50 Years of...

50 Years of Outstanding Leadership

5 NTID presidents pose for a group photo at the NTID 50th Reunion.

Five NTID leaders at the NTID 50th Reunion, June 29, 2018. Top row, L to R: Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz, Dr. Gerard J. Buckley. Bottom row, L to R: Dr. James J. DeCaro, Dr. D. Robert Frisina, Dr. Robert R. Davila.

NTID has been fortunate to have strong leadership throughout its 50-year history. From NTID’s first director, Dr. D. Robert Frisina, to its current president, Dr. Gerry Buckley, NTID’s leaders have guided the college and helped ensure its continued success.

In his chapter on NTID’s leaders in “A Shining Beacon: Fifty Years of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf,” retired NTID faculty member Dr. Gerard “Jerry” Walter, notes that:

Since its founding, NTID has had six leaders…What is interesting about these six individuals is that they are all still alive, have all known each other professionally and personally, have communicated with each other about their experiences as leader, and thus have had the luxury of learning from each other. These relationships have resulted in an unusually high level of mission continuity that is seldom achieved when organizations change leadership.

“FOCUS” asked NTID leaders, past and present, to share a favorite memory or accomplishment, and to reflect on what has contributed to NTID’s success over the years and what they think lies ahead for the college.

Portrait of Bob Frisina

Dr. D. Robert Frisina

Led NTID Jan. 1, 1967 – Dec. 31, 1976

Early Portrait of Bob FrisinaFavorite Memory or Accomplishment:
The most rewarding parts of my efforts at NTID were maintaining the integrity of the intent of the federal law that established the college and witnessing the unprecedented success of ‘The Grand Experiment.’ NTID is remarkable for its epic role in the history of deaf people, creating technical and professional career opportunities, inspiring changes in educational practices and enabling socioeconomic parity for individuals who are deaf.

Key to NTID's Success:
Innovation has been the key to NTID’s success from the beginning. When NTID was established, there was no model to follow. There were no large numbers of deaf students enrolled in existing traditional higher educational institutions. This was a new idea, and it required creative thinking in terms of how to organize such a program to increase the probability that we would be a success. Innovation and creative thinking have continued to be key to NTID’s success as the college has adapted to changes over the years.

Looking to the Future:
NTID will continue to be a place where dreams are made, where hopes are raised, and where students are encouraged to reach for their star, and, with a little help, to catch it.

Portrait of William Castle

Dr. William E. Castle

Led NTID Jan. 1, 1977 – Dec. 31, 1994

Early Portrait of William CastleFavorite Memory or Accomplishment:
I am proud that I was able to convince Congress that NTID should be allowed to admit foreign students. The assistant secretary for education and rehabilitation at the time argued against the proposition, insisting that NTID was a ‘national’ institution. As it turned out, Congress agreed with me, and in the years since, NTID has admitted hundreds of students from countries all over the world.

Key to NTID's Success:
The most significant factor in NTID’s success over the years is clearly the employment history of its graduates. NTID was established to prepare students for successful careers, and it continues to consistently achieve that goal.

Looking to the Future:
It is difficult to predict what the future will hold, particularly when we look at the pace of technological innovation, which clearly will continue to impact how deaf and hard-of-hearing students learn and communicate.

Portrait of James J. DeCaro

Dr. James J. Decaro

Led NTID on an interim basis Jan. 1, 1995 – Dec. 31, 1995 and Jan. 1, 2010 – Dec. 31, 2010

Favorite Memory or Accomplishment:
The high point of each and every one of the 47  years I’ve served at RIT/NTID has been graduation and seeing these young people fully prepared to enter society and the workplace and compete on a par with peers who hear. I am so proud of their accomplishments!

Key to NTID's Success:
While interviewing for a position at NTID in November 1970, I was impressed by three pillars that provided the foundation of support for the entire academic enterprise...excellence, integrity and innovation. Thoughtful experimentation and innovation, and an honest reporting of outcomes was, and continues to be, part of the NTID DNA. Experimentation was expected. So, too, was collection of data upon which future interventions would be based...a commitment to continuous quality improvement to meet the changing needs of the young men and women we served. These pillars are with us today; if this were not the case, we would not be the excellent enterprise we are.

