Category Archives: Events

NTID Performing Arts presents “Out of the Box” with Patrick Graybill

Black background with a brown box open with various clippings and words coming out, with the words

RIT/NTID Performing Arts presents  "Out of the Box" -- a multimedia performance featuring the life stories of legendary RIT/NTID Professor Emeritus Patrick Graybill at 7:30 p.m. Sat., Sept. 9 in Panara Theatre. Written by Karen Christie and Patrick Graybill and directed by Aaron Kelstone, tickets are $35 for the performance and a reception, and $25 for the performance only. Tickets are available a the RIT University Arena Box Office or online

An overlooked aspect of history uncovered

Harry Lang with light skin, short light hair, light beard wearing black golf shirt and brown tweed jacket.

For Harry Lang, there is always much to be learned from the past. Throughout his 41 years of teaching at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and into the present-day, he has researched and authored numerous books on Deaf Americans throughout history.

Lang’s newest book, “Fighting in the Shadows: The Untold Story of Deaf People in the Civil War,” provides insight into this little-known aspect of the country’s history. The book, which includes 160 photos, sells for $39.95. 

Deaf and hard-of-hearing people were extensively involved in the American Civil War, yet no detailed summary has previously been published on their participation. Supporting both sides of the conflict, they participated as soldiers, writers, doctors, nurses, spies and assumed a variety of other roles. They emerged from the shadows to gain further control of their own destiny as American citizens.

Lang has published 10 books and numerous book chapters and articles. He was the senior history adviser on the production team of the award-winning documentary “Through Deaf Eyes,” which aired on PBS stations in 2007.

From 12:20 to 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, in RIT/NTID’s CSD Student Development Center, room 1300/1310, Lang will discuss the book as part of the college’s ASL Lecture Series, with a book signing after the presentation. The event is free, and sign language interpreters have been requested.

“My plan for the RIT/NTID ASL Lecture Series presentation is to focus on Deaf History/Deaf Heritage as they relate to the Civil War,” Lang said. “I will have numerous stories, but more emphasis on sign language, graduates of schools for the deaf like Laura Redden, Edmund Booth and many others and how they put aside the oppression and discrimination they faced in order to join the greater conflict that was dividing the nation.”

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, Writers and Books will sponsor a lecture and book signing at Rochester Academy of Medicine auditorium, 1441 East Ave., Rochester. A Q & A and book signing will follow. The event is $5, and tickets can be bought in advance by calling 585.473.2590 ext. 107 or online at This event will be sign language interpreted.

This presentation will have a stronger emphasis on community aspects, such as deaf people being involved in both the nascent Deaf community at that time, and their involvement in the hearing communities in support of the Union and Confederate armies. 

“I’ll also talk a bit about the tens of thousands of hearing soldiers who were deafened in the war and what they experienced during the years following the war,” Lang said.

RIT/NTID selects Holcombs for Distinguished Alumni Award

Barbara Ray, short blonde hair, glasses in pink collared shirt, and Sam,brown hair, beard, glasses in orange RIT shirt.

Samuel (SVP ’74, ’77) and Barbara Ray (SVP ’71, ’74, ’84) Holcomb have been selected as recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. They are only the second couple to be selected for the award, which recognizes alumni who have brought distinction to the institution through their professional, community and philanthropic activities.

For virtually anyone who has worked with them since their arrival on campus in the mid-1970s, their selection comes as no surprise; the Holcomb’s have made their names, both individually and together, as tireless advocates for relationship-building, both on campus and elsewhere.

“We’ve always enjoyed giving back to the community that’s supported us,” said Barbara Ray, a graduate of NTID’s associate degree program in medical records technology. She also earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Brockport in interdisciplinary arts for children and a master’s degree from RIT in career and human resources development. She has held various instructional positions at RIT, NTID, and other area colleges since 1979.

Her most recent position was as an associate professor and the coordinator of the Faculty/Staff Sign Language Program in RIT/NTID’s American Sign Language and Interpreting Education Department.

