When Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz was selected as the 10th president of Gallaudet University in 2010, he stepped away from what was already a long, successful career at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Dr. Hurwitz had spent nearly 40 years in various capacities at NTID/RIT, and had risen to the highest position any Deaf person had held, becoming Vice President and Dean of RIT and President of NTID. While RIT has over 15,000 students and routinely finds itself in Top-10 collegiate rankings, Gallaudet was an entirely different experience and a new beginning to his career in higher education.
Gallaudet carries a symbolic flag, inspiring Deaf people everywhere of the dream that for them, anything is possible. Dr. Hurwitz is no stranger to leadership within the Deaf community, and he cites his childhood growing up and how his mother had introduced him to stories of successful Deaf people in various careers. “If they could do it, you could do it.” But for all that lies in Gallaudet’s storied history, Dr. Hurwitz sees ample room for continuous growth. He mentioned the university’s mission and priorities in “preparing our students for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.” He sees his work as a culmination of the entire campus community at Gallaudet. And at Gallaudet, the definition “campus community” extends far beyond the gates of Kendall Green.
Dr. Hurwitz began his career in higher education at a time when opportunities for the Deaf were bare, and limited opportunities in the workforce were a direct result of limited opportunities in earning advanced degrees. Thanks in part to Dr. Hurwitz’s contributions in his work, tens of thousands of Deaf students have lived on his campuses and passed through his programs, to create a lasting impact around the world. “I’m deeply committed to promoting access and equity in education, employment, and community for Deaf people not just in the U.S. but throughout the world.”
But at what moment, even after 40 years, can Dr. Hurwitz feel he has accomplished all that he wants to achieve? “I don’t think that there will ever be a moment where we can say, “we have arrived,” explained Dr. Hurwitz. “It is always unfinished business; when we finish a task, we move on to higher and complex level tasks. We’re seeing greater opportunities to strike down preconceived notions of Deaf people with the increasing number of Deaf people in the entertainment industry, holding higher positions in the public and private sectors, but we still have a long way to go.” Dr. Hurwitz has dedicated his life to a career in higher education with the hopes that he can pass on the values and culture that his parents and mentors taught him to future generations of Deaf students.
Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz is the winner of the DeafNation Inspiration Award for Higher Education in 2012.
By Anthony Mowl