Patron of the University

In 1864, Congress passed a bill authorizing that the institution, known as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, could establish the National College for the Deaf and Dumb which would provide college-level instruction and confer college degrees.

On April 8, 1864, United States President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law.

Edward Miner Gallaudet, superintendent of the Columbia Institution under founder Amos Kendall, was made president of the institution, including the college, after Kendall stepped down earlier that year. In that first year there were eight students enrolled and during the first commencement in June 1869, three young men received diplomas. Their diplomas were signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, and to this day, the diplomas of all Gallaudet graduates are signed by the presiding U.S. President.

As part of Gallaudet's 150th Anniversary in 2014, we hope to collect one original diploma for each year that Gallaudet conferred degrees. If you are interested, please send us your original diploma. Unfortunately we cannot accept scanned copies or commemorative versions. The originals of all the diplomas displayed here are housed in the Gallaudet Archives.

To donate your diploma, contact Kaitlin Luna, coordinator of media and public relations, at or 202-651-5505.

In addition to Gallaudet diplomas, the Archives welcomes gifts of photographs, documents and memorabilia related to Gallaudet University and to deaf people—their lives, organizations, schools and culture. Visit the Archives Donations page for more information or contact the Archives at

All images scans of diplomas and images of Gallaudet alumni are courtesy Gallaudet Archives unless otherwise indicated.

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