Sam Holcomb is a 1977 graduate of NTID’s ophthalmic optical finishing technology program. In the early 1990s he taught sign language to former RIT President Albert J. Simone, who became the first president of RIT to regularly use ASL in his remarks at commencement and other campus-wide events, thanks to Sam’s tutelage.

The Holcomb’s are co-authors of ASL at Work, a teacher manual and student text intended to teach effective communication in the classroom and the workplace. They also have individually authored various books, films and curricular materials devoted to surmounting language barriers.

The Holcomb’s retired from NTID in 2013 and now live in Surprise, Arizona. They are active in their retirement community, which contains a high number of deaf senior citizens.

“We have weekly gatherings where I share information about resources and host workshops,” said Sam. “Barbara also shares information about communication or assistive devices, like where to get voice carry-over phones and flashing lights for doorbells and fire alarms. Many of our neighbors are hungry to learn new things through sign language, and since [Barbara Ray and I] come from a technical institution, we’re ahead of the game in many ways.”

“We also educate them about their rights,” said Barbara Ray. “Some of our deaf neighbors have spent years keeping quiet about their need for communication access, so we teach them how to request an interpreter and other things that they’re entitled to by law.”

Although Sam and Barbara Ray have left Rochester, they still feel a strong connection to NTID as well as a need to provide future generations with a sense of connection to the past. Their advocacy helped spur the establishment of the Deaf Studies Archive at RIT’s Wallace Memorial Center, and both are working towards the development of an NTID Alumni Museum. The museum is slated to open during the college’s 50th Anniversary Reunion Weekend, which will take place June 28-July 1, 2018.

The Holcomb’s will be recognized during the Distinguished Alumni Award ceremony during the RIT Presidents’ Alumni Ball on October 13, 2017. 

RIT/NTID and UR host national meeting of deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists

Organizers of the RSRTI conference Stephen Dewhurst of URMC and Peter Hauser of RIT/NTID with keynote presenter Carol Padden.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and the University of Rochester Medical Center held the first Rochester Summer Research Training Institute with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Scientists and Their Mentors June 11-13. The three-day conference drew one of the largest groups of deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists in the nation.  

Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are vastly under-represented in biomedical fields. RIT/NTID and URMC have partnered to identify unique barriers to science- and health-related careers faced by these individuals. Among them is a barrier to mentorship for students who are striving for health or science related careers.

With few deaf or hard-of-hearing professionals in biomedical careers, role models for the next generation of deaf scientists are few and—often literally—far between. RIT/NTID and URMC’s Rochester Summer Research Training Institute was a new approach to break down that barrier, bringing deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists at all levels of career development together from across the nation.

“I was especially impressed by the interaction and dialogue between students, postdoctoral trainees, junior faculty and top national figures,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., vice dean for Research at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “This kind of exchange and networking is exactly what we wanted to encourage when we set out to plan this meeting.”

The meeting featured a keynote address from Carol Padden, Ph.D., dean of social sciences and Sanford I. Berman Endowed Professor of Communication in the Center for Research in Language at University of California, San Diego.

“I received my Ph.D. in 1983 and there were so few of us in graduate school we had to look out for each other,” said Padden. “Now at this conference I’m so impressed at how many deaf students are pursuing doctoral and medical degrees. So many more and so many different fields, it is astonishing.”

A total of 85 participants attended the Rochester Summer Research Institute, which was held at URMC’s Saunders Research Building immediately following the conclusion of the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss (AMPHL) conference at RIT/NTID. Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral trainees as well as faculty and staff from across the country came together at this conference to network, learn from one another and raise the profile of deaf scientists.

“It was inspiring to witness young deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists meeting each other for the first time and making connections,” said Peter Hauser, Ph.D., director of the NTID Center on Cognition and Language and the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate Program. “Many felt isolated in their fields and were able to share their experiences. I believe the resources they learned at RSRTI will help them overcome future challenges and navigate science successfully.”

The program also included an interactive poster session, small group breakout sessions and a keynote speech from Charlene E. Le Fauve, Ph.D., senior advisor to the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity in the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health; and Caroline Solomon, Ph.D., chair of the faculty senate and professor of biology at Gallaudet University also presented.

