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Gallaudet Reunion Final Day: An Overview

Image: The final plenary session of the Reunion, “Looking Forward,” was led by Sheri Youens-Un, ’96, (left) an eLearning specialist with Gallaudet Technology Services (GTS), and Earl Parks, ’96, (right) executive director of GTS, and focused on the impact of changing technology on the university’s future.

The final plenary session of the Reunion, “Looking Forward,” was led by Sheri Youens-Un, ’96, (left) an eLearning specialist with Gallaudet Technology Services (GTS), and Earl Parks, ’96, (right) executive director of GTS, and focused on the impact of changing technology on the university’s future.

Image: Alfred Sonnenstrahl, E-’84, was given the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund’s Laurent Clerc Award for his contributions to the community. Sonnenstrahl (center) is pictured with Visionary Leader Dr. Glenn Anderson,’68, (left) and Janet Weinstock, ’78 & G-’81 (right).

Alfred Sonnenstrahl, E-’84, was given the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund’s Laurent Clerc Award for his contributions to the community. Sonnenstrahl (center) is pictured with Visionary Leader Dr. Glenn Anderson,’68, (left) and Janet Weinstock, ’78 & G-’81 (right).

Image: Fourteen notable alumni were inducted into the Gallaudet Hall of Fame.

Fourteen notable alumni were inducted into the Gallaudet Hall of Fame.

The final day of the 150th Reunion on Saturday, July 12 offered a balance between past and present, with induction ceremonies recognizing alumni and leaders and a plenary session focusing on where Gallaudet is headed. Attendees also had the opportunity to attend department reunions to reunite with old classmates, meet others with the same major, and talk about the future of these programs. The Reunion wrapped up with a closing ceremony led by deaf performer and comedian John Maucere and a lighting ceremony in front of Chapel Hall as attendees mingled one last time. 

Plenary Session: Looking Forward
Will Gallaudet establish a spot "in the cloud" as technology advances? How will buildings on campus change? What about classes and communication access - not to mention communication barriers on-and-off campus? How will faculty and students balance the use of technology with the need for interpersonal interaction?The final plenary session of the Reunion, "Looking Forward," was led by Sheri Youens-Un, '96, an eLearning specialist with Gallaudet Technology Services (GTS), and Earl Parks, '96, executive director of GTS, and focused on the impact of changing technology on the University's future.

"Physical location is not an issue anymore," Parks said. "On the other hand, we as a Gallaudet community cherish interaction on campus for cultural immersion and language."

Parks and Youens-Un showed attendees the video "A Vision of Students Today" (2010), which talked about how children read Facebook while in class at school. The video also reported that that 18 percent of teachers do not know their students' names.  

"Fortunately, Gallaudet is a small university where professors know your names, and here, our curriculum focuses on problem-solving and critical thinking," Parks said. 

Parks also described how students can prepare for classes through Blackboard, viewing prerecorded lectures, taking pretests online, and participating in online discussions with classmates.

"We are becoming technologically mobile and virtually connected with each other as time passes," Parks said.

Technology also could remove communication barriers for the deaf - including those with vision issues. GTS recently purchased several Google Glasses for a pilot program to investigate its possible uses. With the glasses, deaf people could view real-time captioning or an ASL interpreter while simultaneously watching a hearing person speak, Parks said.

Parks added that people with Usher's Syndrome, which causes deafness and gradual peripheral vision loss, could use Google Glass for better communication access by watching interpreters through the glasses rather than use tactile interpreting. 

Gallaudet's new Visual Language and Visual Learning Science of Learning Center, led by Dr. Laura Ann Petitto, was highlighted as an example of continuing advances in research that have put Gallaudet on the map. 

"VL2 has expanded and is becoming a powerful program that is technologically rich and sophisticated," Youens-Un said. She also said that Gallaudet's Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging uses highly sophisticated brain imaging equipment for research into brain function and language and is contributing to broader scholarly discourse.  

"Gallaudet is the only university that shares this technology with other universities," Yoens-Un said. "The VL2 Center scientifically advances Gallaudet as a research center."   

GUAA/LCCF Award Presentation
Visionary Leader Dr. Glenn Anderson,'68, presented the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund's Laurent Clerc Award to Alfred Sonnenstrahl, E-'84, for his contributions to the community.

"It is my pleasure to introduce Al, who we know as 'Sonny.' We have been friends for many years.  Al does not know the meaning of can't," Anderson said.  

Sonnenstrahl was a trailblazer in improving communication access for deaf and hard of hearing people in the areas of employment and telecommunications. 

"He deserves this award," Anderson said.

After receiving the award, Sonnenstrahl thanked people such as Visionary Leader John Lopez, '66, and Fred Schreiber, who helped him advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Sonnenstrahl said he and his colleagues were tired of seeing hearing people treat deaf people as in need of charity, so he joined Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI) and worked to be perceived as equal to hearing people.  

Sonnenstrahl also gave Fred Weiner and Paul Singleton credit for helping him work on TTY access and Gregory Hlibok for helping open doors to employment for deaf people with the Federal Communications Commission. Sonnenstrahl also spoke about his work on Titles II and IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Hall of Fame and Alumni Emeriti Club Induction Ceremonies
The focus on notable alumni continued with two induction ceremonies recognizing various individuals for their contributions to the University and the community.

University President T. Alan Hurwitz opened the Gallaudet University Hall of Fame induction by describing the process that led to the first additions to the Hall of Fame since the 1980s. Until Saturday, just 40 people were in the Hall of Fame, but in honor of the University's sesquicentennial, the Board of Trustees narrowed a long list of alumni to 14 leaders deserving of recognition for their exemplary work and contributions. 

