SULPHUR, Okla. – Oklahoma School for the Deaf students, faculty, parents and friends will rename and dedicate the school’s library on Thursday (October 13) in honor of long-time school librarian Sue Galloway.
The dedication will take place at 3:00 p.m. in the OSD library located on the third floor of White Hall at 1100 E. Oklahoma in Sulphur.
Galloway retired in July 2016 after serving generations of OSD students for 25 years.
She is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Laurent Clerc, the first teacher of the deaf in the United States.
Organizers selected October 13 for the celebration date because it the birthday of Galloway’s mother, Clerc Galloway, who was also a descendent.
Galloway’s relationship to Clerc makes her a celebrity by association among many deaf people who admire his many achievements in deaf education.
Galloway, however, did not realize the extent of her ancestor’s importance to deaf history and culture until she casually mentioned the family relationship to a group of deaf people at an American Library Association convention.
“When I told them that Clerc was my ancestor, their eyes popped open and everyone was obviously impressed,” Galloway said. ”This got me interested in doing some research.”
Clerc was born in La Balme, France in 1785. He lost his sense of smell and hearing in a childhood accident.
At age 12, he finally began school at the Royal Institute for the Deaf and Dumb in Paris and eventually taught there for 10 years. In 1815 or 1816, he went to London with other teachers to demonstrate the French method of teaching deaf children.
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who had come from the U.S. to find a process for teaching the deaf in America, was a member of the audience at one of Clerc’s lectures.
“Gallaudet went over to research and learn ways to teach the deaf so he could come back and establish a school,” Galloway said. “He ran into Laurent Clerc, and Clerc took him to the school he was teaching at, and then Gallaudet said, ‘I can do this but you have to come with me to the U.S.’”
They sailed on June 18, 1816. During their 52-day shipboard journey, Clerc taught Gallaudet sign language, and Gallaudet taught Clerc English.
In 1817, the teachers opened the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in Hartford, Connecticut.
Clerc’s marriage to Eliza Crocker Boardman, who was one of the original students at the Hartford school for the deaf, was the first between two deaf people in the U.S.
The Clerc’s had six children. Galloway is descended from the eldest daughter.
Though Clerc planned to stay in the U.S. only three years, he taught at the school for 41 years, instructing both students and teachers who opened schools for the deaf in many other states.
Trinity College in Hartford honored Clerc with the first honorary master of arts degree ever conferred on a deaf individual.
Now recognized as an authority on her famous ancestor, Galloway continued the family’s commitment to deaf education as the OSD librarian where her sign language skills and knowledge of deaf culture contributed to the popularity of library programs on campus.
Today, she continues to volunteer in the OSD library.
“I’m trying to get my volunteer work down to one day a week, but I’m like a bungee cord,” Galloway said. “I can’t stay away.”
“It’s a real honor to dedicate the library to Sue Galloway who is Laurent Clerc’s direct descendent because he is the founder of deaf education in the United States,” Superintendent Larry Hawkins said. “Sue also freely shares historical records and family information with our students and families that are not available to the public except through her.”
“It’s funny how I didn’t appreciate my own family history until I was inspired by someone else’s admiration,” Galloway said. “Then I became the next Clerc descendent making a career out of working with deaf children.”
The Oklahoma School for the Deaf and Oklahoma School for the Blind are public schools designated by the OK Legislature as statewide resources. Expert staff provide on-campus education programs for residential students who go home for weekends and summers, commuter students who live at home and summer school students. Both schools offer thousands of outreach and consultation services to students attending local schools across the state, their families, educators and organizations.