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Alumnus, employee, donor Agnes Dunn Sutcliffe, ‘59, passes away

October 2, 2020


Agnes Marie Dunn Sutcliffe, ’59, passed away on September 27, 2020 at her daughter’s home in Jefferson, Maryland. She had just celebrated her 86th birthday.

Agnes was born in Fortescue, Missouri on September 12, 1934, the second of 10 children. Her family moved to Omaha, Nebraska so she could attend the Nebraska School for the Deaf. Upon graduating in 1954, she excitedly took a train to attend Gallaudet College (now University). She loved all the opportunities to play sports in college and was a proud, contributing member of Phi Kappa Zeta Sorority.

Upon her graduation from Gallaudet in 1959, she joined the faculty of the Department of Physical Education and coached women’s field hockey, swimming and basketball. During that time, she also coached the United States women’s swimming team in the World Games for the Deaf in 1961 in Helsinki, Finland. Agnes served as the athletic director of the District of Columbia Club for the Deaf (DCCD) in the 1960s, while there was a strong “male-only” culture. She was also on the staff of Dee Cee Eyes, a local publication for Deaf people.

After her marriage to Dr. Ronald E. Sutcliffe, ’59, in 1962, she continued teaching physical education until the ninth month of pregnancy with her second child and then transitioned to being a full-time mother. Three more children and ten grandchildren would follow.

While home raising her children and supporting her husband’s graduate studies, Agnes coached her children’s basketball teams and continued to give much of her time to Gallaudet University and the Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA). She could often be seen recruiting volunteers for events, manning booths at Homecoming, organizing fundraisers and cheering at sport events, especially women’s basketball.

Agnes later became a sign language instructor, first at what is now Community College of Baltimore County and then at Gallaudet University. She taught many new faculty and staff, which made her a well-known and popular face on campus. Upon retiring from teaching in 1998, she continued to travel the country and the world with Ron – attending nearly every National Association of the Deaf and Deaf Seniors of America conference and the Deaflympics, and touring fascinating places such as Egypt, Europe and New Zealand. She loved being involved in the lives of her grandchildren, attending many of their school and sporting events.

In addition to her commitment to family and community organizations, Agnes maintained close friendships with her fellow “Bridgettes” – a group of Deaf women who met monthly for 50 years to play bridge – and her Red Hat Club of “Proud Primroses.”

Agnes’s contributions have been recognized by many organizations, including the Phi Kappa Zeta Sorority, the Washington, D.C. Division No. 46 of the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf, and the Maryland Association of the Deaf. The Gallaudet University Alumni Association honored her with its prestigious Pauline “Polly” Peikoff, E-’36, “Service to Others” Award in 2003. She served as GUAA Vice President from 1986 to 1989 and as President of the Washington, D.C. GUAA chapter. She and Ron were long-time members of Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf.

Agnes will be remembered as a caring, hard-working woman who often spoke of and acted on her dedication to her family and community. Her family and friends remember her as someone who did not just talk about what she wanted to see happen; she made them happen. Agnes was a strong believer in becoming involved and in involving others.

Agnes is survived by her husband of 58 years, Dr. Ronald E. Sutcliffe, ’59, and her children: Glen W. Sutcliffe and his wife Marie of Bethesda, Maryland; Jane A. Sutcliffe, G-’92, of Jefferson, Maryland; Herb E. Sutcliffe of Washington, D.C.; Bert E. Sutcliffe of Boca Raton, Florida; and Dale F. Sutcliffe and his wife, Holly, of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina; and 10 grandchildren. She is also survived by many sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews.

Donations in Agnes’s memory can be made to the Gallaudet University Sutcliffe Business Bowl, Office of Development, 800 Florida Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002:; or to the National Association of the Deaf, 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820, Silver Spring, MD 20910:

Information about an online memorial service will be shared at a later time.

2 October 2020


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