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 wab.org. 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 included in 2018 ‘Fiske Guide to Colleges’

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Rochester Institute of Technology is among the universities included in the 2018 edition of the "Fiske Guide to Colleges." The guide is a selective, subjective and systematic look at more than 300 colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain aimed at selecting “the best and most interesting."

The 2018 edition of the guide highlights RIT’s “spotlight on undergraduates,” and says “students seeking up-to-date technological preparation will be at home at RIT, and those who are geared up and ready to ‘go professional’ will be more than satisfied with its extensive co-op program." The guide also cites RIT as “a leader in providing access and support services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.” More.

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. 

NIH grants $1 million to RIT/NTID scientists-in-training program for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduates

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The National Institute of General Medical Sciences has awarded a grant to Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf to provide $1.025 million in funding over five years to develop a scientists-in-training program for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduates. 

Funded through the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program, the grant is designed to increase the number of underrepresented students who enter Ph.D. programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. The RIT-RISE program is the first RISE program to specifically serve deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

The program will offer a suite of scientific enrichment workshops, presentations, and activities that are tailored to the needs of deaf-and-hard of hearing scientists and open to the entire university. These events are expected to attract students who wish to enrich their research skills, stay abreast of hot topics in biomedical and behavioral fields, sharpen their presentation skills, or get help applying to graduate schools. RIT-RISE also will provide faculty workshops to share best practices for promoting effective communication between hearing and deaf researchers in lab settings.   

Selected RISE scholars will receive intensive training and wage support for working in research laboratories with RIT researchers and, eventually, in the laboratory of a mentor from another institution.  The RIT-RISE leadership team will help match supported scholars with participating research mentors in their fields of interest. Scholars also will attend local and national conferences, present papers and posters and publish or co-publish their work. 

Scott R. Smith, a medical doctor, health scientist and research faculty member at RIT/NTID, who is deaf, will lead this program assisted by Paul Craig, a chemistry professor and the head of RIT’s School of Chemistry and Material Science, and Vincent Samar, an RIT/NTID cognitive science professor with many years of experience working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students. In addition, more than 40 deaf and hearing members of the RIT faculty have volunteered to serve as science mentors, and 15 deaf and hearing external mentors have already been identified for the summer research experiences that will take place after scholars complete their junior year.

RISE scholars will be selected from deaf and hard-of-hearing students in RIT baccalaureate programs that include biochemistry, bioinformatics, biology, biomedical engineering, biomedical sciences, biotechnology & molecular bioscience, chemistry, computing and information technologies, computer science, computing security, game design & development, human-centered computing, new media interactive development, psychology, and web and mobile computing.

RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is leading the RIT-RISE cross-college partnership that includes RIT’s College of Science, College of Health Science and Technology, College of Liberal Arts, Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, and the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. 

Smith cited the partnership among RIT colleges as one of the keys to receiving NIH support. 

“The strength of the mentor pool helped to distinguish the RIT application, and we are very grateful for faculty enthusiasm for this program,” he said. “We expect the RIT-RISE program to provide even greater opportunities so that deaf and hard-of-hearing students can engage in robust undergraduate research experiences that will enable them to become successful scientists.”  

Gerard Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean, praised RIT’s commitment to the program. 

“This is a historic development for deaf and hard-of-hearing scholars and for RIT,” said Buckley. “RIT is becoming known as the destination school for deaf and hard-of-hearing scholars who want to prepare for careers in biomedical and behavioral research.”    

The RIT-RISE program expands the Rochester training pipeline for deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists by connecting undergraduate research training with preexisting NTID-supported ‘Explore Your Future’ and ‘Health Care Career Exploration’ camps for high school students, the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate Program for graduate students, and the Rochester Postdoctoral Partnership Program for postdoctoral fellows.  

RIT College of Science establishes Integrated Sciences Academy

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Multidisciplinary science education and research is the focus of a new academic unit in RIT’s College of Science that brings together researchers with different expertise to invent new ways to approach challenges facing a global society.

The Integrated Sciences Academy will focus on implementing specific inter- and multidisciplinary programs within the College of Science and differs from custom-tailored programs offered through RIT’s School of Individualized Study. More.

RIT/NTID names Student Life Team director

Tim Albert in grey/white windowpane plaid suit jacket with lavender button down shirt and striped tie. Banquet tables in back.

RIT/NTID has named Marvin “Tim” Albert of Columbus, Ohio, as director of the college’s Student Life Team. 

Albert has more than 11 years of experience in the K-12 education field as a peer/school counselor, supervisor, student life coordinator and dean of students. He earned a diploma in applied computer technology and an associate in applied science degree in imaging technology from RIT/NTID, and went on to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Gallaudet University.

As president of National Black Deaf Advocates and board member of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), Albert worked to make improvements to educational programs and schools for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

“I’m pleased to welcome Tim back to the RIT/NTID community,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “His national leadership experience along with his love for the college and our students will usher in a time of renewed vitality to the Student Life Team.”

In his role as Student Life Team director, Albert will supervise and oversee co-curricular events, including clubs and Greek life for RIT/NTID’s 1,200 deaf and hard-of-hearing students.