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Dr. Raymond Merritt

The first person in his family to graduate from college, Dr. Raymond Merritt, 37, feels blessed for having a multitude of role models to inspire him – and to now be inspiring others.

Deaf since birth, Merritt now has a master of science degree and a doctorate in Neuroscience and is an associate professor of Biology at Gallaudet University.

“The original impetus for my pursuit of a Ph.D. degree was the motivation I got from my family and mentors,” he says, adding, “My parents gave me full support in everything.”

A native of southern California, Merritt attended mainstream schools before enrolling at the California School for the Deaf Riverside (CSDR) when he was 9 years old. A committed student and outstanding athlete, he graduated at the top of his class at just 16 years of age.

Merritt remembers CSDR fondly. “There were sports, film studies, leadership studies, travel opportunities, and many, many role models,” he says.

He spent two years after high school taking courses in automotive mechanics and physical training before enrolling at Gallaudet.

“I am a very analytical person and saw Biology as having a lot in common with my other interests, such as athletics, engineering, and automotive technology.

“Also, since I came from a low socio-economic family background, I wanted not just a challenging job but a secure one. I knew that Biology is in high demand.”

After more years of academic excellence and athletic stardom at Gallaudet, Merritt was named a Gallaudet Presidential Fellow, which enabled him to study for and receive a master’s degree in Genetics from George Washington University. He followed that with a doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Maryland.

Of his graduate studies, Merritt says, “The stigma of deafness comes and goes. It was often difficult to distinguish between people doubting me because I am deaf or treating me like any other lowly Ph.D. student.”

He admits that it helped not to limit himself to one communication method for conveying messages to a broader, hearing audience. “Don’t be afraid to try new, innovative ways of communicating.”

And the truth that one generation inspires another and that the success of one deaf person leads to the success of others is especially meaningful to Merritt, whose deaf mother was so inspired by his success that she, too, enrolled at and graduated from Gallaudet.

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