Seven months after being racked by student demonstrations, Gallaudet University on Friday officially installed I. King Jordan as the first deaf president in the history of the nation’s only university for the hearing-impaired.
“Today Gallaudet is not simply installing its eighth president,” Jordan told about 2,500 faculty, staff and students crammed into the school’s gym. “We are recognizing the right of every disabled person to have unlimited goals and expectations.”
Jordan, 45, was named president of the 124-year-old university in March after a tumultuous week of protests in which students and faculty banded together to object to the selection of Elisabeth Ann Zinser, a hearing woman, over Jordan and another deaf finalist.
The incident grew from an isolated campus protest to an international forum on deaf rights, with members of Congress and several presidential candidates calling for selection of a deaf leader for the school. Zinser later stepped aside and Jordan was selected.
In his inaugural address, Jordan said the school should use the energies generated that week to continue lobbying for the rights of the hearing-impaired around the world.
“Gallaudet must become a working model for open access everywhere,” Jordan said. “Take the events of last March to your hearts and your hands to make the world responsive to deaf people.”
Lawrence Newman, president of the National Assn. of the Deaf, told the crowd that Jordan’s installation “marks the emancipation of deaf people from the shackles of limitations.”
Jordan, a 1973 Gallaudet graduate who earned master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology from the University of Tennessee, had served as dean of Gallaudet’s School of Arts and Sciences before being selected as president.