Looking to the Future:
I don’t feel prepared to speculate regarding the changing nature of those we will serve on our 75th anniversary. If the past 50 years proves to be prologue, there will be technological developments that will change the way NTID needs to do business: artificial intelligence, speech to text, biomedical advances, electro-mechanical technologies, and other innovations and surprises that will come our way. Irrespective, it will remain imperative that excellence, integrity and innovation continue to be the hallmark of NTID whatever population we serve. The only constant will be the need to adapt to changes in technology, education, society and the workplace.

Portrait of Robert Davila

Dr. Robert R. Davila

Led NTID Jan. 1, 1996 – Nov. 30, 2003

Favorite Memory or Accomplishment:
I have many memories of my service as CEO of NTID. One significant accomplishment that I recall with great pride is the conversion of the LBJ Hall open-air quad. I contemplated that perhaps I could find a generous donor to allow us to convert that little-used space. The opportunity came when I visited old friends Joe and Helen Dyer in Florida, and they expressed an interest in supporting erection of an arts center. Many people in the NTID community were delighted with the design, purpose and location of the Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center. Over the years, it has become a very important teaching and learning space where the work of deaf artists from all corners of the world can be displayed. 

Key to NTID's Success:
NTID’s affiliation with a major university was intentional, and its affiliation with RIT remains central to its purpose and programmatic design. Over the years, thousands of young deaf and hard-of-hearing students have completed degrees and gone on to impressive accomplishments in the world of work and their communities. NTID students function successfully in a supportive and accepting, but also challenging, learning environment that includes many thousands of hearing peers. These experiences parallel the work world and community into which they aspire after graduation. The experiences on such a complex, yet friendly and supporting campus, facilitate their transitions to increasingly more complex and demanding life situations. This was an important element of the vision implemented 50 years ago, and it remains relevant and timeless. 

Looking to the Future:
Technology and medical science have solved some of the disabling effects of disabilities and diseases, and continued progress is likely to affect the way deaf and hard-of-hearing people learn, communicate and work. Every university and college in our country has acquired knowledge and ability to serve deaf and hard-of-hearing students, some better than others, and many colleges will enroll more of them. NTID can be in a position to serve as higher education’s clearinghouse to help other colleges and universities in much the same manner that we developed an international support program during my service as CEO.

Portrait of Alan Hurwitz

Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz

Led NTID Dec. 1, 2003 – Dec. 31, 2009

Favorite Memory or Accomplishment:
My favorite accomplishment was the establishment of the CSD Student Development Center. This was made possible through a generous contribution from CSD blended with a creative budgeting process successfully negotiated with our dear friends in Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. The CSD center is the ‘heartbeat’ of NTID student growth and leadership development.

Key to NTID's Success:
The most significant factor in NTID’s success over the years is due to RIT’s progressive vision as the ‘one of kind’ university. This has allowed NTID to partner with RIT to provide the best quality postsecondary and higher education to young deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The many achievements of our alumni are truly a testimony to RIT/NTID’s success and excellence.

Looking to the Future:
Technology definitely will have a profound impact on the future of NTID. In 25 years, I visualize NTID becoming the center of STEM education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students throughout the world through innovative and interactive online video/visual technology.

Portrait of Gerard Buckley

Dr. Gerard J. Buckley

Has led NTID Jan. 1, 2011 – Present

Favorite Memory or Accomplishment:
I have so many fond memories of my time at NTID—as both a student and administrator. I am proud to be an RIT/NTID alumnus, and I am proud to lead this college that has changed so many lives, including my own. One of my priorities as NTID president has been to ensure that the future leadership of NTID is increasingly diverse and reflective of the population we serve. We have made progress in that area, and we will continue to make diversity and inclusion a top priority as we work to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing students outstanding educational opportunities in a supportive and enriching environment.

Key to NTID's Success:
The key to NTID’s success always has been, and will continue to be, our people. Hardworking students and their incredibly supportive parents; highly skilled and dedicated faculty and staff; generous donors; and active, involved alumni all help NTID successfully carry out its mission to prepare deaf and hard-of-hearing students for successful careers and lives. Everything we do at RIT/NTID, both inside and outside the classroom, is focused on helping our students prepare for a successful future. It’s this singular focus that drives all of our decision making, all of our programming and every activity and opportunity we provide. This is not just what we do; it’s who we are.

