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American Annals of the Deaf

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The History of Gallaudet University: 150 Years of a Deaf American Institution
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those subjects. The existence of the preparatory program and the fact that most students entering the college had to complete it influenced the creation of the signs used to refer to students by class standing. The sign for “prep” is made by tapping the open palm of the dominant hand on the pinky of the other hand; “freshman” by tapping the palm on the ring finger of the other hand, and so on, through “senior,” indicated by tapping the palm on the thumb of the other hand.

In his detailed history of the first fifty years of the Columbia Institution, EMG described the first students to enter the collegiate program, revealing just how small its beginnings were.

It will be of interest to record the names of those who were the first to enter upon the advanced course of study prepared in connection with the college.

Melville Ballard of Maine, a graduate of the high class of the American School for the Deaf at Hartford in 1860, and who had performed acceptable service as a teacher in our institution from 1860 to 1863, then voluntarily retiring, entered in September 1864 on a special course of collegiate study. He is therefore to be named as the first student in our collegiate course and the only one for the year 1864–1865.

Charles K. W. Strong of Vermont, a graduate of the high class of the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, and employed in the U.S. Treasury Department in 1864, declared his purpose of entering college on a footing similar to that of Mr. Ballard, and his name was entered on our records. But he changed his mind and never became an actual student.

In September 1864 four pupils of our institution—Emma J. Speake, Annie Szymanoskie, John Quinn, and Isaac Winn, all of the District of Columbia—entered upon our advanced course of study under the tuition of Professor Storrs of our college, with a view of entering on the regular collegiate course as soon as they could be prepared therefore.

James Cross, Jr., and James H. Logan, both of Pennsylvania, entered upon a similar course of study with Professor Storrs. It will be seen therefore that seven persons made up the number of those who were regarded as connected with the college as students during the first year of its existence.9

◄ John Carlin (honorary degree 1864) was born in Philadelphia in 1813 and became profoundly deaf as an infant. He attended the Mount Airy School (now the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf) and graduated in 1825. He later studied painting and became well known for his portraiture work, as well as for his poetry. Carlin raised $6,000 to help establish St. Ann’s Church for Deaf-Mutes in 1852. In June 1864 he received the first degree from the Columbia Institution.

► Edward Miner Gallaudet at age 27, in 1864 when the college opened.


Almost as soon as the collegiate program was approved, EMG began to prepare for its establishment. At the outset of this process, he and Kendall had the first serious disagreement of their twelve-year association. EMG believed that very few graduates of the existing twenty-four schools for the deaf in the country would be sufficiently prepared academically to directly enter a college-level program, so he proposed that the college offer a preparatory year that most entering students would have to complete before being formally admitted to the collegiate degree program. Kendall objected, worried that the public would be skeptical of the very existence of the Institution if it became known that very few deaf students were actually qualified to enter the college. For some reason that EMG never determined, Kendall eventually withdrew his objection, and the preparatory program was established. It continued to operate until 1995, when the college began to admit students directly to the bachelor’s level program, but required them to fulfill basic courses in English, math, or science before they could earn college credits in


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