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The Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund Committee (LCCF) of the Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA) hosted its annual Charter Day Brunch and Awards Program on April 7, 2018, at the Peikoff “Ole Jim” Alumni House. The program honors five individuals selected for their contributions to the deaf and local communities. GUAA is the only entity on campus that officially celebrates President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of a Congressional Charter giving Gallaudet the authority to confer college degrees.
Opening remarks were given by LCCF chair, Diana Gates Moore, ’75; Samuel Sonnenstrahl, ’79 & G-’84, GUAA executive director; President Roberta J. Cordano; and Donalda Ammons, ’74, GUAA president.
“Gallaudet prides itself on graduating leaders, innovators, and change-makers,” said Cordano.
“GUAA finds it very fitting to continue Lincoln’s legacy by recognizing individuals for their dedication and service with these awards,” said Ammons.
Midway through the ceremony, Michael Olson, ’79, director of the Gallaudet Library Deaf Collections and Archives, introduced Paul Schmutz, along with his family, who announced on stage that they were donating to Gallaudet four scrapbooks belonging to his great-aunt, Kate O. Keeley, 1916, and grandfather, Alfred C. Keeley, 1916.
The Schmutzs, after finding these scrapbooks, did not know what to do with them. They contacted Sorenson Communications who facilitated the connection between the family and Gallaudet, giving the scrapbooks a permanent home. The first three scrapbooks contain more than 100 images, and the fourth contains various newspaper clippings
These pictures show student life candidly in the early 20th century. Instead of mainly posed photos, those in the scrapbooks depict students socializing, show them in their dorm rooms, reveal the inner workings of the Gate House, and much more.
“This was touching,” said Sonnenstrahl. “Thank you to the Keeley family and Sorenson for their contributions. The scrapbooks really help us get a glance of how campus life was a long time ago.”
The GUAA Outstanding Young Alumnus Award, presented by Jonathan McMillian, ’10 & G-’16, was awarded to Alex Abenchuchan, ’10, of the Daily Moth. McMillian shared how Abenchuchan would discuss news, politics, and various ideas with others in Clerc Hall as a student. He praised Abenchuchan’s innovation and creativity, and promotion of deaf journalism.
Abenchuchan expressed gratitude, stating that it was a big honor to receive the award. He attributed his success to his college experiences, such as being editor-in-chief of the Buff and Blue, which prepared him for what he is doing today.
“Instead of looking towards others for deaf news, I decided to present news to others,” said Abenchuchan.
Lissette Molina-Wood, ’00, presented the GUAA Pauline “Polly” Peikoff, E-’36, Service to Others Award to June Ellen Rothenberg McMahon, ’74. McMahon said that her four years at Gallaudet were the best of her life. She was recognized for her lifelong commitment to serving deaf children and adults.
McMahon is currently retired from 31 years teaching in public and residential school settings, but still serves as a respected and revered spokesperson for her community.
Alexander Leffers, ’93, presented the LCCF Laurent Clerc Award to recipient and friend, Drago Renteria, E-’90. Leffers lauded Renteria’s courage in being openly gay at a time when it was not welcomed. During Renteria’s two years on-campus, he endured scrutiny for being open about his sexuality. Leffers also shared how Renteria was an advocate for the deaf LGBTQ community at Gallaudet and beyond.
Renteria created the Deaf Queer Resource Center, and has served on numerous local and national boards concerning LGBTQ awareness. He is currently involved in protecting housing rights and bringing more attention to the issues surrounding the rapid gentrification of San Francisco’s Mission District.
“It is an honor to win such an award,” Renteria said. “This award is dedicated to the many deaf individuals out there living their lives out and openly.”
Ernest Hairston, ’63 & PhD ’94, presented the LCCF Alice Cogswell Award to Roslyn Goodstein Rosen, ’62 & G-’64. Hairston reminisced about college days, where he and Rosen knew each other, and would often dance together.
“It is up to us together to make a difference in the world,” said Rosen.
Rosen has served in various administrative and board capacities within her career. In 2017, she authored Deaf Culture Fairy Tales, a book and accompanying coloring book for all ages that adapts classic fairy tales with a deaf-centric twist.
The final award, the LCCF Amos Kendall Award, was presented by Glen W. Sutcliffe to Jacqueline S. Roth, ’76 & G-’84. Roth shared some of her life experiences, including how she struggled between the deaf and hearing worlds, but later on strongly identified with the deaf community after the tragedy of 9/11.
Roth co-produced the 2000 Oscar-nominated documentary, Sound and Fury. Most recently, Roth has been with Douglas Elliman Real Estate since 2005, and has been consistently ranked in the top three percent in the entire network since 2005.
The 49th annual Charter Day Brunch and Awards program was a reminder to us all of our rich history here at Gallaudet University, from President Lincoln’s signing of the charter, to the Keeley family’s remarkable photos, to all the award recipients and their work, all of which symbolizes how far we have come as a community and institution.
Next year’s Charter Day weekend is scheduled for April 4 to 6, 2019.
Read all the award recipients’ biographies here. All photos by Zhee Chatmon.
Roberto E. Wirth, E-’74 & H-’09, passed away on June 5 in Rome, Italy. Mr. Wirth was owner and managing director of the Hotel Hassler in Rome, one of the most prestigious family-owned hotels in the world, and owned several other hotels and resorts throughout Italy. He was a strong advocate for deaf people in...
Alumnus Timel Benton has signed a contract with the Bay Area Panthers of the Indoor Football League (IFL). Benton, who graduated last month, is the first Gallaudet Bison to sign a professional football contract since Tony Tatum signed on with the Utah Blaze in the now-disbanded Arena Football League (AFL) in May 2013. Benton was...
James Caverly, ’11, who plays Theo Dimas in Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, will play Professor Harold Hill in the Olney Theatre Center’s summer production of Meredith Willson’s Tony-winning musical The Music Man, which opens tonight and runs through July 23. The show’s official opening is on Thursday, June 23. Sandra Mae Frank, ’13,...
Darrius Doe, ’18
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