Former provost Stephen Weiner explained the criteria by which these inductees were chosen. They must be retired but in their lifetimes have contributed significantly to the welfare of deaf people. They must exemplify outstanding leadership at local, national and international levels, showing high levels of eagerness and thoughtful work.

The individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame are: 

  • Glenn B. Anderson, '68, board member and chair
  • Gerald "Bummy" Burstein, '50 & H-'86, former GUAA president, benefactor
  • Andrew Jackson Foster, '54 & H-'70 (posthumously), school founder 
  • Gertrude Scott Galloway, '51, PhD '93 & H-'02, community leader
  • Jack R. Gannon, '59 & H-'88, administrator, author, historian, benefactor
  • Merv D. Garretson, '47 & H-'74 (posthumously), administrator, board member
  • Petra Howard, 1912 (posthumously), state administrator 
  • I. King Jordan, '70 & H-'14, professor, dean, president emeritus
  • Alto Lowman, 1892 (posthumously), first female graduate
  • Roslyn Goodstein Rosen, '62 & G-'64, teacher, administrator
  • Deborah Meranski Sonnenstrahl, '58, faculty
  • William C. Stokoe, H-'88 (posthumously), professor, pioneer, innovator 
  • Norman L. Tully, G-'55, professor, administrator
  • Frank R. Turk, '52 & H-'97, teacher, coach, administrator


Following the Hall of Fame induction, President Hurwitz led the Alumni Emeriti Club induction ceremony and marked the golden anniversary of the Class of 1964. He also recognized 38 people for more than 50 years of alumni service, with some from classes as early as the 1940s.  

Among those honored was Phyllis Jackson, 'E-51, who left the University without completing her degree. However, she returned to Gallaudet to watch her classmates graduate in 1951 and again, after a 63-year gap, for the 150th Reunion. 

President Hurwitz also reflected on how much has changed for the University since the class of 1964 enrolled. Gallaudet had a total of 662 total students at the time, with 61 graduating in the class year. The University now has 1,753 students. Amusement rippled through the audience as President Hurwitz acknowledged that the cost of tuition in 1964 was $900, compared to nearly $22,000 in 2014.

President Hurwitz also presented all new members of the Alumni Emeriti Club with medallions engraved with the Gallaudet emblem.

Sixth Street Ceremony
A large number of attendees gathered outside the 6th Street Appleby building to learn more about Gallaudet University's redesign initiative to open up the campus for greater cultural access to and enhanced relationships with the surrounding community. 

The timeline of the 2022 initiative, "From Isolation to Innovation," anticipates breaking ground in 2017. However, until then, the planning stage is critical and feedback is essential to determine the most effective changes for students, faculty, staff, the surrounding community, and the city. 

During the event, University staff described various aspects of the project, recruited feedback, answered questions and addressed concerns. They also discussed some logistical enhancements included in the plan to accommodate enrollment growth, including increased campus housing and parking, revitalizing the heart of campus and integrating physical accessibility and sustainability. 

Architectural projects will draw on DeafSpace design elements, paired with an open, urban 6th Street façade similar to that of the Meatpacking District in New York City and the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon. A 24/7 live-work-play operation will offer internships and job opportunities for students and alumni with developers during the primary stages of development. 

The event also showcased various publications from local news outlets about the integration of sign-friendly environments surrounding campus, such as Union Market and the H Street district. Shops, restaurants and bars are actively employing deaf people and teaching general ASL knowledge to staff in order to accommodate the growing local deaf community.

The Gallaudet University Campus Design and Planning staff welcome input from those who were unable to attend the event. 

Closing Ceremony
The Field House gymnasium was standing room only as performer and comedian John Maucere took the stage to close out the 150th Reunion with a variety of skits before sending attendees out to the front of Chapel Hall for a lighting ceremony. Maucere's skits included "DST Buster," a video featuring a small stuffed bison that interrupted various gatherings and events around campus, urging people to get a move on and stop holding up others with "Deaf Standard Time." Maucere also poked fun at deaf elevator experiences, Gallaudet etiquette, "ADA rooms" in hotels, and bathroom accessibility. 

He cleared the stage for three other performances: a 2014 rendition of the Bison Song and two ASL poetry performances, including "Supremacy" by Manny Hernandez, which led Maucere to exclaim, "That's the beauty of ASL - no hearing person could possibly do that in spoken English!"

Maucere also quizzed the current Gallaudet students who performed the modern version of the Bison Song about the alterations. The students explained that they wanted to more accurately reflect the current student body, so they added an international student aspect and eliminated football because it is a male-only sport. The indoor portion of the closing ceremony concluded with recognition of MJ Bienvenu, 150th Reunion Committee Chair. 

"MJ is the very epitome of a deaf heart," Maucere said as he thanked Bienvenu for all her hard work. 

"You all made this possible," Bienvenu told the audience. "Thank you. Be proud, be happy, be Gallaudet!"

Attendees then flocked from the Field House to the front of campus to watch as Chapel Hall was lit up in a multicolored light show. 

"Nothing beats seeing people come home and be so happy to see their Tower Clock shine," Bienvenu said as she watched attendees mingle beneath Chapel Hall. 

"This closing ceremony is ... wow," said Greg Heller, '79, of Overland Park, Kansas. "The performers were funny, but it's very moving to come over here and see the Tower Clock all lit up. This Reunion has been so important for everyone. Not just graduates, but even those who were here only a year or two, visitors, spouses, this is good for them to see. This is why I thank Gallaudet for its education, leadership and socialization. I can't explain how I feel about this whole Reunion. Just that I love you, Gallaudet."

In short, he had just three words to sum it all up: "I thank Gallaudet." 

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

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