The event was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (K12 GM106997) and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Search the hashtag #deafscientists to see what people were saying about the event on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

RIT/NTID alumnus Peter Cook joins Performing Arts Advisory Committee

Image of Peter Cook with long dark hair, salt-and-pepper beard, wearing blue shirt and plaid scarf.

The performing arts program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has named alumnus Peter Cook to its Performing Arts Advisory Committee. The committee was founded in 2015 to strengthen, support and advise NTID’s theater program.

Cook, an American Sign Language poet, actor, filmmaker, director and professor at Columbia College in Chicago, graduated from Clarke Center for Hearing and Speech and came to NTID in 1980. His first theatrical role was Caliban, the half-human, half-demon antihero of Shakespeare’s Tempest. After becoming fluent in ASL, he mastered the art of ASL poetry/performance/storytelling.

The NTID Performing Arts Advisory Committee is chaired by RIT/NTID alumnus Matthew S. Moore, president of MSM Productions, Ltd., and publisher of DEAF LIFE magazine. The committee also includes veteran deaf actors Howie Seago of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Adrian Blue of Yale University’s ASL Shakespeare Project.

“I’m delighted to have Peter Cook aboard the advisory committee,” said Moore. “He brings his experience and expertise on ASL theater, and his perspective will be valuable as we seek to improve the quality of theater at NTID.”

Two of the committee’s initial goals—reviving NTID’s traveling troupe, Sunshine 2.0, and upgrading the Panara Theatre and lobby—have been achieved. Plans are in development to renovate and upgrade Room 1510 in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall into a black-box theater for small-scale ASL productions. Other goals include establishing intern and co-op positions, funding an endowed chair for the performing arts, helping to choose each season’s productions, promoting the development of original work by deaf playwrights, and establishing a summer theater program for deaf high school and college students that encompasses performance, stagecraft, cinematic studies, multimedia, directing and theater management. The committee also seeks to engage in community outreach, encourage greater community involvement in theater, increase opportunities for student participation, and promote ASL theater.

For more details on the NTID Performing Arts program, visit For Advisory Committee updates, go to

Dangerous Signs presents PIPPIN at Rochester’s Geva Theatre

Poster for PIPPIN featuring group of colorfully dressed actors with PIPPIN written in red.

Dangerous Signs, under the direction of RIT/NTID faculty member Luane Davis Haggerty, will stage their production of the musical PIPPIN June 16 and 17 at Geva Theatre's Fielding Stage. Performances are at 7 p.m. each evening. Tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for students and seniors and can be puchased through the Geva box office by calling 585-232-4832 or emailing

The ensemble cast tells the story of Pippin, a young prince who longs to find passion and adventure in his life.

The production is fully accessible, using spoken and sung English, sign language and captioning. 

RIT/NTID presents “Deaf Education in South Africa”

Ingrid Parkin with short blonde hair wearing dark jacket and print top against green background.

RIT/NTID's Center for International Educational Outreach presents "Deaf Education in South Africa" noon-1 p.m. Tues., June 6, in the CSD Student Development Center, room 1310. 

Ingrid Parkin, principal of the St. Vincent School for the Deaf in South Africa, will share information about the current state and challenges faced by deaf education in South Africa. 

Parkin is the first deaf person to become principal of a deaf school in South Africa. 

Assistive Technology in the Workplace workshop

Blue background with Assistive Technology in the Workplace in black letters.

RochesterWorks!, Monroe County’s largest employment and training initiative, in collaboration with Monroe County, ACCES-VR and the NTID Center on Employment present: Assistive Technology in the Workplace 9-11:30 a.m. Thursday, June 29, at Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Assistive Technology in the Workplace is the latest in RochesterWorks!’s long history of innovative events, workshops, conferences, and job fairs dedicated to equipping our community’s job seekers and businesses to interact with each other. The event is designed to show businesses that customizing the workplace to suit every worker is easier and more cost effective than ever before. Large print and tactile keyboards, screen magnifiers, and navigation assistance, are just a few common assistive technologies used in the workplace.

Admission is $10. Breakfast will be served, and a raffle ticket will be included with admission.