NTID rededication ceremony celebrates 50 years of deaf education

Light skinned female and male unveil replica of a large plaque that's on an easel.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf celebrated 50 years since the establishment of the world’s first technological college for deaf students with a rededication ceremony April 5, in Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall.

In addition to RIT/NTID faculty, staff, retirees, alumni and students, attendees included members of the original faculty and class of NTID students from 1968; local, state and federal government officials; and Lucinda Robb, granddaughter of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1965, President Johnson signed Public Law 89-36, allowing for the creation of NTID. The rededication marks the first time that a relative of President Johnson has visited the campus since Lady Bird Johnson visited in 1974 for the dedication of NTID’s main academic building, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall.

“We are so honored to have you here with us to celebrate 50 years of NTID and the foresight and leadership of your grandfather and members of Congress to establish this great college,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president, to Robb during the ceremony. “As you can see here today, the legacy of your grandfather does not only appear in history books. He continues to be honored by five decades of students and their families who have benefitted from the educational opportunities provided to them by NTID.”

During the presentation, Robb unveiled a prototype of a plaque that will hang near Panara Theatre. A proclamation from New York State Sen. Rich Funke was read in recognition of NTID’s accomplishments and U.S. Congressman Joseph Morelle displayed a statement to the U.S. Congressional Record. Buckley also acknowledged federal, state and local government officials, members of RIT’s Board of Trustees and NTID’s National Advisory Group, representatives from New York state schools for the deaf and other leaders in deaf education, and NTID faculty, staff, students, alumni and retirees.

A video greeting was provided by U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer.

“Congratulations to all of the staff and students and alumni of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf as you celebrate an amazing 50 years. I’m so proud that NTID has become one of the great American institutes educating our students for the 21st century economy. The Rochester region, in particular, has been enriched thanks to NTID’s contributions and graduates, many of whom stay in Rochester to live, work and create new businesses that propel our region’s economy forward. Your success is remarkable.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sent remarks. “Although I am not with you in person, I join you in spirit to celebrate this remarkable anniversary, to honor the extraordinary efforts of the founding members of NTID, and to recommit ourselves to the mission of this incredible institution for the next 50 years. I have seen firsthand the excellent and high quality education each NTID student receives by having three interns from NTID in my Washington, Long Island and Rochester offices. NTID has empowered deaf and hard-of-hearing people to make history and to change our communities for the better…I know NTID will continue to educate, employ and embolden deaf and hard-of-hearing leaders for years to come.”

Robb, who is the daughter of Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and former Sen. Chuck Robb, worked as director of recruiting at The Teaching Company and is currently writing a book on the tactics of the women’s suffrage movement. She is a director on the board of the National Archives Foundation, the Arlington Food Assistance Center in Virginia, and Communities in Schools of NOVA. In 2016, she started KidsGiving, a project to encourage philanthropy in children. She occasionally writes book reviews for the Washington Post.

“It’s truly an honor to be here at NTID and to learn about the rich heritage of this great college. Knowing that my family played a part in that history fills me with such pride,” said Robb. “They would be so proud of what has been accomplished in just 50 short years at NTID—graduates from all states and from countries around the world who now work in business, industry, government, non-profits and the performing and visual arts – and who make their communities richer by their presence and their contributions. On behalf of my entire family, thank you for inviting me to join you in this celebration today, and for all that you do to honor my grandfather’s legacy.”

New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul stressed the value of RIT/NTID graduates. "This is an institution with its beautiful alliance, its marriage, with RIT that sends people out into the world prepared to accept life’s challenges. But not just to better their own lives, but truly to better the lives of others."

Rep. Morelle shared his appreciation for the quality of instruction at NTID.

“I want to congratulate everyone at NTID, as well as the greater Rochester community, for 50 years of excellence,” said Morelle. “Thank you to the many educators, interpreters, faculty and staff who work tirelessly every day to provide a world-class education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. NTID provides a transformative education that allows deaf and hard-of-hearing students to thrive and reach their full potential. With almost 9,000 alumni, NTID continues to open doors and break down barriers for the deaf community. I am so proud to represent a community that is home to such incredible institutions like RIT and NTID that are truly changing the world for the better.”

Throughout the ceremony, several featured guests recalled fond memories of Lady Bird Johnson who came to campus in 1974 to dedicate LBJ Hall. Alumnus Robert Sidansky, who was president of NTID Student Congress in the 1970s, accompanied Lady Bird Johnson on a tour of the building and spoke with her about the services that NTID provided.

“She was about to leave to catch her airplane, when she turned around and said, ‘It was great meeting you. Thank you, Bob.’ I was awed that she remembered my name. With her brief visitation at NTID, she taught me the importance of recognizing people’s names as an essential part of leadership.”

Frank Sklarsky spoke on behalf of RIT’s Board of Trustees. “We, as trustees, greatly value the national and international recognition that NTID has gained in its own right and has also brought to RIT, and are grateful for the role NTID continues to play in making our university world class. NTID is truly a brilliant jewel of the RIT family and a source of inspiration and pride for all of us.”

The event also featured a video showcasing NTID’s history and a performance by Sunshine 2.0, a four-member traveling theatrical troupe from NTID that entertains and educates audiences about the deaf experience.

RIT Student Government President Bobby Moakley, an environmental science major from Boston, spoke briefly about the next generation of NTID students.

“We, the newest generation of RIT/NTID Tigers, are dedicated to honoring the legacy of the past 50 years, while at the same time blazing our own trail for the future of the college,” said Moakley. “RIT/NTID is an extremely unique environment in that we are leading in the integration of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing communities. Every day at our university is a learning experience for everyone here. NTID has been, and will continue to be, a place of creativity, enabling deaf students to succeed in the classroom and beyond.”