Drs. John S. & Betty J. Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center naming ceremony held May 3, 2017

May 16, 2017

Author: Phil Dignan

Schuchman naming ceremony

The official naming ceremony of the Drs. John S. & Betty J. Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center, located in the Sorenson Language and Communication Center, took place May 3, 2017. From left: Jean Bergey, associate director; Dr. Brian Greenwald, '96, director; Dr. Stan Schuchman; Dr. Betty J. Schuchman; President Roberta J. Cordano; Joey Aguilera, ֹ'04; and Maggie Kopp, pose following the ribbon cutting and unveiling of the sign.
Photos by Zhee Chatmon

"Teach. Do. Share."

Dr. Brian Greenwald, '96, history professor and director of the Drs. John S. & Betty J. Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center, drew attention to this catchphrase as the best way to summarize the mission of the center being officially named in honor of Gallaudet professor emeritus, Dr. John S. "Stan" Schuchman and Dr. Betty J. "BJ" Schuchman, a professor emerita of George Mason University. 

During the May 3, 2017, naming ceremony Greenwald provided opening remarks in the atrium of the Sorenson Language and Communication Center. The celebration not only was an appreciation for the endowed gift provided by the Schuchmans, but also for their dedication to sharing deaf history, commitment to research, and influence to many at Gallaudet. 

"This generous gift ensures that Gallaudet will continue to be a major stakeholder in the field of deaf history and deaf documentary studies, training the next generation of documentarians." Greenwald added, "We are thankful to the Schuchmans for their vision, guidance, and extraordinary support."

Dr. Brian Greenwald

Introducing Stan Schuchman, Greenwald talked about his lifelong connection to the deaf community, growing up with deaf parents in Indianapolis, and coming to Gallaudet in 1967. At Gallaudet, Schuchman first worked as a professor of history, then later served as a department chair, dean, Academic Affairs vice president, and provost. Greenwald touched on Schuchman's strong connection to deaf history and culture. "Stan, growing up with deaf parents, learned very quickly about issues of oppression, barriers, discrimination, and inequity. He also learned about self-determination."

Schuchman is a historian noted for documenting stories of deaf people and studying the ways hearing people portray deaf life. His attention to narrative individual and community history helped influence two major topics of research: the portrayal of deaf people in Hollywood-produced films, and the experiences of deaf Europeans during World War II.

Jean BergeyJean Bergey, associate director of the center, followed by talking about how the center accomplishes the work they do. The answer is always in collaboration with colleagues on and off campus and students who intern in the center. For example, the Center worked with several professors in preparation for a campus-wide screening of a documentary, provided fast-paced footage for interpreting students to study and translate, and offered internship and independent study opportunities.

President Roberta J. Cordano, in her welcoming remarks, embraced the "Teach-Do-Share" statement that describes the work of the center.

"These words capture the spirit of Gallaudet, and the spirit of our community," said Cordano.

Responding to a gentle critique from the Schuchmans that the center needed more space, Cordano commented that the center's vision aligns with the 6th Street project and discussions are underway as to how it will all fit together, but indeed, the center needs to grow.

Pointing out the exemplary work of the Schuchman Center's student intern Maggie Kopp, who served as lead curator for the Deaf Difference + Space Survival exhibition, Cordano emphasized the skills students learn through documentary creation and public presentation. The exhibition is co-hosted by the Gallaudet University Museum and currently on display in the Weyerhaeuser Family Gallery in the Jordan Student Academic Center.

"The power is not just found within the stories. It's in the connection between people who are sharing what these stories mean to them and we who are interested in learning what they have to say."

Cordano thanked the Schuchmans. "We are forever grateful to the two of you for your investment, for your caring, and for your love."

Carol ErtingProvost Carol J. Erting, who followed Cordano in welcoming those in attendance, also thanked Stan Schuchman, though for a personal reason—as provost, Schuchman hired her in 1974.

"I still have that letter," said Erting. "Thank you for welcoming me to this community."

Erting also recognized another former provost, Dr. Stephen Weiner, '78 & G-'80, who now is interim chair of the Art, Communication, and Theater department.

"Steve is an important part of this effort," said Erting. "This center was his dream, and he was responsible for keeping that dream alive, which now has become a reality...He never lost sight of that vision."

Erting talked about Schuchman's lifelong dedication to Gallaudet's research efforts. "Gallaudet is a university that has always been dedicated to producing new knowledge. Stan Schuchman is an exemplar in terms of setting that research standard."

William EnnisDr. William T. Ennis, '01, assistant professor with the Department of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Sociology, and Weiner both spoke of their experiences with Schuchman. A former student of Schuchman, Ennis researches eugenics and its impact on deaf people. He shared thoughts about his travel to Europe with the Schuchmans to study the experiences of deaf people during the Holocaust. 

"I was fortunate to go to Europe with Stan, BJ, and Dr. Donna Ryan, and learned much. While it was an extremely rewarding trip academically, it was also very difficult. You cannot go on a journey like that to learn about the history of the Holocaust and not be affected by it emotionally. It was a very sobering learning experience. We kept a journal during the trip and I always wrote in mine at the end of the day. Stan was an incredible source of support, helping me process the horrific things that we saw and learned."

Schuchman's research on deaf people and the Holocaust resulted in a 1998 conference co-hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Gallaudet as well as a book edited by Schuchman and Ryan, Deaf People in Hitler's Europe. This book was preceded by another written by Schuchman, Hollywood Speaks: Deafness and the Film Entertainment Industry.

Ennis said that Schuchman was his favorite teacher, remembering the encouragement he showed Ennis to study history. "He was a demanding teacher, yet he was caring," said Ennis.

Following Ennis was Weiner, framing his talk on the importance of documenting stories of deaf people, and using New York City as an example. Weiner, who grew up in a Brooklyn community that included over 500 deaf people within a one-mile radius of his home, was also a student of Schuchman. Stephen Weiner

"I learned the value of passing along history," said Weiner. "History is knowledge...I realized that deaf people have stories to tell."

Weiner spoke of the center's upcoming project, "Deaf NYC: Signs of Change," for which the center received a challenge grant in 2016 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as an example of the center's importance to the deaf community. "It is that pride that helps you go far in life," said Weiner. "It helps drive you. I knew we needed something like this."

Presentations were followed by Kopp (Deaf Difference + Space Survival: Interviews with "Gallaudet 11" Members), Dr. Carolyn McCaskill, '77, G-'79 & Ph.D. '05 (Approaches to Documenting Black ASL), and Dr. Julie Hochgesang, G-'07 & Ph.D. '14 (Our Data is Homeless).

Maggie KoppCarolyn McCaskillJulie Houchsang

Prior to the unveiling of the plaque and ribbon cutting, Schuchman spoke to those in attendance, showing appreciation.

"BJ and I are very happy to make this gift to the center," said Schuchman. "But what I want to say is Gallaudet gave us the most important gift. I had a wonderful career here. We have the best and the brightest deaf people in the world right here, many of whom became our friends and our colleagues. So, thanks to Gallaudet for all it has given to BJ and me."

The schuchmans

To learn more about the center, visit http://www.gallaudet.edu/drs-john-s-and-betty-j-schuchman-deaf-documentary-center.