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Kathryn P. Meadow Orlans: An appreciation

April 22, 2022


Kathryn P. Meadow Orlans, an internationally renowned scholar and researcher, passed away on April 16, 2022, at age 92. She was a research professor at Gallaudet from 1975 to 1997, and was named professor emerita after her retirement. 

During her time at Gallaudet, Dr. Meadow Orlans published numerous scholarly articles and books including Deafness and Child Development (1980), Parents and Their Deaf Children (1983) (with Dr. Donna M. Mertens and Dr. Marilyn Sass-Lehrer), and The World of Deaf Infants (2004) (with Dr. Patricia E. Spencer and Dr. Lynne S. Koester). In response to the need for assessment to measure the learning of deaf children, she developed the Social-Emotional Assessment Inventory, which was used by teachers of deaf students worldwide and translated into Spanish, Greek, Danish, Hebrew, Japanese, and other languages.

Kay Meadow earned her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967. Her dissertation concerned the education and socialization of deaf children and launched her distinguished career in this field. It also resulted in the groundbreaking book, Sound and Sign, co-authored with Dr. Hilde Schlesinger, a psychiatrist who was proficient in sign language. This seminal work would become a standard textbook in the field and helped to steer the field of deaf education away from the universal norm of insisting on oral-only education to allowing deaf and hard of hearing children to use sign language, thus opening for them a whole new world of language and communication. 

From 1967 to 1975, Dr. Meadow Orlans was an adjunct professor at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School, continued her research in deafness, and published several scholarly articles.

Wrote Dr. Marilyn Sass-Lehrer, professor emerita, “I am grateful for having Kay in my life as a friend, a mentor, and always an inspiration. She was a talented researcher who applied a deep understanding of families, communities, and social science to her many published works. She was a great listener and observer using stories and the life experiences of others to change how the ‘outside’ community would come to perceive people who are deaf. She leaves this world with an incredible legacy.”

Kathryn Pendleton was born on June 12, 1929 in Joplin, Missouri to Wilma Karnes Pendleton and Orien A. Pendleton. She received her bachelor’s degree in sociology at Denison College in Ohio, and her master’s degree, also in sociology, at the University of Chicago in 1953. She met her first husband, Lloyd Meadow, at the University of Chicago. They were married for 22 years and raised two children. 

In 1980, she met her second husband, Harold Orlans, an anthropologist and policy analyst. They were happily married from 1982 until Harold’s death in 2007. In retirement, Dr. Meadow Orlans lived in San Antonio, Texas. She enjoyed needlepoint, weaving, and spending time with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She also became a meticulous genealogy researcher and wrote three books for and about her family.

Dr. Meadow Orlans was predeceased by her husband, Harold Orlans; her parents and a sister. She is survived by two children, Lynn Elizabeth Meadow and Robert Keith Shaw-Meadow (Susan); three stepchildren, six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and one nephew.

22 April 2022


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