A world-class institute of changemakers in the deaf and signing community.
Since 1864, we have been investing in and creating resources for deaf and hard of hearing children, their families, and the professionals who work with them.
Over 50 degree programs, with online and continuing education for personal and professional development.
Innovating solutions to break down barriers, and using science to prove what does and doesn’t work.
We make it easy for you to apply and enter here.
Ready to take the next step toward a college education?
Make lasting memories and grow in ways you never thought possible.
Merrill Learning Center (MLC) B125(202) 250-2604 (videophone)Email
MSS 218Garretson, Mervin D., 1923-2013The Mervin D. Garretson Papers, 1963-1989
Gallaudet University Archives
Repository: Gallaudet University ArchivesCall No.: MSS 218Creator: Garretson, Mervin D., 1923-2013Title: The Mervin D. Garretson Papers, 1963-1989Quantity: 21 boxes (10.5 linear feet) Abstract: Papers of deaf activist, educator, and administrator Mervin D. Garretson. Includes correspondence, speeches, reports, articles and clippings, essays and publications, and more. Note: This document last updated May 2017. Administrative Information
Acquisition Information: Donated to the Archives by Stephen Weiner. Processed By: Christopher Shea, May 2017. Processing Note: Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions.
Related Material in the Archives
• Collection, Junior National Association of the Deaf, 1967-1988. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: MSS 94
• Assorted photographs of Mervin D. Garretson. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Portraits
• Garretson, Merv. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Biographical
• Twelfth Commencement, Model Secondary School for the Deaf, June 15, 1990. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Film• Model Secondary School for the Deaf 1994 commencement. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Film
Born in 1923 in Sheridan, Wyoming, Merv Garretson became deaf after contracting spinal meningitis in 1928. He attended the Colorado School for the Deaf and Gallaudet College, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1947. He went on to teach at the Maryland School for the Deaf and then was hired in 1949 as the principal of the Montana School for the Deaf. In 1955, he earned a master's degree from the University of Wyoming, and he also pursued a doctorate in English at the University of Maryland.
In 1962, Garretson joined the Gallaudet faculty. When the Model Secondary School for the Deaf was founded in 1971, Garretson was tapped as its first principal. He went on to become assistant dean for pre-college programs, and served for many years as a special assistant to four Gallaudet presidents (Merrill, Johns, Lee, and Jordan) before stepping down in 1989. That year, he was also chairman of The Deaf Way, an international cultural festival that brought attention to deaf art and culture and is regarded as the birthplace of the De'VIA art movement.
Garretson was also active in many deaf organizations, particularly the National Association for the Deaf. In 1960, he helped found the Junior NAD and became its first national director, and was elected NAD President for a two-year term in 1976. He was later selected to become interim executive director of the NAD in 1989. He was also a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf from 1967 to 1971, and served as an expert on education for the WFD.
A widely respected writer, poet, speaker, and world traveler, Garretson was a leading figure in the deaf community and a well-known advocate for deaf issues in the hearing world. He published his autobiography in 2010, and passed away in 2013. Gallaudet maintains a scholarship fund named for Garretson and his wife, Carol.
Scope and Content
These papers deal mostly with Garretson's work as an assistant to Gallaudet's presidents, and to a lesser extent his work as an advocate for the deaf and a leader of the deaf community. There is nothing related to his earlier life or his work at MSSD, and only a small amount of material from his work at The Deaf Way.
Garretson's correspondence as presidential assistant is arranged in several series based on the recipients, reflecting his original arrangement. There is only a small amount of correspondence between Garretson and two of the presidents he served, Merrill and Lee; most of the rest is with various people and groups that are seeking help or advice from the Office of the President. Of possible interest is a large collection of reports from Gallaudet's Deafness-Related Concerns Council from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
There is also some material related to Garretson's work at the NAD and a smaller amount from the WFD. The NAD material includes board minutes, convention records, and publications and position papers. The WFD material is mostly publications by the group, but it does include some material from their Commission on Pedagogy, where Garretson served.
