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Gerald "Bummy" Burstein was born on December 29, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York, where he was raised. Deaf since birth, he attended the Junior High School 47 for the Deaf in Manhattan, graduating in 1943. He then graduated from Charles Evans Hughes High School in l946. After one year at City College of New York, he transferred to Gallaudet College where he obtained his bachelor's degree in 1950. He earned his master's degree in Administration and Supervision in 1965 from the Leadership Training Program at California State University, Northridge.
He picked up the nickname, "Bummy," during his Gallaudet days for his unswerving loyalty to his hometown major league baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, better known as "dem Bums." The nickname stuck and today he is better known by the nickname than by his full name.
Beginning his teaching career in 1950 at the Minnesota School for the Deaf, Faribault, he remained there for 15 years. He transferred to the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, in 1965 and served for 37 years as a teacher and administrator. He retired on May 1, 2002 after serving 52 years in the field of education of the deaf. During this period of time at CSDR, he was also an adjunct teacher of Deaf Culture at Riverside Community College.
Additionally, during his tenure at CSDR, as West Coast Regional Manager and Depository Manager of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Captioned Films/Videos Program, he served on a committee that evaluated educational captioned films that were geared toward deaf children. He also wrote and submitted scripts for these educational captioned films.
While he was a high school student he developed an interest in how meetings were conducted, which led him to study parliamentary rules. He is the only known deaf person in the United States to become a Certified Professional Parliamentarian with the American Institute of Parliamentarians, and has been a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians since 1983.
In 1986, while serving as president of the Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA), he wrote, The Basics of Parliamentary Procedure for Deaf Students, a simple and easy to understand primer on how to run meetings. The GUAA printed 10,000 copies and distributed them as a public service to schools and organizations. The booklets have been used in Singapore, Columbia, and Tibet. Soon after this publication, he began receiving requests to give parliamentary procedure workshops. He has, to date, conducted more than 200 workshops throughout the United States (including Hawaii) and Canada.
He is the author of Bummy's Basic Parliamentary Guide, published in 1996 by deaf-owned DawnSignPress. He also wrote and produced a 90-minute videotape in American Sign Language showing the proper way to run a meeting. The videotape is captioned and includes voice-over.
In 1991, he was named recipient of the prestigious International Platform Association Robert W. Leiman Award for "... popularizing parliamentary procedure." He is the only known deaf person to be so honored by this 160-year-old, international organization that has also recognized the contributions of John F. Kennedy, Bob Hope, Nanette Fabray, and others.
As a leader, he served as president of the National Congress of Jewish Deaf (1974-1978), and, in 1975, served on the board of the World Organization of Jewish Deaf at its first congress in Jerusalem. From 1981 to 1985, he was president of the California Association of the Deaf. He has the distinction of having served for nearly 30 years on the Gallaudet University Alumni Association Board of Directors, of which 13 years were as president, longer than any other GUAA president, previously or since. In 1988, with his initial appointment to serve on the Equipment Standardization Advisory Committee (ESAC), he began his extensive involvement with the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC). He was elected, in 1989, the first Chair of the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program Administrative Committee (DDTPAC) and served in this capacity for eight years. Among his accomplishments, he advocated for the rightful privilege of relay users to choose their preferred relay provider and his efforts and guidance subsequently led DDTP, in 1997, to establish the first ever multi-vendor California Relay Service (CRS) environment throughout the state.
He also served as Chair of the Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf Placement Interim Committee (TPIC) as part of the Payphone Service Provider Committee (PSPC). He then returned to DDTP in 2003 to serve on the Telecommunications Access for the Deaf and Disabled Administrative Committee (TADDAC). He served as Vice-Chair of the Committee until his term of service ended in 2011, bringing to a conclusion a total of 23 years of service with the California Public Utilities Commission. In 1985, in his capacity as president of the California Association of the Deaf, he was instrumental in initiating dialogue with Senator Robert Presley to discuss, and subsequently establish, the Inland Service Center for the Deaf (ISC), later renamed Center on Deafness-Inland Empire (CODIE), for the purpose of providing health, social, and other services to deaf residents of Riverside County.
He was also active for a number of years with the Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf, including service as Treasurer.
For a period of time he was a member of the Deaf Community Work Group (DCWG), in partnership with the Riverside County Emergency Preparedness and Response Branch.
He was an outstanding and distinguished member of the Boy Scouts of America. On June 15, 1944, he received his Eagle Scout badge from Troop 234, Brooklyn, New York. In summer of 1945, he participated in the Ordeal Honor at Ten Mile River Scout Camp in New York and became a member of the Order of the Arrow. On March 22, 1951, after earning five additional merit badges beyond those required for Eagle Scout, he was presented a Bronze Palm from Troop 302, St. Paul, Minnesota.
While residing in Minnesota in the early 1960s, he was a student pilot for a period of time. Shortly before his move to California to study for his master's degree at CSUN, he had successfully logged a total of approximately two hours of solo flight time.
