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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.
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Brian H. Greenwald, PhDDirector of Schuchman Center& Professor of
HistorySLCC 1301 and HMB S235EEmail
(202) 250-2905 (videophone)(202) 651-5635 (voice)
of Butler University
John Stanley “Stan” Schuchman was born on November 12, 1938 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to the
late Harry and Florence Schuchman. A hearing child of deaf adults, he was a native user of American
Sign Language. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Butler University in 1961, and his Master of
Science degree and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Indiana University in 1963 and 1969,
respectively. He also earned the degree of Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in
1968. In 1967, while at Georgetown, he traveled from Northwest Washington, D.C. to the Northeast
quadrant of the city to visit Gallaudet’s campus and seek employment. He was hired that very day as
a faculty member in the Department of History, beginning his long association with the University.
Between 1970 and 1985, Dr. Schuchman served as Dean of the College, Vice
President of Academic Affairs, and Provost. In 1985, he returned to his first love, teaching. He
received the University’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 1991, and was a Schaefer Research Professor
in 1998. After retiring in 1998, he continued to teach on a volunteer basis for two more
years. Dr. Schuchman was a scholar as well as a teacher. Two of his primary
research interests were oral history, including the experiences of deaf people in the Holocaust, and
deaf characters in film. In 1991, he co-led the first international conference on deaf history. He
was a past president of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and edited a widely respected
regional newsletter on oral history.In researching the experiences of deaf
Holocaust survivors, Dr. Schuchman conducted narrative history interviews, adding to the historical
record in the native language of people with first-hand knowledge. He brought to these interviews,
many with Jewish Hungarians, an understanding of cultural identity and the unique role one’s school
holds in the deaf community. In 1998, Gallaudet and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
co-hosted a conference, Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe, 1933-1945. Dr.
Schuchman and the late Dr. Donna F. Ryan co-edited a book by the same title that has become a
seminal text in Holocaust studies. Dr. Schuchman’s familial and community
connections influenced his research on deaf characters in film. In an interview for the
2007 Through Deaf Eyes documentary, he talked about the connection between
family and film: “When I was a kid growing up, my parents had many deaf friends. They had an active
schedule. We went to picnics; we went to deaf clubs. We went to people’s homes for card games. It
was a natural community for me as a kid growing up. It was like a kid who grew up in an immigrant
family that spoke a different language than the majority. So, instead of my family speaking Italian,
our family spoke sign. That concept of a normal community with a life like any other minority group
in the United States was just completely missing in films.” His response
was to study the history of film and publish a groundbreaking book, Hollywood Speaks:
Deafness and the Film Entertainment Industry, which traces deaf characters and actors
from the silent film era through 1986 when Children of a Lesser God was
released. Hollywood Speaks shed light on the injustice of denying deaf actors
roles for which they are uniquely qualified, and describes the ways Hollywood overlooked a cultural
community while producing films that perpetuated stereotypes about deaf people. Today, this book is
as timely as when it was published. Dr. Schuchman is remembered as a
dedicated, caring, and demanding professor and an equally resolute administrator who was staunchly
committed to students and their success. During his 15 years as an administrator, the University
broadened its course offerings, saw a steady growth in enrollment, and increased its research in
demographics, American Sign Language linguistics, and best practices in deaf education. Several
academic programs received their initial accreditation under his
leadership. Student success drove Dr. Schuchman’s every decision. In
particular, he saw ease of visual communication as integral to student learning. While serving as
Dean of the College, he mandated early on that all faculty meet minimum standards of sign language
proficiency. In particular, he instituted a plan that made it possible for students to give meal
tickets to faculty, inviting them to the dining hall for outside-of-class discussions. He himself
took dinner in the dining hall each Wednesday so that he was available to students beyond standard
office hours. Always an advocate, Dr. Schuchman participated in nationwide
efforts to increase communication access for deaf and hard of hearing people. When the Federal
Communications Commission installed its first teletypewriter (TTY), he was their inaugural caller.
He praised the Commission for installing the device, but took the opportunity to point out
inequities for deaf people, stating, “For too long, federal agencies have been inaccessible.”
Provost Carol J. Erting joined the University faculty midway through Dr.
Schuchman’s tenure as Vice President of Academic Affairs. She said, “Gallaudet is a University that
has always been dedicated to producing new knowledge. Stan Schuchman was an exemplar in terms of
setting that research standard.” Dr. Brian H. Greenwald, ’96, professor of history and director of
the Drs. John S. and Betty J. Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center, said, “Stan’s meticulous and
pioneering work inspired Deaf historians and expanded the reach of the field of Deaf history.” Added
Dr. William T. Ennis III, ’01, assistant professor of history, “I had the great fortune to spend
three weeks traveling through Europe with Stan and BJ, learning about the tenuous plight of deaf
people under the Nazi regime. It was an exceptional learning opportunity because Stan was a
recognized expert on the topic. More significantly, he was generous with that expertise–sharing it
with anyone who wanted to learn.”In retirement, Dr. Schuchman remained
active in the deaf and academic communities. He was a member of the Board of Visitors at the College
of Communication at Butler University, his undergraduate alma
mater. Dr. Schuchman and BJ, his wife of 52 years, have been
exceptionally generous in their support of Gallaudet University. In 2014, they established a Deaf
History Award to encourage new research on the lives and experiences of deaf people and their
communities. This award is given in recognition of significant historical scholarship. Two years
later, they created an endowed fund to enable documentary work on deaf life. Today, the Drs. John S.
and Betty J. Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center is a humanities-based research unit whose mission is
to teach, do, and share documentary work. When asked why he supports documentation of deaf stories,
Dr. Stan Schuchman answered simply, “because the work needs to continue.” Adding the social justice
component of the work, he explained, “BJ and I established this endowment out of great affection for
Gallaudet and the wider Deaf community. Documenting and sharing Deaf stories can challenge
discrimination and change attitudes.”
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