Looking to the Future:
We’ve been educating deaf and hard-of-hearing students for 50 years, and we have much to be proud of. I am confident our talented students, faculty, staff and alumni will continue doing great things. Our students will always remain at the heart of all that we do, and we will continue to build on our past successes and ensure that our students get the skills they need to succeed in their careers and as leaders in their communities. As I look to the future, I see more collaboration and integration with the greater university while respecting the uniqueness of NTID’s mission and remaining true to the reasons we were founded 50 years ago. I see RIT/NTID as the premier model of access and inclusion for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and I see a new generation of outstanding students, faculty and staff thriving and driving innovation further to improve the educational and employment success of deaf and hard-of-hearing people nationally and internationally. I see Rochester and RIT, in partnership with the University of Rochester and Rochester Regional Health, and with support from the National Institutes of Health, as the national hub of training for deaf individuals who want to pursue careers in science and in health care. I see a continued focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and growth in our STEM-related outreach programs as we create a pipeline for students who want to pursue educational opportunities and careers in STEM. I see our alumni continuing to be engaged and proud to be an integral part of the RIT/NTID family, helping with the recruitment, placement and fundraising work that will ensure NTID’s future for generations to come.

A History of Student Leadership

Student leaders have played an important role in NTID’s history. Over the years, student leaders have achieved milestones such as establishing the NTID Student Congress, international organizations, and even taking on positions in RIT Student Government. Leadership opportunities help prepare students for success in their careers and in life. “FOCUS” asked a number of former student leaders to share the most significant learning experiences they had at RIT/NTID and to share words of advice for current and aspiring student leaders. 

Helen Yu, SVP ’10, ’16

Washington, D.C.

Recent portrait of Helen YuPortrait of Helen Yu as a studentSignificant learning experience:
My skills as a leader grew, and I still use the philosophies and experiences from NTID to make me a better leader today.

Advice for student leaders:
Never deny yourself of any opportunities that arise and continue to improve yourself every chance you get.

Linda Siple, ’79, ’83

Rochester, New York

Recent portrait of Linda SiplePortrait of Linda Siple as a studentSignificant learning experience:
I learned to take it upon myself to go out and meet deaf people, and embrace the community at RIT/NTID. 

Advice for student leaders:
To interpreting students, allow opportunities for leadership to be afforded to your deaf and hard-of-hearing peers, and participate in the growth of their community by supporting it. 

CJ Jones, SVP ’70, ’75

Los Angeles, California

Recent portrait of CJ JonesPortrait of CJ Jones as a studentSignificant learning experience:
I was lucky to have a mentor like Bob Panara, so be open and look for mentors. They will teach you and lead you, and I learned to not be afraid of being a mentor myself.

Advice for student leaders:
As a student, you have the access to lifelong relationships and success out of school thanks to the resources at NTID, so use that to your advantage.

Alicia Wooten, ’11

Boston, Massachusetts

Recent portrait of Alicia WootenPortrait of Alicia Wooten as a studentSignificant learning experience:
The whole experience as a student over the four years I studied at RIT/NTID molded me into who I am now. It taught me to embrace my deafness, take risks and apply myself.

Advice for student leaders:
Like the Nike slogan says, ‘Just do it.’ Everyone has to fail to get back up, so always take chances. If you don’t, how will you know when opportunities arise?

Brandi Rarus, SVP ’86, ’91

Austin, Texas

Recent portrait of Brandi RarusPortrait of Brandi Rarus as a studentSignificant learning experience:
How to network. My experience at NTID allowed me to have a rich network of colleagues and friendships that have supported my career and journey. 

Advice for student leaders:
I’ve learned that the best way to challenge misconceptions of deaf people is through success. Success changes perception. 

Mark Feder, SVP ’71, ’75, ’76

Hawthorn Woods, Illinois

Recent portrait of Mark FederPortrait of Mark Feder as a studentSignificant learning experience:
NTID Student Congress was the biggest experience for me that still stands out. It taught me how to be a leader and how to work with people for the community.

Advice for student leaders:
Deaf students need to understand the significance of Deaf culture and become better leaders on and off campus.

Minoru Yoshida, SOAR ’99 - Associated with SVP ’99, ’08

Tokyo, Japan

Recent portrait of Minoru YoshidaSignificant learning experience:
The most significant collaborative learning experience I had at NTID was my working experience with deaf and hearing colleagues (my supervisors, mentors, and colleagues) in both academic and professional settings.

Advice for student leaders:
Grab as many opportunities as you can to interact with great leaders or your mentors at NTID (students, faculty/staff and other members of the community) as you will not be able to get the same experience in this proximity with a great number of wonderful deaf colleagues once you leave campus. Some of them will become your lifelong friends and supporters.

