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Gallaudet Reunion Day Three: An Overview

Image: From left: Delia Lozano-Martinez,’10, coordinator of the Keeping the Promise program in the Office of Diversity and Equity, moderated the Plenary Session: Changes Over the Years with Alex Nelson, G-’13, Kaori Takeuchi, G-’12, Bregitt Jimenez, ’10 & G-’14, and April Jackson-Woodard, ’12.

From left: Delia Lozano-Martinez,’10, coordinator of the Keeping the Promise program in the Office of Diversity and Equity, moderated the Plenary Session: Changes Over the Years with Alex Nelson, G-’13, Kaori Takeuchi, G-’12, Bregitt Jimenez, ’10 & G-’14, and April Jackson-Woodard, ’12.

Image: Álvaro Ernesto De León Espinoza received the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund Edward Miner Gallaudet Award. De León founded and directs Las Voces del Silencio (LAVOSI), a bilingual school for deaf students in Guatemala.

Álvaro Ernesto De León Espinoza received the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund Edward Miner Gallaudet Award. De León founded and directs Las Voces del Silencio (LAVOSI), a bilingual school for deaf students in Guatemala.

Image: Benro T. Ogunyipe, ’02 received the GUAA Outstanding Young Alumnus Award for his work to bring favorable recognition to the University.

Benro T. Ogunyipe, ’02 received the GUAA Outstanding Young Alumnus Award for his work to bring favorable recognition to the University.

Even with a smaller slate of events, Friday was no less busy for 150th Reunion attendees on campus at Gallaudet University. Alumni and reunion attendees also gathered on Hotchkiss Field for a group photo and, later in the day, flocked to various locations on and off campus for individual class reunions.

Plenary Session: Changes Over the Years
The day began with another plenary session, "Changes Over the Years," which focused on the increase in student body diversity at Gallaudet. 

The culturally diverse panelists - Latina, LGBTQA, Asian and Black - shared their experiences of discovering their identities at Gallaudet by using the University's resources and exploring its community.

Delia Lozano-Martinez,'10 and coordinator of the Keeping the Promise program in the Office of Diversity and Equity, moderated a discussion among April Jackson-Woodard, '12; Kaori Takeuchi, G-'12; Alex Nelson, G-'13; and Bregitt Jimenez, '10 & G-'14. 

"We've seen rapid and astounding changes over the years, with new buildings in old places, and the vision of Gallaudet has changed," Lozano-Martinez said. 

Takeuchi, of Japan, enrolled at Gallaudet as a graduate student at age 35. She shared her experiences as an advocate for the deaf community in Japan, fighting for deaf women's and children's rights.  "Gallaudet changed my life," Takeuchi said. "Life pre- and post-Gallaudet is very, very different. In Japan, we do not have education like the U.S. has for the deaf, and we all look at Gallaudet as an icon or beacon."

Jackson-Woodard talked about her struggles as a young single mother from Kansas City, Missouri.  "I came to Gallaudet with nothing, and people looked down on me as a single mother with a baby. I was a kid, and I was unwilling to ask for help until I asked for help," Jackson-Woodard said.

Identifying as a black deaf woman at Gallaudet, Jackson-Woodard learned more about black culture.  "I learned how to respect where I came from," Woodard said, by joining a sorority and participating in other activities.  She also used resources available through the Career Center to help her gain internship experience, and she now is a fulltime employee with the Federal Communications Commission.  

Jimenez, of Chicago, identifies herself as a deaf Latina. She grew up oral and received a cochlear implant at age 3, then attended Gallaudet and majored in Communication Studies and Social Work. At Gallaudet, she said, she learned more about her Mexican heritage by interacting with members of the Latino Student Union, which helped her understand her culture and identity. She also met other members of the Latino community who had similar family backgrounds.

Alex Jackson Nelson, of Minnesota, talked about his journey as a transgender person and becoming a member of the LGBTQA community. "I feel empowered because I can choose my identity," Nelson said, by interacting with others during his Gallaudet years. Communities - such as at Gallaudet - can cause change to happen in people and change the world, Nelson said.

GUAA/LCCF Awards
After the plenary session, Janet Weinstock, Content Specialist with Curriculum and Instruction at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) and Chair of the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund, and Danilo Torres Vargas, International Liaison Specialist from Research Support and International Affairs, presented the GUAA/LCCF Edward Miner Gallaudet Award to Alvaro Ernesto De Leon Espinoza, of Guatemala.  Espinoza received the award for his work that contributes to the well-being of deaf people around the world. He established a bilingual school for the deaf, Las Voces del Silencio, in his home country. Espinoza worked with Gallaudet University to find funding, and retired Social Work professor Barbara White brought social work students to the school last year to help.

"Guatemala has no resources or opportunities for deaf people to live independently," Espinoza said.  "Parents often discourage them. I want to empower them to do more for themselves."

Before, the school had two students, but it now has 23 students," Espinoza said.  "I thank Gallaudet for the opportunity to take advantage of its resources, and here I have a sense of pride and empowerment of the Guatemalan deaf community."

