THE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — I’m not so sure I buy the whole honorary degree thing, BUT, if we are going hand them out, we ought to make sure recipients don’t go around actually using the title “Dr.” Chiropractors don’t do heart surgeries for a reason, likewise, a honorary degree doesn’t give one a mandate to enact policy.
That said, I nominate two highly esteemed individuals more than worthy of this honor. These people faced the wrath of the deaf community during their heyday at Gallaudet yet their achievements exceeded many of those who were awarded honorary degrees in the past 20 years. Despite the oppression of their voices by many at Gallaudet and in the deaf community, many of the things they advocated a couple decades ago came to be realized in this new century.
UPDATE, 10-9-12: I’ve been informed that Larry Stewart is ineligible for a honorary degree because the rules state recipients must be alive at the time of nomination.
1) Dr. Larry G. Stewart, (posthumously) professor of clinical psychology at Gallaudet and outspoken advocate of education and rehabilitation rights for deaf children. Stewart graduated from Gallaudet, then embarked on a career that took him to numerous highly regarded institutions of the deaf, including California School for the Deaf, and Texas School for the Deaf as it’s superintendent before coming to Gallaudet. Stewart died of cancer at age 55.
2) Prof. Frances M. Parsons, a retired Gallaudet professor of Art History. Her pioneering travels around the world spreading the value of sign language and bringing the Gallaudet name to places where either oral methods had taken hold, or there was no education of the deaf at all, started Gallaudet’s international draw of deaf students. Not only has she visited more schools for the deaf around the world than anyone else, she was the first deaf woman to travel across China solo, during the height of the Communist era, all the while visiting deaf schools along the way. She was also a Peace Corps volunteer. Two of her most well-known books are “I Didn’t Hear the Dragon Roar” (about her China adventure) and “I Knew Elizabeth Peet: Queen of Gallaudet”.
What about this oppression they faced, you asked? Both Stewart and Parsons were vocal supporters of the importance of English in a deaf child’s education during a period when many considered English secondary to the importance of American Sign language (ASL). To sum up the tense atmosphere at the time: During the funeral of Dr. Larry Stewart (who died from cancer), in the early 1990s, a Gallaudet professor turned to Parsons (who also had cancer) and said: “hurry you die next.” Parsons, of course, is still alive, now some 20 years later. Both Stewart and Parsons were then frequently subject to verbal harassment and even physical abuse for their beliefs.
Over time, of course, ASL activists have had to yield some ground to other methods and emerging technologies — a ASL-only Deaf utopia solving all the problems of deaf education has now revealed itself to be an illusion — or as Dr. Larry Stewart put it back then: “A snow job!” For their foresight in the face of adversity, Stewart and Parsons both deserve this honor.
So, how about it? Hmm?
This is the Press Release from Gallaudet:
Gallaudet University calls for honorary degree nominations for Commencement 2014
Gallaudet University is currently collecting honorary degree nominations to be awarded at its 145th Commencement in May 2014, a special year in Gallaudet’s history as the university celebrates its 150th anniversary. With these awards, the University seeks to recognize deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing individuals for exemplary service to the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Nomination procedures and a nomination form are available at http://www.gallaudet.edu/Academic_Affairs/Honorary_Degrees.html. The deadline for submission of nominations and supporting documentation is Friday, November 30, 2012. For more information, please contact the Office of the Provost at (202) 250-2411 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A wowie factoid: A.G. Bell received an honorary degree from Gallaudet!
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