Gertrude Scott Galloway

Women's Rights Advocate. Activist. Civic Leader. Educator. Pioneer. All of these titles apply to Dr. Gertrude Scott Galloway, '51. Combined, they more than qualify her as Gallaudet's Visionary Leader for the month of March.

Beginning her career in a decade where the abilities of deaf women were frequently discounted, Galloway has unequivocally proven to the world women's equality to men. She was the first woman to be elected president of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). She was the first deaf superintendent of the Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf (MKSD) in Trenton, N.J. She was the first woman president of the Conference of the Educational Administrators of the Schools and Programs for the Deaf. She was the first woman president of Deaf Seniors of America, Inc. Galloway accomplished these firsts without deaf female role models-but in doing so, she has become one for countless deaf women. "You need to be tough to make it out there," Galloway said. "I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it."

Gallaudet University has always been part of Galloway's life. She was born to deaf parents in Washington, D.C., and grew up seven blocks from the Kendall Green campus. She attended the Kendall School before enrolling at Gallaudet at age 15. During her years at Gallaudet, she was involved in Drama Club productions, in which she often co-starred with deaf theatre icon Bernard Bragg, '52. In her final year, she held the position of head senior, serving as spokesperson for women in her class.

Following graduation from Gallaudet at the age of 20, Galloway married a young chemist, Victor, ‘51. They had three children: two daughters, Dawn and Shayne, and a son, Vance. The couple divorced in 1970, and Gertrude and her children moved to Frederick, Md., where she began teaching math at Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD).

While teaching, Galloway continued her education, receiving a master's degree in deaf education in 1972 from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College). The following year, she became assistant principal at MSD's Columbia campus, and stayed in the position until 1990. During this time, she had an important role in establishing new elementary school programs and programs for students with multiple disabilities. Galloway also taught psychology and women's studies at Hood College in Frederick from 1975 to 1984, and American Sign Language at Western Maryland from 1970 to 1974.

The Women's Liberation movement of the 1970s set the stage for ambitious women like Galloway to prove their worth. Her philosophy then and now is that to convince others of your ability to do a job, you must set ego aside, listen to others, and work as a member of a team. That reasoning, combined with talent and experience, led her to leadership roles in community activism with a number of organizations: vice president and president of the Maryland Association of the Deaf, vice president of the Gallaudet College Alumni Association (GCAA), and president of the Free State chapter of the GCAA. She was also chair of the National Commission on Equal Education Opportunities for Deaf Children.

After becoming president of the NAD in 1980, Galloway focused on establishing wider political support for equal communication access to television for deaf people. By that time, major networks such as NBC, PBS, and ABC had started providing closed captioning to their programs, but CBS had not joined the movement. Galloway planned a nationwide rally to protest CBS' continued exclusion of deaf audiences, which resulted in the network giant changing its position and adding captions to some of its programs in 1982.

Former President Ronald Reagan appointed Galloway in 1986 as chair of the Pre-College Committee on the National Commission of the Education for the Deaf. This prestigious organization yielded a report, "Toward Equality-Education of the Deaf," which contained important recommendations to Congress for improving the quality of education for deaf and hard of hearing people. Galloway also contributed to educational issues associated with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, the latter a precursor to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Galloway became superintendent of MKSD in 1991. Being the first deaf person to be named to this prestigious position was inspired by Gallaudet's 1988 Deaf President Now movement, she said. This accomplishment did not mean, however, that her zest for learning had come to an end. She earned a doctorate in special education administration from Gallaudet in 1993, and in 2002 she was awarded an honorary degree from the University.

Following her retirement as superintendent at MKSD in 1999, Galloway became president of Deaf Seniors of America, focusing her energy on improving housing and other services for deaf seniors. Today, she is a grandmother to her daughter Shayne's twins, a travelling guest speaker, and a coordinator for overseas tours. Most recently, she became coordinator for the annual symposium held by North Texas Deaf Senior Citizens, a nonprofit organization that provides recreational, educational, wellness, volunteer, and social opportunities for deaf seniors.

Though it may appear that Galloway's life is a continuum of success stories, it has had moments of great sorrow. She lost two of her children in their 40s-Vance, to bacterial meningitis, and Dawn, to a heart attack. "Dance to the wind," said Galloway, when it comes to challenges in life. "When the wind is hard, you can dance around it, when the wind is soft you can dance through it."

"Gertie (Galloway) is a torch bearer who has broken down numerous barriers and helped open doors for many deaf leaders," said Dr. Glenn Anderson, Visionary Leader for February 2014. "As a leader who achieved many firsts, she has earned the respect and admiration of many."

[Update: Dr. Gertrude Galloway passed away on July 17, 2014.]

*Photos courtesy Gallaudet Archives unless otherwise indicated
Gallaudet's 150th celebration is made possible by generous support from:

Philip L. Graham Fund
See more of our sponsors

Gertrude Scott Galloway, wearing a black top and a pearl necklace. This is a black and white photo Gertrude Scott Galloway in a black and white photo. She's wearing a black polka dot blouse under a solid colored jacket. She has glasses -- appears to be in her 50s or 60s. Group photo. Four people in the back row and six people sitting poolside, their feet in the water.

Galloway (front row, second from left) sits with preparatory and freshman students in a Red Cross lifesaving course taught by Agnes Padden, '47, at the Fowler Hall swimming pool in 1948.

Gertrude Scott Galloway in a plaid striped shirt, looking off to the side, frowning agains the sun

Galloway is pictured in 1947 during her freshman year at Gallaudet. (Photo: Courtesy of Gertrude Galloway)

Gertrude Scott Galloway and Bernard Bragg in period costumes on, stage.

Galloway was active in Gallaudet's Drama Club. She often performed in plays with Bernard Bragg, '52, such as Moliere's "Tartuffe" in 1951. (Photo: Courtesy of Bernard Bragg, '52)

Gertrude Scott Galloway, signs something to a child who looks up from her swing.

Galloway plays with a child at the Mary H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf in New Jersey, where she served as the school's first deaf superintendent from 1991 to 1999.

Gertrude Scott Galloway at her desk. She's wearing a white blouse with a teal jacket. papers are all over her desk

Galloway poses in her office as superintendent of the Katzenbach School. (Photo: Courtesy of Gertrude Galloway)

Gertrude Scott Galloway with her family on a cruise ship. All the women have their hands on the ship's wheel, while the boy stands off to the side. A ship is in the background

From left: Galloway, her daughter, Shayne, and grandchildren, twins Morgan and Tyler, are shown on a cruise. (Photo: Courtesy of Gertrude Galloway)