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Former president of world’s only university for deaf and hard of hearing students to speak at UTPA
By Office of University Relations
Posted: 04/16/2010
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The former president of the world's only university designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students will visit The University of Texas-Pan American April 28-29 during the College of Health Sciences and Human Services Distinguished Speaker Series.


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- Dr. Roberto R. Dávila

Dr. Roberto R. Dávila, the ninth president (2007-2009) of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., will serve as the first lecturer of the college’s series.

“Dr. Davila has a wonderful story to tell about how to be successful as a deaf person. His visit will educate students on the possibilities and potential each deaf person has within,” Dr. Shawn Saladin, coordinator for the Concentration in Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals in the Department of Rehabilitation at UTPA.

Dávila, who was also the first Hispanic to graduate from Gallaudet in 1953 and the first deaf Hispanic to earn a doctoral degree, will be speaking on “Student Disability Issues in Higher Education: An Educational Leader’s Perspective” Wednesday, April 28, 7-8:30 p.m. at the Health Sciences and Human Services East Auditorium, Room 1.114.

In addition, Dávila will present “My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Gallaudet University President: Todo pude ser possible!” Thursday, April 29, 7-8:30 p.m. at the McAllen Convention Center, located at South Ware Road and Expressway 83. A book signing of Dávila’s biography “Moments of Truth: Robert R. Davila, the Story of a Deaf Leader” will follow his presentation.

“I hope the students will gain an understanding of working with people who are deaf by understanding not only the language but the culture also,” Saladin said. “It is also my hope the general public will see how he overcame certain issues while growing up in addition to losing his hearing, and in spite of it all he managed to succeed in life.”

Dávila, who lost his hearing at eight years old after developing spinal meningitis, was born into a poor migrant farmworking family in California. According to his bio on the Gallaudet University website, Dávila’s journey to personal and professional success began when his mother sent him off alone to the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley where he learned American Sign Language and English. In addition to his bachelor’s from Gallaudet University, he obtained his master's and doctorate degrees in education from Hunter College and Syracuse University, respectively.

He taught at the elementary to college levels, including nine years as a professor in Gallaudet's Department of Education. Dávila also served as vice president of Gallaudet University's former Pre-College Programs (now called the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center). In addition, he was chief executive officer of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and served as assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the U.S. Department of Education.

Both events are free and open to the public. The event is co-sponsored by UTPA and Valley Association for Independent Living (VAIL).

For more information or special accommodations, call 956/318-5261.