Later in the day, following the Celebrating GUAA event, the GUAA Outstanding Young Alumnus Award was presented to Benro T. Ogunyipe, '02, for his work to bring favorable recognition to the University. The Pauline "Polly" Peikoff, E-'36, Service to Others Award was given to Stephen and Dorothy Brenner, '59, for contributing beyond normal expectations of their time in service to others.All recipients emphasized the tremendous role the Gallaudet community has played in shaping their identities and allowing them to continue their generous work.

Athletics Hall of Fame Banquet
During a banquet at the Kellogg Conference Hotel, Gallaudet University enshrined seven people into its Athletics Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame Class of 2014 includes Laurie Anderson Achin, '03, women's basketball; softball head coach Sarah Burton Doleac, '82; dedicated athletics staffer Kris O. Gould, '87; Dyan Kovacs '98, women's volleyball; Wayne Langbein, '96, men's track and field; Ronda Jo Miller; '01; women's volleyball; and Gregory Warren, '82, men's cross country.

Nearly 180 family members, friends, Gallaudet alumni and supporters of Bison athletics were present to meet the inductees who could attend, many of whom gave moving speeches about their experiences at Gallaudet.

Gallaudet Athletic Director Michael Weinstock served as the master of ceremonies for the event. 

Three of the honorees - Achin, Langbein, and Miller - were unable to attend but shared their gratitude through taped video messages.

Celebrating GUAAA
After lunch, hundreds of attendees gathered in the Bison Field House to celebrate the Gallaudet University Alumni Association. 

The event began with a lively skit performed by five alums, reenacting the formation of the GUAA in 1889 by Melville Ballard, John Hotchkiss, George Veditz, Amos Draper, and Robert McGregor.

GUAA president Alyce Slater Reynolds, '76 & G-'78, then took the stage to lead a presentation about the history and contributions of the association, one of the oldest in the United States.

The GUAA board plays a foundational role in the continued development and strength of the University's administration and students, Reynolds said. Since its founding, the association has contributed to a range of achievements, from the creation of retirement packages for Gallaudet faculty and staff to providing organizational encouragement during Deaf President Now and supporting the new Gallaudet Museum.  

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the GUAA, Reynolds said, is its establishment of and contributions to financial endowments and scholarship funds that help students of all backgrounds earn an education at Gallaudet.  

In preparation for the 150th Anniversary celebration, the GUAA partnered with the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation to create a new endowed scholarship fund. GUAA leaders showed the association's support for this fund by signing a check for $100,000 onstage to match the foundation's $100,000 contribution.

"When the GUAA learned of the challenge from the Newcombe Foundation for a matching grant of $100,000, we did not hesitate to take up this challenge," Reynolds said. "This is one of the many ways Gallaudet alumni can express our thanks to the University."

GUAA members are encouraged to donate to the association's portion of the scholarship fund.

The event closed with a rousing game of trivia in which GUAA board members quizzed audience members about a number of historical facts as well as announced the establishment of the newest GUAA chapter in Nigeria, Africa. 

Class Reunions
Across campus and at various locations off-campus, individual classes reunited to share their memories of Gallaudet and what they're up to now. The dinners ranged from white tablecloth dinners with wine and gourmet courses to takeout pizza. Regardless of setting, it was apparent all had a good time, and many shared their thoughts and memories.

Here are just a few:
Roxanne Baker ('80) - "I had many memories here. Gallaudet felt like a family, with my classmates being my brothers and sisters. There are some classmates I haven't seen for 15 or 20 years, but it feels like I just saw them yesterday. My best memories are of being included in different activities, and being part of my sorority (Phi Kappa Zeta). Gallaudet is home to me, and always will be." 

Diane Munoz ('63) - "It's wonderful to come back, and I enjoy seeing many old faces. I have many good memories, including making new friends from different states, learning new perspectives, and marrying my husband in the middle of my college years. So many things happened, all of them wonderful. Thanks to Gallaudet, I got a good job, and I'm now happily retired." 

Ernest Hairston ('61) - "When I first enrolled at Gallaudet, I was part of the freshman prep program, which didn't have many black students. I played football, rugby, was involved in different organizations, as well as being one of the few wrestlers on campus. I was also part of the Gallaudet Dance Group. Gallaudet was one of the best times in my life, helping me with my career and helping me to better understand myself. I got my Ph.D., I became successful, and it's all thanks to Gallaudet." 

Steven Chough ('61) - "Awesome. That's how I'd sum up my experience at Gallaudet. Many hearing people were ahead of me with their careers, but Gallaudet helped me to advance myself and be on the same level as them." 

Barbara Bagettsch-Mattis ('75) - "My best memory of being a student at Gallaudet was ... everything. Socializing, dancing, friends, everything. From 25 years ago to now is such a big difference. The campus is so beautiful!"

Patty Barnard-Henley ('75) - "Despite not graduating from Gallaudet - which was one of my biggest mistakes - I had wonderful times, especially during my prep year. One big lesson was: life is long, friendships are important, especially in the Deaf community. Even though I haven't seen many of my classmates in a long time, coming together makes it seem like yesterday." 

Contributors: Tara Congdon, Megan Clancy, Andrew Greenman, Julia Pergolini, and Sam Atkinson

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