While in Danville for the 45th annual Gallaudet & Clerc Banquet at the Kentucky School for the Deaf, Gallaudet University President Roberta (Bobbi) Cordano took time to visit Centre College, where she was hosted by President John Roush.
Cordano was joined by Lionel (LeMarc) Williamson, a Lexington native who serves as Gallaudet’s assistant director for donor relations, along with two members of the Kentucky Chapter of Gallaudet University Alumni Association. Carolyn Gulley serves as president of that organization, and Amy Lange is its secretary.
Also attending was the new Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) principal, Toyah Robey, as well as Dawn Calbert and Rita Anderson, who served as interpreters.
Centre, KSD and Gallaudet have a long history of connections extending back to the early nineteenth century.
Four years after Centre received its charter in 1819, KSD was created by the Kentucky legislature. For nearly 50 years, beginning in 1823, the Centre College Board of Trustees managed the school.
One of the board’s initial efforts, in 1825, was to provide for the training of Centre student John Adamson Jacobs in the instruction of deaf children. Jacobs traveled to what is now known as the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, the nation’s first school for the deaf, founded in 1817. There, his teachers and mentors were Rev. Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc.
In addition to talking about this long history, the three leaders—Cordano, Robey and Roush—discussed the challenges and opportunities faced by each institution, with an eye toward pursuing new partnerships.
For instance, in addition to its nationally recognized study abroad program, Centre has several domestic “study away” programs, with its most successful in Washington, D.C. Cordano said that Centre students studying there would be welcome to pursue immersive study of American Sign Language (ASL) at the Gallaudet campus, or perhaps pursue internship opportunities.
Locally, Robey shared news about recent KSD efforts to strengthen its agrarian programs, leveraging the 23-acres on its campus dedicated to farming. Only two deaf FFA chapters exist in the entire country, one of which is at KSD. Given Centre’s interest in sustainability, farm-to-table initiatives and environmental studies, possible partnerships were discussed.
While any such opportunities will take time and effort to realize, in the short term Roush extended an invitation to Cordano to return to campus again soon, so the Centre community can learn more about not just the past but also the future role of education for the hearing-impaired, and the unique role places like Gallaudet University play in the history of American education.
by Michael Strysick
December 8, 2017