, and as a result, "changing attitudes, breaking barriers, and defying doubters."

Rosenblum advised the members of the Class of 2011 to arm themselves with knowledge, because opportunities go to those who are best prepared. "You may have to work harder and face more challenges, but it doesn't matter," he said. "The point is you can succeed."