I. King Jordan

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Irving Jordan
Irving King Jordan.jpg
8th President of Gallaudet University
In office
March 13, 1988 – December 31, 2006
Preceded byElisabeth Zinser
Succeeded byRobert Davila
Personal details
Irving King Jordan

(1943-06-16) June 16, 1943 (age 77)
Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Linda Kephart (m. 1967)

Irving King Jordan (born June 16, 1943 in Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania), in 1988, became the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, the world's only university with all programs and services designed specifically for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. That year Gallaudet students, with support from many alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the University, protested the Board of Trustees' appointment of a hearing person to the presidency.

After the week-long protest Deaf President Now, the Board reversed its decision and named Jordan, one of three finalists for the position, the eighth president of Gallaudet and the first deaf president since the institution was established in 1864.[1][2]

He appears in the 2011 disability rights documentary Lives Worth Living.


Jordan is a native of Glen Riddle, a small town near Philadelphia in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Jordan was born to hearing parents, with no other instances of deafness in his family. After graduating from Penncrest High School in 1962,[3] he enlisted in the US Navy and served four years. Jordan became deaf at the age of 21, when after driving a motorcycle without a helmet he was flung into the windshield of a car and suffered two skull fractures, a fractured jaw and a concussion, severing the nerves in one ear completely and damaging the nerves in the other.[4][5]

Jordan earned his doctorate in psychology. He was serving as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Gallaudet University when he was chosen as a candidate for the university presidency.[6] As professor, department chair, dean, and president, Jordan has made numerous scholarly contributions to his field. He has been a research fellow at Donaldson's School for the Deaf in Edinburgh, Scotland, an exchange scholar at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, and a visiting scholar and lecturer at schools in the French cities of Paris, Toulouse, and Marseille.

Jordan and his wife, Linda, live in West River, Maryland. They have two grown children and two grandchildren. Jordan loves running daily.[7] As of 2009, he continues to run the Marine Corps Marathon each year. He was a co-founder of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). He is also a member of the Association of Late-Deafened Adults, which presents a yearly award to distinguished achievers in his name.[8]


Jordan became president of the university on March 13, 1988, after the Deaf President Now protest.[9][10] He holds eleven honorary degrees and is the recipient of numerous awards, among them: the Presidential Citizen's Medal,[7] the Washingtonian of the Year Award, the James L. Fisher Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the Larry Stewart Award from the American Psychological Association, and the Distinguished Leadership Award from the National Association for Community Leadership. In 1990, President Bush appointed Jordan Vice Chair of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He was reappointed to this position in 1993.[11] In 2006, Jordan received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by the Jefferson Awards.[12]

On campus, he was widely applauded for his successful efforts to increase funding, including funds for the expansion and construction of two new large-scale centers for education research and support.

On September 1, 2005, Jordan announced his intentions to retire from the presidency effective December 31, 2006. Jordan became the subject of controversy himself when he defended the controversial decision made on May 1, 2006, by the Board of Trustees to appoint Jane Fernandes as president-designate. The announcement of her selection set off a campus-wide protest.

Critics claimed that Fernandes was not highly regarded by both the faculty and students.[13] Jordan, taking a line from page 10 of the 1995 book Deaf President Now (by Christiansen and Barnartt), publicly accused some critics of rejecting Fernandes because she was allegedly not "deaf enough". They replied that such a charge is off-base, because Jordan himself was accepted as president, even though he did not become deaf until he was 21. The protesters insisted that they protested for more profound reasons, such as Fernandes' character, leadership, and policies.

Jordan resigned from the Gallaudet presidency in December 2006 and retired from the Gallaudet faculty in December 2008. On April 6, 2010, it was announced that Jordan had been appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the Commission on Presidential Scholars.


  1. ^ Brueggemann, B. J. (1995). The Coming out of Deaf Culture and American Sign Language: An Exploration into Visual Rhetoric and Literacy. Rhetoric Review, 13, 409-420.
  2. ^ Fussman, Cal (1988). The Nonstop Hero. The Washington Post Magazine (December 18, 1988), pp. 20-26, 46-47.
  3. ^ Originally a member of the Class of 1961, but took five years to graduate.[1]
  4. ^ "The World of the Deaf," The Washington Post, February 26, 1978, p. G1.
  5. ^ Phillipine, Louise (1988). Deaf man's appointment thrills mother. Express (Easton, Pennsylvania, March 15, 1988).
  6. ^ Lane, Harlan, Robert Hoffmeister, and Ben Bahan (1996). A Journey into the Deaf-World. San Diego: DawnSignPress.
  7. ^ a b Gallaudet University Interview With Former President I. King Jordan | Education | Washingtonian
  8. ^ "Dr. Neil Receives the 2015 I. King Jordan Award for Distinguished Achievement from ALDA". hearinglosshelp.com. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  9. ^ ABILITY Magazine | I. King Jordan Interview
  10. ^ Jordan was assisted by Gallaudet staff member Paul Kelly in applying for the presidency: "Paul Kelly helped me before I was president. Paul tutored me on financial issues and budget issues. Without his help and guidance during the application process, I know that I would never have become a finalist for the position, and after that, during my presidency, he's been a wonderful friend and supporter. Thank you Paul Kelly for all you've done for me." Accessed: May 2006: http://tv.gallaudet.edu/KingJordanAnnouncement Archived 2006-11-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts Archived 2013-10-09 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Jefferson Awards FoundationNational - Jefferson Awards Foundation". Archived from the original on 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
  13. ^ Clerc Center Protest: Our Letter

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Elisabeth Zinser
President of Gallaudet University
March 13, 1988 – December 31, 2006
Succeeded by
Robert R. Davila