Erin Esposito, ’96, ’01

Rochester, New York

Recent portrait of Erin EspositoPortrait of Erin Esposito as a studentSignificant learning experience:
I learned how to use any afforded privileges for the greater good. Closed opportunities are a call for changes to be made. 

Advice for student leaders:
Either you’re part of the problem or you’re part of the solution.

Mary Beth Mothersell, ’85

Geneseo, New York

Recent portrait of Mary Beth MothersellPortrait of Mary Beth Mothersell as a studentSignificant learning experience:
As a student at RIT/NTID, I also was an active member of the NTID theater program. In that environment I began to learn ASL and developed a profound appreciation and respect both for the language and the performance of theater in ASL.  

Advice for student leaders:
Take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that are offered here at RIT/NTID, both academically and socially.

Robert Sidansky, SVP ’72, ’77

Northridge, California

Recent portrait of Robert SidanskyPortrait of Robert Sidansky as a studentSignificant learning experience:
I learned not to let opportunities pass me by. My lesson learned was to seize the moment and do it!

Advice for student leaders:
Don’t stand by and let opportunities pass you by.

Tim Albert, SVP ’91, ’97

Rochester, New York

Recent portrait of Tim AlbertSignificant learning experience:
The most significant learning experience I had was that I got involved with different clubs and organizations as a student to learn and improve the leadership skills that I still use in my life.

Advice for student leaders:
I would encourage students to continue fulfilling their vision and be enthusiastic about their passion! I love the quote from Muhammad Ali, “Don’t count the days; make the days count.”

Stephanie Albert, SVP ’85, ‘88

Rochester, New York

Recent portrait of Stephanie AlbertPortrait of Stephanie Albert as a studentSignificant learning experience:
My learning experiences, obstacles and challenges helped cultivate and prepare the leader I am today. Often, I had to think outside the box to achieve my goals and dreams. NTID taught me to be persistent in my efforts toward greatness.

Advice for student leaders:
Be a servant leader with a humanitarian heart.

Jerry Nelson, SVP ’69, ’74

St. Augustine, Florida

Recent portrait of Jerry NelsonPortrait of Jerry Nelson as a studentSignificant learning experience:
I was able to survive in the cutthroat corporate world thanks to what I learned at NTID, namely adaptability. Constantly adjust to become better.

Advice for student leaders:
Keep an open mind, diversity and inclusion has grown for the better and students should strive to constantly improve it. 

Distinguished Alumni Over the Years

RIT/NTID’s Distinguished Alumni Award is given annually, and recognizes a deserving graduate of NTID or a deaf or hard-of-hearing graduate from one of the other colleges of RIT. “FOCUS” celebrates these past award winners.

Note: A recent photo of the distinguished alumnus/alumna was used if a photo from his/her graduation year could not be provided. No awards were given in 1987 or 2006.

Student portrait of Donald Stoops


Donald H. Stoops, '72

Student portrait of Daniel Longholtz

1978 (CLA)

Daniel J. Longholtz, SVP ’70, ’74

Student portrait of Kevin Nolan


Kevin J. Nolan, ’71

Student portrait of William Mather


William S. Mather, SVP ’71, ’74

Student portrait of Cynthia Davidson


Cynthia (Rohlin) Davidson, ’70

Student portrait of Carmella Ramey


Carmella (Sinaguglia) Ramey, SVP ’70, ’72

Student portrait of Robert Green


Robert J. Green, ’75

Student portrait of Thomas Nedved


Thomas R. Nedved, SVP ’73, ’76

Student portrait of George Kononenko


George O. Kononenko, ’75

Student portrait of Edward Lord


Edward B. Lord, SVP ’70, ’73

Student portrait of Gerard Buckley

1985, 1996 (CLA)

Gerard J. Buckley, SVP ’74, ’78

Student portrait of Darlene Sarnouski


Darlene (Rhoads) Sarnouski, SVP ’77, ’80

Student portrait of Gerald Isobe


Gerald M. Isobe, SVP ’71, ’74, ’76

Student portrait of Gary Etkie


Gary J. Etkie, SVP ’74, ’77

Student portrait of Andrew Baker

1990, 1995 (COS)

