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Jan 23, 2019
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Fresno State welcomes two honorary guests

President and first lady of Gallaudet University travels from Washington, D.C.


Matt Weir/The Collegian

President T. Alan Hurwitz of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and first lady Vicki T. Hurwitz made their way to Fresno for the fourth time yesterday afternoon. The Satellite Student Union on campus was filled with members of the Deaf Community, faculty, staff, students and supporters.

Several American Sign Language interpreters took turns signing the words of the guest speakers during the two-hour lecture. Yesterday marked the first time Dr. Hurwitz spoke at a California State University.

“It was an awesome turnout,” Dr. Hurwitz said through a sign language interpreter. “The questions from the audience were fantastic, they were very thoughtful, very thought provoking, and I really enjoyed chatting with the audience.”

Gallaudet University is only liberal arts college in the world that has services and programs designed to accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The charter was signed by 16th President Abraham Lincoln, and founded in 1864 by an act of Congress.

The university is bilingual, American Sign Language and English, and is multicultural. Dr. Hurwitz said Gallaudet University is ran like any other university, and is similar to Fresno State. He discovered similarities during breakfast yesterday morning with Fresno State President John Welty.

Gallaudet University has six residence halls, Greek life and athletics ranging from baseball and basketball to soccer and swimming.

Dr. Hurwitz was born deaf to deaf parents in 1942. He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in electrical engineering before earning an Ed.D. in curriculum and teaching from the University of Rochester.

Dr. Hurwitz’s Vision for the 21st Century for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People was the topic of the rainy evening. The lecture opened up by College of Health and Human Services dean Dr. Andrew Hoff, and was followed by Dr. David Smith who introduced Dr. Hurwitz and his wife.

“I actually tell people that my life is an open book,” Dr. Hurwitz said.

Hurwitz said becoming the 10th president of Gallaudet University in January 2010, and moving to Washington, D.C. from Rochester, New York was one new chapter in his life.

Prior to becoming president at Gallaudet University, Dr. Hurwitz was the president of the National Technical Institute of the Deaf.

Dr. Hurwitz shared the goals of Gallaudet University with several American Sign Language interpreters in attendance. The goals included enrollment growth, retention and graduation rates, efficiencies and revenue generating operations, academic programs and epic research centers.

“Right now we’re at about 2,000 students, and our vision is to up that to 3,000 students,” Dr. Hurwitz said.

Hurwitz and his wife live in the 35-room President’s Residence, House One, which is located behind the university. Dr. Hurwitz’s wife of 45 years is the third first lady who is deaf to live in the President’s House.

Mrs. Hurwitz stated that the first floor is similar to a museum. She said the history of the house has been the same since the beginning of its development in 1869. A DVD will be released next year highlighting the history of the house.

The office of Dr. Hurwitz resides on the second floor, along with two guest rooms — including the Lincoln bedroom. Mrs. Hurwitz said the Lincoln bedroom has a bed that’s a replica of a bed in the White House.

The third floor overlooks the campus, and has two additional guests rooms, a family room, Mrs. Hurwitz’s office and a second kitchen.

Mrs. Hurwitz said she added butterflies to a stainless glass window on the third floor because she felt a special bond with the deaf insect.

A basement falls under the first ground-level floor, and is used for housing storage.

“It’s more like a dungeon,” Mrs. Hurwitz said.

Dr. Hurwitz said he wanted the audience to leave the SSU with one message of how college education is vital for finding a career.

“I think what’s most important is to help them understand that a college education is extremely valuable for their future.” Dr. Hurwitz said.

“College is really the foundation for a great life.”

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