Alumni eNewsletter: Honorary degree, professor emeritus recipients; speaker announced for 2010 Commencement (Archives)

(Note: President Hurwitz sent the following letter to the campus community on Friday, January 22. On Tuesday, February 2 it was announced that Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, G-’65, state superintendent of schools for the state of Maryland, had graciously agreed to deliver the address to the Class of 2010 at the University’s 141st Commencement exercises on May 14.)

Dear Campus Community,

It is my great pleasure to announce that the Board of Trustees has voted to award honorary degrees to Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, G-’65, and Dr. Robert G. Sanderson, ‘41. It will be my privilege to present Dr. Grasmick and to Dr. Sanderson with their honorary degrees on May 14 during Gallaudet’s 141st Commencement exercises.

Dr. Grasmick is the first female state schools superintendent in Maryland history, a position she has held since 1991, making her the longest serving state schools superintendent in the nation. Under her leadership, Maryland’s public school system was ranked first in the nation last year by Education Week, American education’s newspaper of record. She received her master’s degree in deaf education from Gallaudet and her doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. She began her career as a teacher of deaf children at the William S. Baer School in Baltimore, Md., and over the years she has proven to be a strong advocate for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Her appointments include the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education. Dr. Grasmick has received many awards for her visionary leadership, including the 2009 Presidential Citation Award from the National Association of School Resource Officers, the 2009 Award of Appreciation from the Education Committee of the Maryland Chapter of the NAACP, and in 2008 she received the National PTA Life Achievement Award for her exemplary advocacy on behalf of children. Dr. Grasmick was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 2004, and in 2005 Maryland’s education headquarters was renamed the Nancy S. Grasmick State Education Building.

Dr. Sanderson has been an outstanding leader in the deaf community, in his home state of Utah, and across the nation for more than 60 years. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Gallaudet, he earned a master’s degree in educational administration from what is now California State University, Northridge, and a doctorate in education from Brigham Young University. He became a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Utah Division of Rehabilitation Services in 1965, and during his 20 year career there he rose to director of state programs for the deaf. Dr. Sanderson also taught at several colleges and universities in Utah. He was a member of Gallaudet’s Board of Trustees from 1982 to 1994 and now holds the title of trustee emeritus. He was a charter member of Gallaudet’s former Board of Fellows, which was established in 1970 as an advisory group, and served on the board until 1982. Dr. Sanderson held Gallaudet’s prestigious Powrie Vaux Doctor Chair of Deaf Studies for 1981-82. He has been active in a number of organizations, including the National Association of the Deaf where he served as president and board member, the Utah Association of the Deaf, the Utah Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association, the National Advisory Group at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, and the National Advisory Committee for the University of California at San Francisco Center on Deafness. In recognition of Dr. Sanderson’s distinguished service, the State of Utah in 2003 named its statewide deaf services center The Robert G. Sanderson Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The trustees also voted to award the distinguished status of professor emeritus to Dr. Donalda Ammons, ’74, Dr. Barbara Bodner-Johnson, Dr. Judith Johnson, ’58, PhD ’83 (posthumously), and Dr. Thomas Jones. Professor emeritus is an honor bestowed by the faculty in recognition of outstanding service and contributions to the University. These exemplary educators will also be recognized at Commencement.

Dr. Ammons joined the faculty in 1977 and retired in 2008 as a professor in the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. She had a reputation during her career as a dynamic teacher and mentor who had an uncanny knack for motivating her students. A pioneer in international education, Dr. Ammons established the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures’ internship program in Central America, directed the University’s Foreign Study Program, and directed for two years the University’s Center for Global Education. She is also well known for her leadership in the world of sports. She was a member of the United States Olympic Committee, and has served as secretary-general and president of the International Committee for Sports for the Deaf.

Dr. Bodner-Johnson, a professor in the Department of Education, retired in 2008 after 30 years of service to the University. She gained particular renown for teaching in the Family-Centered Early Education specialization of the master of arts degree program in deaf education, and for her work with doctoral students to foster the art of scholarly writing. A department chair for 10 years, Dr. Bodner-Johnson led a major curriculum revision that allowed the faculty to offer a number of specializations. She served as vice chair of the University Faculty Senate, and as faculty liaison to the Board of Trustees. She contributed extensively to the Council on Education of the Deaf certification process through site visit reviews, and served on the editorial board or as a manuscript reviewer for the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, the American Annals of the Deaf, and Gallaudet University Press. She is widely published; her work with Dr. Marilyn Sass-Lehrer, The Young Deaf and Hard of Hearing Child: A family-centered Approach to Early Education, is considered a seminal work. She is an accomplished photographer, and her newest book project is a photographic essay on families who are deaf.

The late Dr. Johnson taught at Gallaudet for 28 years, retiring in 2005 as a professor in the Department of Education. She distinguished herself as a teacher, mentor, and content area expert in the field of education of deaf children with multiple disabilities, and in classroom instruction in American Sign Language. Dr. Johnson was instrumental in the establishment of the department’s multiple disabilities specialization. She taught in Project ACHIEVE, a departmental program that prepared professionals already working in schools for a degree and licensure. Dr. Johnson was a committed participant in departmental and University-wide actions, including program and curriculum development and revision, and reviews for accreditation. She also served as practicum coordinator for the department, as a Signed Communication Proficiency Interview evaluator, and as a member of the University Faculty Senate. She was a staunch advocate for closed captioning, and served as a consultant or expert witness in hearings and court cases involving deaf and hard of hearing students with multiple disabilities.

Dr. Jones, a professor in the Department of Education, began his career at Gallaudet in 1981 and retired in 2008. He was instrumental in the development of many of the master’s teacher preparation courses within the department, and especially for courses pertaining to the preparation of teachers for students with disabilities and for parent education. He oversaw and implemented a major program revision, co-directed the teacher preparation program for parent-infant specialists, and pioneered online and distance education within the department. As master’s degree program director for 13 years, Dr. Jones was responsible for the recruitment and retention of approximately 100 students. He served as chair of the former School of Education and Human Services, as a member of the University Faculty Senate, the University Budget Committee, and the Academic Affairs Budget Planning Committee. Dr. Jones held membership in the Council of Education of the Deaf, and for 10 years was its director of program evaluation. His work is widely published, and he served on editorial review panels and as a manuscript reviewer for the Kappa Delta Pi Record and the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. Dr. Jones is also a nationally recognized expert on genealogy, and he was recently elected as a fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, a lifetime honor bestowed on a very limited number of individuals.

Gallaudet’s 141st Commencement will be a memorable one for my wife, Vicki, and I since it is the first one we will participate in as members of the University community. It will be an unforgettable day for the members of the Class of 2010 and their families, as well, and I look forward to awarding the graduates their degrees and congratulating them on what will be one of the most important achievements in their lives, the successful completion of a Gallaudet education.


Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz

Posted: 5 Feb 2010

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