Andrew D. Baker, SVP ‘74, ’77, ’79

Student portrait of Fred Mangrubang


Fred R. Mangrubang, SVP ’74, ’77

Student portrait of Linda Nelson


Linda (Kessler) Nelson, ’73

Student portrait of David Pierce


David Pierce, ’84

Student portrait of Sharaine Rawlinson


Sharaine J. (Rice) Rawlinson, SVP ’77, ’81

Student portrait of James Northcutt


James F. Northcutt, SVP ’77, ’81

Student portrait of David Rosenthal


David S. Rosenthal, SVP ’71, ’78

Student portrait of Robert Mather

1997, 1980 (CLA)

Robert J. Mather SVP ’70, ’74

Student portrait of Susan Mather


Susan (Mozzer) Mather, ’74

Student portrait of Colleen Daviton


Colleen Daviton, SVP ’73, ’77, ’83

Student portrait of Philip Jacob


Philip J. Jacob, SVP ’77, ’81

Student portrait of Angela Officer


Angela S. (Donnell) Officer, SVP ’83, ’88

Student portrait of David Binning


David L. Binning, SVP ’77, ’81

Student portrait of W. Scot Atkins


W. Scot Atkins, SVP ’83, ’89, ’92

Student portrait of Susan Downes


Susan J. (Wolf) Downes, ’71

Student portrait of Gary Behm


Gary W. Behm, SVP ’74, ’78, ’81

Student portrait of Jelica Nuccio


Jelica B. Nuccio, SVP ’83, ’88

Student portrait of Andrew Brenneman


Andrew N. Brenneman, ’88

Student portrait of Barbara Fallon


Barbara M. Fallon, ’89

Student portrait of Christopher Wagner


Christopher D. Wagner, SVP ’86, ’94

Student portrait of Sharon Applegate


Sharon L. Applegate, SVP ’76, ’79

Student portrait of Mark Feder


Mark Feder, SVP ’71, ’74, ’76

Student portrait of Gerald Nelson

2012, 1976 (CAST)

Gerald A. Nelson, ’74

Portrait of Robert Rice


Robert W. Rice, ’94, ’97

Portrait of Andrew Jacobson


Andrew R. Jacobson, ’90, ’96

Student portrait of David Nelson


David J. Nelson, SVP ’78, ’81, ’85

Student portrait of Barbara Jean Wood


Barbara Jean (BJ) Wood, SVP ’70, ’75

Student portrait of Sam Holcomb


Sam Holcomb, SVP ’74, ’77

Student portrait of Barbara Ray Holcomb


Barbara Ray Holcomb, SVP ’71, ’74, ’84

Fulfilling the Mission: Employment Success Through the Years

Since its establishment 50 years ago, NTID’s mission has been to help deaf and hard-of hearing individuals prepare for  successful careers. The NTID Co-op and Career Center cultivates relationships with employers to develop employment opportunities for students and graduates. NCCC also helps deaf and hard-of-hearing students seek, find and prepare for co-ops and permanent jobs. 

A review of employment-related statistics demonstrates the success RIT/NTID students and graduates enjoy in the job marketplace.


workshops delivered

Working Together: Deaf and Hearing People

This interactive workshop for employers celebrated its 34th anniversary in May 2017

Learn More

Chart showing 235% increase in employers participation in job fair from 2001 to 2017

Employers participating in the NTID Job Fair


of deaf and hard-of-hearing RIT/NTID alumni who sought employment found a job within one year of graduating (2017)

Chart showing students participating in co-ops: 17 in 1970 vs. 313 in 2017

Deaf and hard-of-hearing students participating in cooperative education experiences

Chart showing RIT/NTID bachelor's graduates earn 178% more than average, and RIT/NTID Associate graduates earn 95% more than average deaf and hard-of-hearing graduates of other institutions

According to a Social Security study, after graduation, deaf and hard-of-hearing RIT graduates earned higher career earnings than their deaf and hard-of-hearing peers who attended other institutions.

* Median salary at age 50 compared to average according to a study conducted with the Social Security Administration.

FOCUS Magazine

FOCUS Magazine began with the establishment of NTID. The college’s founding director, Dr. D. Robert Frisina, wanted to develop a publication that could be shared with NTID’s National Advisory Group, government officials and others to show the progress of what he called “The Grand Experiment.”

Throughout the past 50 years, FOCUS has gone through many design iterations, but highlighting the success of RIT/NTID students, faculty, staff and alumni remains a central goal.

As part of the college’s 50th anniversary celebration, a display of FOCUS Magazine covers from throughout its history was created by Dyer Arts Center Director Tabitha Jacques.

Photo of a display in NTID showcasing all fifty covers of FOCUS magazine

Display of 50 FOCUS magazine covers.