These papers also include the text of numerous speeches and papers that Garretson gave at events around the country. While this is far from a complete collection of Garretson's writing, it does help give a picture of the issues he worked on, and the issues that were of the most concern to the deaf community in the 1980s. In particular, there is extensive material on Public Law 94-142, which affected the placement of deaf children in school, and other laws governing deaf education.
Series Descriptions Series 1. Presidential assistant correspondence, 1976-1989Boxes 1-3Correspondence and other materials related to Garretson's work as a special assistant to several of Gallaudet's presidents. See series 3, 4, and 6 for further correspondence. Includes correspondence with Presidents Edward C. Merrill and Jerry Lee, and correspondence and reports with various departments and organizations around campus. Series 2. NAD and WFD papers, 1977-1988Boxes 3-5Correspondence, reports, convention minutes, publications, and other materials related to Garretson's work with the National Association for the Deaf and the World Federation of the Deaf. Includes minutes and reports from the NAD board of directors, as well as some material from the 1982, 1984, and 1986 NAD conventions. Series 3. Alphabetical correspondence file, 1976-1989Boxes 6-7File of correspondence, mostly with individuals, arranged alphabetically by correspondent's surname. Most is to or from Garretson in his capacity as assistant to the president. Series 4. Geographical correspondence file, 1977-1989Boxes 7-9Another file of correspondence, also related to Garretson's work as assistant to the president. This file is arranged alphabetically by the location of the correspondent - mostly US states, but there is some international material as well. Most of this correspondence is to various state entities, such as schools and state government agencies. Note that one file from Pennsylvania is closed because it includes the audiograms of a student, which are considered confidential medical records. Series 5. Organizational records, 1967-1989Boxes 10-13A collection of correspondence, reports, publications, and other materials from various organizations. Most are groups related to deafness, including the National Theatre of the Deaf, DCARA, the Canadian Hearing Society, and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. However, this series also includes material from groups related to general disability issues, including the AARP, FDA, Disabled American Veterans, and the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped. Series 6. Deafness-Related Concerns Council reports and correspondence, 1979-1986Boxes 13-14 The DRCC was an organization of deaf faculty and staff at Gallaudet organized to bring the attention of the (then mostly hearing-dominated) administration to issues of access, communication, and training that they felt were being neglected. Garretson was not a member of the DRCC but as assistant to the president, he often interacted with the group. In 1986, President Lee gave the DRCC a formal position in his administration as the President's Council on Deafness. This series includes minutes of DRCC meetings, reports written by the DRCC on issues they wanted addressed, and some correspondence.Series 7. Advocacy materials, 1969-1986Boxes 15-16A collection of articles, correspondence, reports, and other items related to issues of interest to the deaf. Topics covered include education, closed captioning, deaf drivers, cued speech, cochlear implants, and more. Includes speeches and papers delivered by Garretson on deafness, deaf children, and advocacy on deaf issues. See series 8 and 9 for more of Garretson's work in this area. Series 8. PL 94-142 and other educational materials, 1975-1988Boxes 17-19Public Law 94-142, also known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was signed by President Ford in 1975. While it expanded the educational opportunities available for disabled children, its provision that children should be placed in the "least restrictive environment" often sparked battles between deaf parents and school boards over what type of education was best for deaf children. This series includes fact sheets, notes, and reports on PL 94-142 and other laws governing deaf education; clippings and documents from the cases of Amy Rowley and Sherry Grace; and papers and speeches by Garretson on the topic of deaf education. See series 9 for more on law and the deaf. Series 9. Legal articles and documents, 1963-1986Boxes 19-21A collection of articles, papers, speeches, and court documents on issues related to law, legislation, and the deaf. Includes some materials related to laws governing deaf education, including PL 94-142 (see series 8). Also of interest is a collection of testimony and comments on a 1978 bill in the US Congress to provide for nationwide training of sign language interpreters, as well as materials on mental health, rehabilitation, and barriers to handicapped access.
Gallaudet University is a federally chartered private and premier university for the deaf and hard of hearing since 1864.
Copyright © 2021 Gallaudet University. All rights reserved.
800 Florida Avenue NE Washington, D.C. 20002
Spring 2021 – Dec 12Fall 2021 – May 15