Alumni eNewsletter: Famed physician delivers Commencement address (Archives)

The 136th Commencement Exercises took place May 13, highlighted by a keynote address from famed physician Dr. Oliver Sacks.

This year, more than 173 undergraduate and 153 graduate students joined family and friends in the Field House to close a chapter in life, only to begin an exciting new one.

Dr. Sacks is a physician, writer and clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His book, Seeing Voices, focuses on American Sign Language and the conflicts between those who seek to teach people who are prelingually deaf to communicate via voice and lip reading, and those who maintain that sign language is by far a more effective method of communication. His book also details the 1988 Deaf President Now protest at Gallaudet.

In addition to serving as Commencement speaker, Dr. Sacks received an honorary doctorate degree from Gallaudet.

Other honorees at this yearís Commencement included Dr. Nancy E. Kensicki, '65, who was awarded Professor Emerita status; Dr. Gerald "Bummy" Burstein, '50, who received the 2005 DPN Leadership Award; and Dr. Oscar P. Cohen, who received an honorary doctorate degree.

Dr. Kensicki served as a member of Gallaudetís English Department from 1967-2004, infusing her unique and effective brand of instruction to thousands of students. She taught literature, composition, reading, Honors English, editing, and technical and managerial writing. An award-winning teacher, Dr. Kensicki received the Presidentís Distinguished Faculty Award in 1989, as well as the English Teachers of the Deaf Award at the Conference of American Instructors for the Deaf (CAID) in 1983 and 1993.

Since his undergraduate days in the 1940s and throughout his career as an educator, Dr. Burstein has served and supported his alma mater with great generosity, wisdom and consistency, particularly through his work with the Gallaudet University Alumni Association. A member of the GUAA board since 1979, he served as GUAA president from 1982-92, and 1998-01. In 1992, Dr. Burstein received the Alice Cogswell Award for valuable service on behalf of deaf people.

As former chief administrator of the largest school for the deaf in New York State, Dr. Cohen demonstrated a high level of both professional and personal commitment to deaf students and their families. Dr. Cohen is especially known for his sensitivity to and support of deaf children from linguistically, racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. During a period when there was very little recognition of the special status of these students, Dr. Cohen was their tireless advocate, an individual who almost single-handedly began to change a neglectful pattern in the field of deaf education.

Posted: 24 May 2005

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