Century-overdue library book connects Centre and Kentucky School for the Deaf
No one likes paying library fines, least of all the one incurred by a Centre library book recently found in a desk at Jacobs Hall Museum on the campus of Danville’s Kentucky School for the Deaf. The book, which has the date “December, 1828” scrawled on its inside cover, is unofficially 185 years overdue. At the Grace Doherty Library’s current overdue rate of 10 cents per day, the fine easily exceeds $6,000.
While the book, one volume of an eight-volume set titled Ancient Civilizations, is notable because of its lengthy life outside of the library’s walls, it is also important as reminder of the historic connection between the Kentucky School for the Deaf and Centre College.
The College was founded in 1819, and in 1823 the Kentucky legislature created the Kentucky Asylum for the Tuition of the Deaf and Dumb, later to be known as The Kentucky Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and finally, in 1906, the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD). What many may not know is that the Centre College Board of Trustees managed the school for nearly 50 years.
Some of Centre’s early Board of Trustees meeting minutes reveal the Board’s deep commitment to community service and philanthropy in regards to the Asylum. In 1823, the Board agreed to find someone who could run the school while making plans to construct a suitable building for students to live and learn in.
Only a year after establishing the physical infrastructure and management of the school, the Board moved to provide for those deaf students in need. The Board ordered that the instructor at the time “be allowed $10 per annum for each indigent pupil,” in addition to the funding she already received to house, feed, clothe and teach them.
In 1825, the Board oversaw the training and instruction of John Adamson Jacobs, a Centre undergraduate who traveled to Hartford’s American Asylum to get the proper instruction in teaching deaf children. His mentor and teacher at the American Asylum were The Rev. Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc, respectively.
The Board of Trustees agreed “that the mode of instruction pursued by the American Asylum at Hartford is in the opinion of this the best within knowledge from all the information in their possession.” Clearly, the Board was interested in ensuring that the Asylum provided the highest quality education possible.
At that same board meeting, the Board agreed that, due to Jacobs’ special expertise—”knowledge of the language of signs and [being] well initiated in all the secrets of the system”—he be appointed principal of the Asylum. The Board formalized its desire to model the Asylum as closely as possible after the gold standard of deaf education institutions, the American Asylum at Hartford.
Ultimately, the Centre Board of Trustees took its role as steward of one of the only deaf institutions west of the Alleghenies extremely seriously, ensuring that the school was properly funded, its faculty and staff were of the highest quality and training and that its students received the best-possible education and quality of life.
After Jacobs’ death in November of 1869, the Commonwealth of Kentucky took over management of the Asylum, and the early relationship between the two institutions is now a largely unknown piece of Danville lore. The discovery of this Centre volume reminds everyone of the two schools’ rich shared history.
Caroline Washnock ’14, the student intern and volunteer who discovered the lost book in the KSD museum, is glad to have rediscovered a connection almost two centuries old.
“I’m sure there was a lot of communication and exchange of ideas between the two schools,” she says. “In fact, many KSD teachers and superintendents were educated at Centre.
“It’s so rewarding to see that Centre and KSD have such an overlapping history,” she adds. “I’m proud to continue that tradition.”
By Mariel Smith