As a member of the Minnesota State High School League, he served for 11 years as an official basketball referee for city league games, small high schools, and Bible colleges. He passed yearly written exams to retain his eligibility to referee basketball games.
At the convocation in 1986 that officially changed the name of Gallaudet College to Gallaudet University, he was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa.
He is credited with importing the French version of the "deaf applause" (the waving of hands or "high fives" in the air) which caught on in the USA during the Deaf President Now protest at Gallaudet in 1988, and remains in widespread use today.
As a philanthropist, in 1998 he became one of two Gallaudet alumni to bequeath $1 million dollars to their alma mater, Gallaudet University, to endow chairs. In 2008, his endowment, "The Bummy Chair," became Gallaudet's first chair fully endowed by a deaf person. The purpose of "The Gerald 'Bummy' Burstein, `50, Endowed Chair in Leadership" is to promote leadership that will benefit deaf people.
In 1999, at the XII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) in Brisbane, Australia, he was presented with the International Social Merit Award in recognition of his extraordinary dedication to the cause of deaf persons and his contributions to the development of WFD.
In 2001, he was appointed by the Riverside mayor and city council to serve on the Riverside Model Deaf Community Committee, of which he was the Chair. He remains an active participant at the committee's meetings.
On October 17, 2008, at the conclusion of the 2004-2008 term of the GUAA Board of Directors, held during the Homecoming weekend at Gallaudet University, he was named by the GUAA "the first-ever Board of Directors Emeritus" in recognition of his 30-year service on the board.
On October 23, 2009, in honor and recognition of his extraordinary support of Gallaudet University and his leadership in the deaf community, the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees renamed the Gallaudet Leadership Institute (GLI) the "Gerald ‘Bummy' Burstein Leadership Institute" (BLI).
In November 2009, he set up the "Gerald ‘Bummy' Burstein Donor Advised Endowment Fund" at The Community Foundation, which is a nonprofit, public charity created by and for the people of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, to support programs and services for its deaf students at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside.
Additionally, in January 2010, he set up a scholarship fund with the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) for the purpose of funding training for individual RID members who have exhibited leadership characteristics.
On February 4, 2010, the renovated Media Technology Service Center at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside was renamed the "Gerald ‘Bummy' Burstein Student Center," to be used for student government and leadership programs. At the ceremony he was presented with a City of Riverside Proclamation from Ronald O. Loveridge, Mayor of the City of Riverside, which states, in part, "...pays special tribute to Gerald ‘Bummy' Burstein and on behalf of the City Council, City staff, and all our residents, express sincere thanks and appreciation for his dedicated service to the residents of the City of Riverside."
In May 2010, an endowment and gift agreement between the American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP) and Gerald "Bummy" Burstein Endowment Fund was established for the benefit of supporting the AIP educational "road shows" designed to provide parliamentary and governance training to diverse populations.
He received, on October 19, 2010, the City of Riverside Mayor's Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Mayor's Commission on Aging, for his outstanding and tireless community service in the City of Riverside.
On July 21, 2011, the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the president of RID, Cheryl Moose, "...proudly present the President's Award to Gerald Burstein in recognition of significant dedication to and involvement in the field of interpreting on local, regional, and national levels."
He received, on September 28, 2011, a resolution from the California Public Utilities Commission's Communications Division, which reads, in part, "...commends Gerald ‘Bummy' Burstein on his exceptional service to the DDTP (Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program) and on his outstanding representation of the Deaf Community in California, and that we wish him the best in all of his future endeavors."
During the Gallaudet University 150th Anniversary in July 2014, he received two esteemed recognitions:
He has received many other notable awards and recognitions, as indicated below in chronological order. All awards recognize his service to deaf people.
1978 - Distinguished Service Award, California State University, Northridge1986 - Induction into the National Congress of Jewish Deaf Hall of Fame1990 - Named the "47" Alumni Association Man of the Year1991 - Howard M. Quigley Award, Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf 1991 - California Governor's Hall of Fame for People with Disabilities 1992 - Alice Cogswell Award, Gallaudet University Alumni Association Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund 2003 - Induction into the "47" Alumni Association Hall of Fame2003 - Lifetime Achievement Award, California School for the Deaf, Riverside 50th Anniversary 2005 - Deaf President Now Leadership Award, Gallaudet University 2005 - Lou Fant Distinguished Service Award, Southern California Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf2005 - Distinguished Alumni Award, National Center on Deafness, California State University, Northridge 2006 - Frederick C. Schreiber Distinguished Service Award, National Association of the Deaf
After a long courtship, he married Theresa B. Connors (Gallaudet Class of 1952) on August 8, 1967 in New York City. Making their home in Riverside, California, they both worked at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside. On January 27, 1973, on the freeway near Riverside, Theresa was tragically killed when the car she was riding in was hit head-on by a drunk driver.
At present, he remains actively involved with the California School for the Deaf, Riverside. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of CSDR and is a parliamentary advisor to the CSDR Alumni Association. April 23, 2017
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