Gallaudet University

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GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY. Situated in Northeast Washington, D.C., Gallaudet University is "the world's only liberal arts college for the deaf," where students are taught primarily through American Sign Language. Initially called the Columbia Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind, the school was founded by Amos Kendall (1789–1869)as the city's school for the deaf in 1857. Kendall, who served as postmaster general under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, established the school on his Northeast Washington estate, Kendall Green. It was later renamed for the noted nineteenth-century educator and reformer Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787–1851).

Kendall hired Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet's son Edward Miner Gallaudet (1837–1917)as the first superintendent. Kendall and the younger Gallaudet lobbied Congress to permit the school to award college degrees, and the resulting bill was signed by Abraham Lincoln on 8 April 1864. The blind students were transferred to the Maryland School for the Blind, and the institution became the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, with the collegiate division named the National Deaf-Mute College. The elementary program remained Kendall School, and in the early twenty-first century it was known as Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. Congressional funding supported the college, which held its first commencement in 1869. In 1887 women gained admittance to the college, which was redesignated Gallaudet College in 1894.

The college's importance stems from its service not only to deaf students and the American deaf community but also as a training ground for hearing graduate students in deaf education. In 1891 Gallaudet College established a teacher training program, which admitted only hearing students. Many graduates subsequently taught in and administered state residential schools for the deaf. By the twenty-first century the School of Education admitted both deaf and hearing students.

In 1986 Gallaudet College was accorded university status and became Gallaudet University. Two years later, in March 1988, a presidential search evolved into a student strike aimed at instituting a deaf president. All of Gallaudet's previous presidents had been hearing. The movement, popularly known as Deaf President Now, proved successful, and I. King Jordan, a Gallaudet professor, dean, and alumnus, was installed as Gallaudet's eighth president. The protest focused international attention on Gallaudet and sparked increased awareness of deaf issues and civil rights.

Gallaudet offers 27 majors for undergraduate students and 20 fields for graduate study. In fall 2001 attendance stood at 1,852 students, of whom 1,243 were undergraduates. The 2001–2002 budget totaled approximately $130 million, roughly 70 percent of which was direct appropriation from Congress. The remaining 30 percent derived from tuition and fees, federal grants, and other miscellaneous sources of income.


Christiansen, John B., and Sharon N. Barnartt. Deaf President Now!: The 1988 Revolution at Gallaudet University. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press, 1995.

Gallaudet, Edward Miner. History of the College for the Deaf,1857–1907. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet College Press, 1983.

David S.Evans

See alsoDeaf in America ; Disabled, Education of the ; Sign Language, American .

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Gallaudet University

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