Alumni eNewsletter: Charter Day Awards and Brunch Program mistress of ceremonies compares deaf community to a many layered quilt (Archives)

"When I look around this room, I am inspired by your presence at the 42nd Annual Charter Day Awards and Brunch Program. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotations by the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He said, 'America is not like a blanket--one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt--many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread.' The Deaf community is not like a blanket but is more like a quilt, with white Deaf American, African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and Native American; older, younger, hard of hearing, and hearing people involved in the Deaf community. You all represent a quilt. Our Deaf culture and community is the common thread that holds us together. There is great diversity among not just the award winners but also with the family and friends who are here today to witness you receive your award. All of you represent different things in the Deaf community and are the threads that bind us together and represent a beautiful quilt: colorful yet flowing." --Carolyn McCaskill, Mistress of Ceremony, ’77, G-’79 & PhD ’05

The 147th Charter Day and 42nd Charter Day Brunch and Awards Program brought forth a diverse group of award recipients who have done wonderful things for the deaf community. The recipients ranged from an advocate for deaf education in Nigeria (Ezekiel Sambo, ’70 [posthumously]), to a young alumnus who has done tremendous things in the Hispano community (Melissa Draganac-Hawk, ’98), to a community advocate who graduated from Howard University and currently works for the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) (Claudia Gordon), to an advocate for improved mental health services for deaf and hard of hearing people (Allison Schleisinger-Speluveda, ’91), to a community activist who established a museum in Austin, Tex. (Franna Lou [Corley] Camensch, ’70).

The festivities kicked off on Friday, April 8--Gallaudet’s 147th birthday--with a cake and program hosted by Hillel Goldberg, ’83, chair of the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund (LCCF) Committee of the Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA). The celebration was held in the Marketplace at the Jordan Student Academic Center. Goldberg gave a brief presentation on the history of President Lincoln signing the charter in 1864, then with assistance from the GUAA Board, which happened to be in town for board meetings and Charter Day, Hillel and the board members passed out cake, saying "Happy Birthday, Gallaudet University!" The cake was quickly gobbled up by hungry students.

Friday evening found President and First Lady Hurwitz serving as gracious hosts of the annual barbecue at their home, House One, for the award recipients, their families, the LCCF Committee, the GUAA Board, and the Alumni Relations staff. The weather was absolutely miserable: heavy rains, chilly temperatures, and dampness--a typical early April day in D.C.--but it was warm and cozy inside House One. The weather did not affect anyone’s mood, as everyone was in a festive mood and happy to be together, getting to know the award recipients better. As an optimistic gesture to warmer days ahead, strawberry shortcake was served for dessert.

The energy level was high on Saturday morning, as people began arriving for the brunch and awards program. This year had an especially diverse group of people being recognized for their achievements, as mentioned by Mistress of Ceremony Carolyn McCaskill in her opening statement, so there were many various groups represented in the audience that were eager to show their support the award recipients. One group in particular, students of the late Sambo, who was receiving an award for his work in Nigeria, dressed in beautiful, colorful, traditional Nigerian clothes.

The award recipients were honored first by people who knew them well and signed their citations highlighting their achievements, and then they were officially presented their awards. While each moment was equally heartfelt, there was an especially touching moment when a short video was shown of Sambo, shortly before his death from malaria, commenting on the Edward Miner Gallaudet Award he was to receive.

In addition, Schlesinger-Sepulveda received the LCCF Laurent Clerc Award, Gordon was recognized with the LCCF Amos Kendall Award, Draganac-Hawk was honored with the GUAA Outstanding Young Alumnus Award, and Camenisch was granted the GUAA Pauline "Polly" Peikoff Service to Others Award.

For more information on the award recipients, go to

Posted: 11 May 2011

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